Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - FictionTo Tame the Wind Wind Raven Echo in the Wind
After the French pirate-turned-privateer makes a bold raid off the Dover coast and captures one of his ships and her crew, Simon Powell vows revenge. He and his fellow privateers have become adept at stealing into France to gather information on the French in the waning days of the American Revolution. They also collect messages from a British spy to deliver to spymaster William Eden in London. Using this skill, Simon kidnaps the French privateer’s daughter from a convent and takes her to England. She is a pawn in a dangerous game, for Simon plans on trading Claire Donet, safe and unharmed, for his captured ship and men. What he fails to take into consideration is that she will capture his heart or that she has no idea what her father truly is. Her intention to become a nun, the hopelessness of loving the enemy, and Eden’s plans to use the lovely lady to rid the seas of her bloodthirsty father seem impossible hurdles to overcome.
When Jean Donet seized the English privateer and crew, he thought merely to add to his coffers and provide Benjamin Franklin, the American Minister to France, with more Englishmen for him to exchange for captured Americans imprisoned in England because of the war. Powell upsets those plans once he takes Claire hostage. Donet had thought her safe within the confines of the convent, but the reality of that falsehood makes him angry with himself for his complacency and with Powell. Nor does Donet sanction Claire’s desire to enter the Ursuline Order. He has promised her hand in marriage to an up-and-coming young lawyer involved with the peace negotiations to end the Americans’ bid for independence. This man’s respectability and power will allow her to live a life untarnished by his own nefarious deeds – or so Donet thinks. But perhaps there is a way to rescue Claire before either her betrothed learns of her capture or the exchange of prisoners for his daughter takes place.
As a young girl, Claire Donet feels responsible for the death of her friend, who yearns to become a nun and teach children. Pledging to fulfill that dream herself, Claire stifles her rebellious, adventurous spirit, but being kidnapped, sailing on a ship, and exploring London reawakens those long-buried feelings. Especially when she discovers her captor is none other than “the golden one,” the man who dared to kiss her long ago when she spied on the masquerade the same evening her friend fell sick. Now she finds herself torn between surrendering to love and fulfilling her promise to her dying friend.
Walker spins a captivating tale of love and intrigue in To Tame the Wind, the prequel to her Agents of the Crown series. To assist readers in orienting themselves to the story’s locations and characters, she provides a map of the English Channel and its environs around 1782 and a list of who’s who. She deftly weaves historical fact into the tale, and her depiction of privateers and privateering is well done. The characters are delightfully portrayed and easily pictured as if they stand before you. Daring sea battles, roguish lurkers, ill-treated prisoners of war, and deceitful dandies add dashes of spice to this historical romance, making it one readers will savor long after they turn the last page.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
By Regan Walker
Boroughs Publishing Group, 2014, e-book ISBN 978-1-941260-02-9, $3.99
Her brother’s letter that arrives at her aunt’s London home tells Tara McConnell to come home. While upset to learn her father may be dying, she’s ready to discard the fancy gowns and other accoutrements that go with being a lady for the breeches and shirts she wears while at sea or working in her family’s shipyard. Being introduced to the ton was never Tara’s idea, but the wish of her dying mother even though her father is adamant that she marry an American. Only two years have passed since the War of 1812 ended and the English killed her youngest brother who was a privateer.
Tara is anxious to reach Baltimore and her father, but her aunt insists she wait until an “appropriate” vessel can be found with a captain her aunt trusts. Ever independent, though, she has no intention of having her freedom curtailed by the maid who acts as her chaperone. Once away from her aunt’s home, Tara convinces the maid to remain in London – just not return to her aunt until the ship is well quit of England.
