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The Soldier

The Soldier, June 2011
The Duke's Obsession #2
by Grace Burrowes

Sourcebooks Casablanca
Featuring: Devlin St. Just
448 pages
ISBN: 140224567X
EAN: 9781402245671
Kindle: B004XOZ9EG
Paperback / e-Book
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"A Historical Fiction for Modern Times!"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Soldier
Grace Burrowes

Reviewed by Lara Taylor
Posted April 29, 2011

Romance Historical

THE SOLDIER by Grace Burrowes is full of strong-willed characters; from the soldier himself, Devlin St. Just, to his love interest, Emmaline, to the young girl Winnie, personalities are clashing left and right.

Things are going along just fine for Emmaline Farnum, or Emmie as she is called, as the town baker. Sure, the women in her family have a reputation, but she's managed to build up a sizable business to support herself. She has tried to keep an eye on her young cousin Winnie, but seeing as how Winnie hates baths and disappears for hours at a time, it is difficult to keep up with her. When the old earl dies and Devlin St.Just becomes the new Earl of Rosecroft, Emmie has a hard time explaining the situation. The more St. Just gets to know Emmie, the more he wants to know. And there is a mystery afoot: What exactly are Winnie's family connections? Why was Emmie sent off to Scotland as a young girl? Something doesn't add up, and St. Just is not only determined to get to the bottom of things, he's determined to marry Emmie. She just doesn't know she wants him too... yet.

Grace Burrowes does a lovely job of making a romantic historical fiction subtly mirror modern times; essentially, Devlin St. Just has PTSD after soldiering for several years. My husband is a soldier as well, hence my interest in the book. I like how Ms. Burrowes strives to create balance and depth with her characters; this is not your stereotypical couple. Emmie is deeply conflicted about her past and her feelings for St.Just, believing she is not worthy of his attentions. I really liked her spunk and all the scenes in the kitchen--talk of food always draws me into a story! While it's sometimes hard to read about a character you don't like, they also provide interest, as is the case with Winnie. She's one of those children you'd like to reach into the book and shake she is so thoughtless and disobedient.

I'd have to say my one complaint is all the crying. It seemed like Emmie tried to be strong and didn't like to cry, but she was always sobbing on St. Just. In turn, St. Just had some uncomfortable to read scenes where he was bawling like a baby, once in the arms of a male friend. It didn't undermine his masculinity (which is a real feat on the part of the author! Bravo!) but still, more than one of that type of scene was too much. I think that scenes where Devlin wakes up sweating or crying out from nightmares or some nervous tic (fingering a loaded gun he always carried, for example) would have would have worked just as well to illustrate his PTSD then all the crying. Overall, the book was a good read, gaining momentum and really generating curiosity and interest the last few chapters as we really get a good look at this knotty mystery and its final resolution.

Learn more about The Soldier

SUMMARY

This Regency era battle of wits, wills, and the sexes features a wily duke determined to see the succession of his line secured. The duke can’t force his sons to marry, but he can make their lives miserable until they do. Resisting his pressure, each gentleman holds out for true love.

The second book in the series features Devlin St. Just, the duke’s oldest, but illegitimate, son. He arrives at his new estate weary in body and spirit only to find the previous owner’s bastard daughter and her beautiful cousin are his responsibility and making his life almost unbearably complicated.

Excerpt

Devlin St. Just, first born bastard son of the Duke of Moreland and newly minted Earl of Rosecroft, has just decided to travel south from his Yorkshire estate to visit his ducal family before winter sets in. He'll leave behind young Winnie Farnum, the previous earl's by-blow, and Winnie's cousin and temporary governess, Emmie Farnum. Emmie has been trying to deny her attraction to St. Just, but even war weary, growling, and resentful of his title, St. Just has a charm and steadfastness Emmie is powerfully drawn to.

After the earl's disconcerting announcement at dinner, Emmie successfully eluded him for the rest of the evening. She should have known her efforts were doomed. He breached all protocol that evening and knocked on her bedroom door once the house was quiet.

"My lord?" She opened the door halfway but did not invite him in.

"I'd like a word with you, if you've the time?"

"In the library?"

"This won't take long," he said, holding his ground. She took the hint and stepped back, closing the door behind him. When he turned to face her, Emmie saw his green eyes go wide at the sight of her hair loose around her shoulders. Down and unbound. Not braided, bunned, or otherwise confined.

"You were brushing your hair," he guessed. "Which means you were almost ready for bed. I apologize for intruding." He wandered to her vanity and picked up a brush inlaid with ivory.

"It was a gift from the old earl," she said, watching him fingering her belongings. He ran his thumbnail down the teeth of her comb and picked up a blue ribbon coiled in a tray of hairpins.

"I have been considering how best to apologize to you," he said, winding the ribbon around his finger, "but I'm not sure exactly what label to put on my transgression."

Call it a kiss, Emmie silently rejoined.

