The Rebel and the Lady

Kathryn Albright
September 2008, Frontier/Western Hist Romance (1830s Texas)
Harl Historicals #913, $5.99, 275 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373295138

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

War romances have a tension and urgency to them not generally found in other settings. Something about the passion of the fight and the very real chance that events may separate the lovers can give a love story an unusally vivid quality. Though filled with hardship and grim events, at their best these stories also have beauty and redeeming moments that exhilarate the reader when contrasted with the brutality of war. Set against the Battle of the Alamo and the fighting that followed, The Rebel and the Lady manages to tell a tender love story against an intense, grim background.

As the book opens, Victoria Torrez prepares to flee her parents' ranch near Laredo. Her parents support Texan independence, and as Santa Anna approaches, they fear what will become of Victoria if she stays, so the sheltered aristocratic Victoria must travel to Bexar to stay with her cousin. He will protect her, and more importantly, Victoria can bring news of conditions in the south in time for him to prepare troops in his area.

In Bexar, Victoria's path collides with that of Jake Dumont, who has traveled to Texas from Charleston in search of his brother. He has no intention of staying and certainly does not plan to join in the fight for Texas Independence. However, through a variety of circumstances, he finds himself in the Alamo with Victoria and her relatives, all readying for the fight against Santa Anna.

While those familiar with the history will wonder how a happy ending could occur given the events that transpired, the author does a good job of building a tender, if somewhat rushed, romance between Victoria and Jake. Though conventions of the time and Victoria's sheltered background keep contact between the pair somewhat restrained for much of the book, the feeling expressed does feel genuine and the historical background makes the hurried nature of the love story seem believable.

My main problem lay in the lack of historical and plot detail. Events, especially toward the end, felt very rushed and a tad underdeveloped. In addition, the word and page count made this book seem more like a novella than a full-fledged historical romance. In recent years Harlequin has gone to smaller word and page counts and ever larger margins, the effects of which can be seen in this novel. I didn't notice a desperate need to dumb down historicals when the policy was put into effect (maybe I missed an epidemic of readers fainting from the Herculean effort of getting through 300 pages?), and Harlequin's policy seems to result in thin, underdeveloped stories - something that sells both readers and authors short.

Even though I would have loved to see more of a story developed between Victoria and Jake, both are likable characters. The historical background, while thin, remained more vivid and engaging than the average generic Western, Regency, or castle setting, and I appreciated that as well. Those looking for a sweet love story and a glimpse at American history will want to give The Rebel and the Lady a try. For a war romance, it has more sweetness than darkness and ends up as a hopeful read.

-- Lynn Spencer

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