This voyage will be Nicholas Powell’s last as captain of the Wind Raven. Once they reach Baltimore, he’ll take ownership of a new, more rakish Baltimore clipper. While eager to assume command of his new vessel, he must first heed the Prince Regent’s instructions to make a side trip to Porto Rico to spy on the pirate Cofresí, who has been attacking English merchant ships in the Caribbean. The detour could prove dangerous, so when the niece of the dowager baroness, a friend of his mother’s, steps onto the Wind Raven Nick must accept her request or else face the wrath of his mother. Miss McConnell may sail with him, but he invokes one caveat – she is confined to a small cabin for the duration. And he makes it plain, both through his own attitude and that conveyed by some of his men, that she is not wanted.
When a young seaman falls and dangles upside down in the rigging high above the deck, an unfamiliar figure scurries aloft to rescue him. To learn that the person is none other than Tara and that she’s dressed in men’s attire stretches the bounds of Nick’s patience almost beyond endurance. The arrogance of the English captain riles Tara, but she’s not about to buckle under to his egregious demands. She’s as at home on a ship as he is and she’s just as capable of pulling her weight, which soon endears her to the crew. When she nearly loses her life during a storm, Nick can’t wait to get her off his ship.
The close quarters of the Wind Raven make it nearly impossible to deny the growing attraction between them, but Nick has no intention of marrying a hoyden like Tara and she will not marry an Englishman. A brief respite in Bermuda to repair a broken mast, however, shows them both that first impressions aren’t always correct. They dare to bridge the gaps that separate their worlds, but when the pirates capture their ship, Tara is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the man has stolen her heart.
Wind Raven is the third book in the Agents of the Crown trilogy, but it easily stands alone as historical romance in its own right. From the opening scene of a brawl in a bar to the storm-swept decks of the ship, Walker transports her readers back in time to where a bygone world comes alive. She deftly walks the tightrope between what does and doesn’t work when a woman crosses into a man’s realm during the nineteenth century, which makes everything Tara does believable and Nick’s reactions realistic. Piracy takes a secondary seat to the romance, but the author’s portrayal of a nineteenth-century rogue, rather than those of the previous century who are better known, is both refreshing and convincing. While the danger element could have been heightened, Tara’s choice ably demonstrates just how far a person will go to protect those she loves. Readers who enjoy romance and adventure, tinged with interludes of mayhem and idyllic repose, will enjoy this journey on the high seas.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
Echo in the Wind
By Regan Walker
Reagan Walker, 2017, e-book ISBN 978-0-9976567-0-1, $3.99
Paperback ISBN 978-0996849593, $12.68
Unlike many of women of the ton, Lady Joanna West has vowed to never marry, even though at twenty-five, her brother the earl believes it’s high time she wed. She also refuses to stand idly by why the villagers of Chichester starve from lack of work and the inability to pay high taxes. To that end she begins delivering food baskets to the poor, but now oversees the delivery of smuggled tea and brandy and makes sure the goods reach their proper destinations without alerting the revenue agents. One night in April 1784, her men row her out to meet a new partner, a stranger who could be a free trader or a spy.
Captain Jean Donet silently watches from the shadows as his new partner inspects the merchandise and haggles with his quartermaster. Before the Englishman departs, Jean suspects the stranger is actually a woman in disguise. But that possibility intrigues, rather than discourages him, for he, too, is more than he appears to be. Disowned by his father, he is a French spy, was a privateer for Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution, and is now a successful smuggler with a fleet of vessels. He is also the comte de Saintonge, a title inherited after the untimely death of his father and older brother. He must finally return to the estate he left years ago, but first he must attend several events leading up to the christening of his new grandson.
Since her brother has yet to marry, Joanna serves as his hostess at a party honoring the new prime minister, who is determined to put an end to the smuggling that plagues England. Two other gentlemen in attendance also catch her attention, but for different reasons. One commands the sloop of war responsible for hunting down vessels engaged in this illegal trade. The other is a forty-year-old Frenchman who seems taken with her younger sister, who has just come of age. Joanna will do whatever is necessary to keep Tillie from becoming a sacrificial lamb.