"And was an apology the purpose of this conversation?" she asked, not knowing where in the room to put herself. She wasn't about to sit on the bed, and not on the fainting couch by the cold hearth either. She also didn't want to sit at her vanity, not with him standing there, acquainting his big, tanned hands with her belongings.

"I'm not just here to apologize." He smiled a slow, lazy smile at her. Not one of his company smiles, not a smile he'd give to Winnie or Lord Amery either. "Come sit, Emmie." He patted the low back of the chair at her vanity. "You are uneasy, wondering when I'll say something uncouth or alienate another neighbor. I regret that." He patted the back of the chair again, and on dragging feet, Emmie crossed the room.

She seated herself and expected the earl to take the end of the fainting couch or to slouch against the mantel. He caught her completely off guard by standing behind her and drawing her hair over her shoulders.

"I miss doing this for my sisters," he said, running the brush down the length of her hair, "and even for Her Grace when I was very young."

"She raised you?" Emmie asked, knowing she should grab the brush from him.

"From the age of five on. You have utterly glorious hair. Winnie will be the envy of her peers if she ends up with hair like this." He drew a fat coil up to his nose and inhaled, then let it drop and resumed his brushing.

"You should not be doing this," Emmie said, but even that weak admonition was an effort. "I should not be letting you do this."

"I interrupted you. It's only fair I should perform the task I disturbed. Besides, I wanted to talk to you about this trip Douglas has proposed."

Emmie rolled her eyes. "The one he proposed at the dinner table. In front of Winnie. What was he thinking?"

"He was thinking"--the earl kept up a slow, steady sweep of the brush--"to alert you to the possibility and to give you a chance to comment on it. But you did not."

"I said something." Emmie frowned, trying to recall what. Her common sense told her she needed breathing room--right this moment she needed breathing room, and in the days and weeks to come. She'd been trying to keep her distance from him, to avoid the near occasion of sin, but she couldn't keep him from her thoughts if he was always underfoot.

"You said nothing that told me what you think of the idea," he remonstrated. "One braid or two?"

"One. You should do as you please," she said, trying to rouse her brain to focus on the conversation.

"I hadn't planned on traveling south again until spring, perhaps when Gayle and Anna's child has arrived." He fell silent as the brush found a knot in the heavy abundance of her hair.

"So why go now?" Emmie asked when she ought to be telling him to go and stay away until spring.

"I'm not sure." He eased the brush through the knot. "I miss my family, for one thing. I didn't think I would. I spent much of the spring in Westhaven's household, and I saw a fair amount of Her Grace and my father then, too."

"But not your sisters, and you have yet to meet Rose, and your father is recovering from a heart seizure."

"He is. Easily, if my brothers' missives can be trusted. But what of Winnie? She is my family now, too, and I won't go if you think it would upset her too much. She's had a great deal of upheaval in her life, and I would not add to it."

"Winnie has given you her blessing." Emmie steeled herself against a lassitude that was making it difficult to keep her eyes open. "And Winnie is not a creature who ignores her own preferences. Just for God's sake do not fail to return, or I won't answer for the consequences."

"Will you miss me, Emmie Farnum?" He paused in his brushing, and Emmie felt his hands settle on her shoulders. She wanted to bolt to her feet and wrap her arms around him, to tell him not to go. She wanted to bolt to her feet and order him from her room, to tell him to go and not come back.

She sat in her chair, stock still, and watched in the mirror as he hunkered behind her chair and pushed her hair to the side, exposing the side of her neck.

"I told myself," he murmured, his thumb caressing the spot just below her ear, "I could behave if I had to track you to your lair tonight. I told myself that lie and I believed it."

He leaned in slowly and pressed his open mouth to the juncture of her shoulder and her neck. His breath fanned over her skin, and Emmie had to close her eyes against the sight of him in her mirror. He rose, but only to let his hands drift down her arms and back up.

"You aren't stopping me, Emmie," he whispered.

"I will," she said, hoping it was true. But his long fingers were busy with the ties at her throat, and she felt her night rail fall open as he bit her earlobe. Soon, she thought, soon I will stop him, but not just...

"Rosecroft...," she murmured.

"Devlin, or St. Just, or my love, but not the bloody damned title." He shifted so he was kneeling before her and threaded his hand through her hair at her nape.

Another kiss, Emmie thought, her heart kicking into a gallop. Just this once more, and then I'll be good.

He made it a feast, that one kiss, by grazing his nose all over her jaw, her cheeks, her brow. Everywhere, he inhaled her scent and teased her with his own. She tried to capture his mouth, but he evaded such headlong behavior.

"St. Just," Emmie panted, "Devlin, please just kiss me."

He growled, a sound that held amusement and satisfaction, but he didn't capitulate to her demands until he'd undone the ties to her nightgown. Not until he fused his mouth to hers did he ease the material apart, though, and then he let his hand drop to her lap, leaving Emmie to focus on the way he plundered her mouth, stole her wits, and sent her best intentions and common sense begging down the lane.


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