Fara Bellamont has been back in society for a year after leaving Cluny Abbey, where her uncle sent her long ago. When he chooses a suitor for her for marriage, she fears that she will be forced to marry a stranger and live a miserable life.
But, Fara finds herself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when unforeseen circumstances cause her to place her trust in a strange man for protection. His intervention not only saves her, but puts her in an even more compromising position.
Grant Hill, a trading captain, is enchanted by the young heiress not only because of her beauty, but because she is hardly conventional. Underneath her ladylike exterior lies a tigress. Grant cannot help but offer his protection as she is in need and he is far from immune from her charms.
Fara just never bargained on the passion that she feels for Grant Hill. As events unfold, she must decide whether her desires and the dictates of her heart should trump the rules of society in this exciting tale.
Publisher and release date: Solstice Publishing, 13 February 13 2013
Time and Setting: France, 1860’s
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by Diane Owens Prettyman
When Fara Bellamont was only nine years old, she lost both of her parents when the ship they were traveling on was overtaken by Turkish pirates. French law leaves her in the custody of her uncle, who promptly proceeds to enroll her in Cluny Abbey in Burgundy for her schooling. The story begins after she completes nine years of education with the French nuns.
Like most orphans, she is fated to concede to the wishes of someone else, someone with money and position. Her uncle wishes her to marry and arranges a marriage while she is away at the abbey. But Fara boldly refuses the man. The announcement of their engagement ends badly. Then, Fara receives a note from the insulted “fiancé” asking her to meet him at the harbor.
It is at the harbor, where Fara is rescued from the “fiancé’s” vengeful ploy. A handsome ship captain intervenes and protects her from the dangers of the wharf at night. From this point on, Fara’s life is impacted by this chance encounter. Throughout the novel, Fara is faced with a painful dilemma — the choice between love for a man and love for her country. France is at war, and Capitaine Hill, a ship captain accused of treachery, is her lover.
In a well-developed plot linked to the captain’s involvement in the war and possible treachery, Marie Lavender creates a believable and historically accurate world. Upon Your Return is set in the rich setting of France and Marseille in the 1860’s. The author depicts the era accurately through the use of historical details and descriptions. She uses just enough French phrasing to make the book authentic but not overbearing. At times, though, the interruption of French disrupts the flow of the narrative particularly in the dialogue when the use of “merci” or “chere” seem overused.
Marie Lavender writes passionate and tasteful love scenes. Heart-filled passages convey the genuine emotions of both hero and heroine revealed from each character’s point of view. Descriptions throughout the novel engage the reader. Marie Lavender writes, “As she glanced at the morning fog that enveloped the docks in a lazy, white cloud embrace, she remembered the night they’d met at the harbor in La Rochelle. The night she’d met the man who both haunted and enticed her….”
The characters are well developed. For example, after Fara’s uncle dies and she becomes an heiress, Fara struggles with her position as the servants’ superior. As she sees the servants in her own house, she demonstrates kindness to the staff. With these touches, Marie Lavender creates a character we can connect with and relate to, even though she lived two hundred years ago. Capitaine Hill is also a complex character. His involvement in the war and his love for Fara entertwine to create a hero much more than a cardboard cutout.
With her compelling story line and solid historical base, Marie Lavender has created a fine debut novel. And while the story is no richer for its prologue, it doesn’t detract from the book.