TO HAVE AND TO HOLD by Mary Johnston

Legacy Romance, Feb 2012

PUBLISHER’S BLURB:

Virginia Company, Jamestown, 1621. The once struggling colony is now thriving, and the arrival of a ship full of potential brides has all the single men rushing to put on their best and meet the ladies in hopes of finding wives. Captain Ralph Percy, hardened soldier, gentleman farmer, and avowed bachelor, watches from the sidelines, marveling as his comrades make fools of themselves over the women. He has no need of a wife and can’t understand the sense in asking a perfect stranger to marry him . . . until he catches sight of Jocelyn Leigh. Struck by her uncommon beauty, quiet grace, and regal bearing, he wonders why a woman such as she would need to brave the sea voyage and the wilds of the new world to find a husband. And then he finds himself doing the unthinkable, asking for her hand in marriage before another man can snatch her up! But he was right to suspect that Jocelyn was not as she seemed, and he soon discovers that his new wife fled England in a desperate attempt to escape an arranged marriage.

Ralph vows to protect her, not knowing how soon he will be called upon to do so, or how dangerous it will be to him. Jocelyn’s jilted fiancée is coming to find her, and when Lord Carnal lands at Jamestown, he brings dubious tidings. A handsome lord with the wealth and power of the king at his disposal, he informs Ralph that he has married a ward of the king without the king’s permission, a treasonous offense. But all will be well–all Ralph has to do is hand her over and Lord Carnal will sail away with her as though nothing ever happened. But if Ralph does not comply, he is to be clapped in irons and bound for England and the Tower, and Lord Carnal will take Jocelyn by force. The choice seems clear enough–who is Captain Ralph Percy to go against the King’s orders? But one look at Jocelyn’s fear-stricken face decides his fate. This solemn and stoic woman has woven herself into the fabric of his life, and he’s not going to give her up so easily. Ralph and Jocelyn defy the King’s command and fight for their right to stay together, but it soon becomes evident that their only course of action is to flee. As they make their way through the dangerous wilderness, battling the King’s men, Indians, and even pirates, what started out as a marriage of convenience becomes a true love match, and Ralph discovers that what is worth having is worth holding, no matter the cost.

RHFL CLASSIFICATIONS:

 Classic Romance

1621, Jamestown

Heat Rating 1 (but really 0)

REVIEW RATING 3.5

REVIEWER: Genevieve Graham

In Which I Summarize My Thoughts :

I had no idea what to expect with this. I didn’t realize “To Have And To Hold” was the #1 bestselling book of 1900, and perhaps I should have researched before committing to do a review; however, the whole idea of immersing myself in Jamestown 1621 was fairly intoxicating. I’m a big John Smith / Pocahontas fan, and it was an added treat for the author to include Rolfe, Pocahontas’ husband. He is only a slight character, occasionally peeking out from the curtains to support our hero, Ralph Percy, but he’s noble nonetheless. We even meet Pocahontas’ brother, who plays an important role in the end.

Because I had no idea what I was about to read, the first few pages left me dizzy. I had to lock myself in a quiet room to concentrate, explaining to the family that I was reading Shakespeare, and would they all just please go away. Of course that’s an exaggeration; however, the prose in the book was so beautiful and elegantly drawn it did require my full attention. An example near the start:

Life is like one of those endless Italian corridors,  painted, picture after picture, by a master hand;

and man is the traveler through it, taking his eyes from one scene but to rest them upon another.

Some remain a blur in his mind; some he remembers not; for some he has but to close his eyes and he sees them again,

line for line, tint for tint, the whole spirit of the piece.

Ahh. So soothing. The storyline jumps from the unbelievable to the unbelievable; however, those of us who research history can see how the unbelievable could have possibly been a reality. And if it goes a little over the top eventually, well, it is fiction after all.

Our hero, Ralph, heads out with a friend as a ship pulls into port, bearing eligible women. He ends up choosing to wed a fair maiden who—hiding from an unwanted marriage—has hidden her true noble identity and disguises herself as a maid. She is different from the start, cool and delicate, quiet yet overcome with emotion at times, and he is surprised to discover he not only wants to be a good husband, but he is falling in love with her.

Yes, readers, this is a Historical Romance. How many bedroom scenes? None. Not even on their wedding night—and Ralph accepts that. How much wild, passionate groping? None. How many sweet, chaste kisses? Ah, well, there are a few of those, and every one of them is precious.

Because over time, as they battle enemies and voyage far, facing certain death numerous times, being charged with treason, joining up with pirates (where Ralph settles neatly into the role of captain), racing from the furious onslaught of murderous Indians during the Powhatan Uprising in March 1622, and engaging in duels with a particularly nasty stuffed shirt from the King’s court.

It was difficult for me to be completely swallowed up by the tale, though it is full of adventure and heroism (which I love), but I think that’s because I’m used to the more elaborate methods of writing we normally read in this day and age. I’m spoiled. I want to hear a soundtrack, sense the wind and the grass and the spray of the ocean. This is much more matterof-fact. If you’re a reader comfortable with writing done before 1900 I am sure you’ll become infatuated with Ms Johnston’s skill—I can’t resist sharing more—here’s another bit, after the party is in a shipwreck and left on a small island to die:

The ocean, quiet now, dreamed beneath the moon and cared not for the five lives it had cast upon that span of sand.

See? It’s more like poetry to me than regular novel writing. The narrative is first person (Ralph’s POV). I expected the story to be droll and sleepy, but Ralph’s a pretty funny guy, with a quick wit and a no-nonsense approach. The secondary characters are wonderful, supportive, and creative. I’m giving this a 3.5 because I won’t go out of my way to seek out this kind of writing in the future; however, if you’re into that kind of period writing, it’s probably a 4.

**At time of review, this novel is available for $1.99**

REVIEWER BIO

Genevieve Graham didn’t start writing until she was in her forties, inspired by the work of the legendary Diana Gabaldon. Her first two novels, “Under the Same

Sky” and “Sound of the Heart” were published by Berkley Sensation/Penguin US in 2012 and have met with enthusiastic reviews. Genevieve writes what she calls “Historical Fiction” rather than “Historical Romance,” meaning she concentrates on the stories and adventures, and she doesn’t turn away from the ugly truths of the times. Romance binds her stories together, but it is not the primary focus. Genevieve also runs her own Editing business and has helped dozens of authors with their novels.

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