While in London for the christening, Joanna accompanies a friend to the Old Bailey to attend a trial. But the experience leaves her shaken when the smuggler is found guilty and sentenced to hang. Her chosen trade has become too dangerous, so after one last run, she will find another way to help the villagers. Just as she is about to disembark from her partner’s brig, the revenue ship announces her arrival by opening fire and Joanna is badly wounded.
Jean immediately sets sail and, after successfully eluding his pursuers, attends his beautiful guest. Her best chance of survival is to get her as quickly as possible to a French doctor he trusts. But a storm brews in France. King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette continue to spend money, even though the country is badly in debt. The incident that killed his family may not have been accidental. And his mind wages war with his heart over his growing attraction for Joanna.
Echo in the Wind is the second book in the Donet Trilogy and takes place five years before the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution. As in the previous title, To Tame the Wind, Walker opens with a list of “Characters of Note” so readers can acquaint themselves with who’s who before the story begins. Aside from Chichester and London, she whisks readers back to eighteenth-century Lorient, Saintonge, and Paris to experience firsthand the discontent of the people and the callow disregard of the nobility. Walker also includes an author’s note where she discusses the history behind the novel.
Chapter one places readers in the midst of the action and shows great promise of suspense, but the pace slows thereafter and doesn’t pick up again until after page 100. Those pages focus more on character development, with only minor hints of possible adventure and misadventure. Yet stalwart readers who brave the trials and tribulations that they and the characters experience will be richly rewarded with a wonderful love story.
Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar
A Fierce Wind
By Regan Walker
Reagan Walker, 2018, e-book ISBN 978-0-9976567-4-9, $3.99
ISBN 978-0-99767567-5-6, $10.95
The passing of a new constitution in 1790 marks a milestone for France – the end of the monarchy – but the fierce wind that sweeps through the country afterwards gives rise to Robespierre and the bloody Reign of Terror. Four years later, Zoé Donet and her uncle risk their lives to rescue émigrés forced to flee their homeland or face Madame Guillotine. As they hurry through shadowy streets with their charges, they encounter a pair of soldiers, one of whom escapes to raise the alarm.
A growing sense of foreboding compels Frederick West to disembark from la Reine Noire, his brother-in-law’s ship, to find Zoé. She may think him only a friend, but in the years since they first met, he has come to love her although he has yet to confess his true feelings for her. Shots from shore heighten his apprehension, but she is safe. He, however, suffers a grievous wound. In the days that follow Zoé nurses him back to health on Guernsey and slowly comes to see him in a new light.
The continuing slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in France and a possible invasion threat necessitate an urgent need for vital information. If London is to aid the Vendéens and Chouans – royalists fighting against the revolutionaries – someone must infiltrate Brittany and Maine to find out what assistance is needed. The problem is that these counterrevolutionaries have little reason to trust such overtures. One person who might help gain their confidence is Zoé, who was a friend of their revered general whom the republicans assassinated. Although reluctant to carry out his spymaster’s orders, Frederick understands the futility of forbidding Zoé to remain where she will be safe. The best he can do is to make her promise to obey his orders no matter what. As they trek through northwestern France a series of escalating adventures unfold until enemy patrols intersect the woods where they shelter. Realizing his only option to protect Zoé is to sacrifice himself, Frederick reveals his true feelings for Zoé and then walks away into the midst of the enemy soldiers.
A Fierce Wind offers a unique look into a lesser-known aspect of the French Revolution. While the majority takes place on land, there are a few sea battle scenes, including the Glorious First of June. More than once the promise of high tension never quite hits the mark for such a perilous period, and the emotional connection between characters and readers is weak. The threat of invasion is not really developed, and the sea fight on 1 June 1794 seems more an afterthought. Yet there are some truly memorable scenes, one being Frederick’s final parting from Zoé in France. Others take place in La Conciergerie in Paris, which provide horrific glimpses of life under arrest during the Reign of Terror. An added bonus to this third book in the Donet trilogy is the author’s note, which not only explains the history behind the fiction, but also shows how characters are interconnected and in what book titles their stories can be found.
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