Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92590-6
Historical Romance, 2017
Cassandra Reeves, a vicar’s daughter, manages to get herself in a pickle when this story opens. Oblivious to the fact that the high fence and gate are clear signs that the orchard is private property, she wanders into it and ends up snagged up a tree. Our hero Captain James Warriner catches her just in time before she falls, and this is the start of a deceptively cute romance. She is writing a children’s story with talking animals, and James who is good at drawing ends up doing the artwork. Alas, he has issues, and her father is the usual insane religious zealot that goes “YOU WHORE!” at Cassie at the slightest provocation, hence this being a full-length book instead of an 80-paged short story.
A Warriner to Rescue Her is the second entry in Virginia Heath’s The Wild Warriners series, not that any of the guys featured so far are in any way wild. James has PTSD from his days of being a soldier, and the injuries he has sustained – especially the one that leaves one leg in a limp and ends any chance of him continuing his military gig – leave him with issues and insecurities up to the wazoo. But he’s not wild, unless “wild” is a way of saying that he may one day lose control and shoot the wife with the pistol he sleeps with, and I sincerely hope this is not the case.
Okay, I probably shouldn’t have made that previous sentence, but it’s tied to my greatest issue with this story: the hero has genuine demons inside his head, but the author treats his issues as if James just didn’t get enough hugs from his father. Okay, he didn’t – in addition to all these issues, James also was abused by his father, who felt that James’s artistic inclinations were a weakness that needed to be beaten out of him. Therefore, we have a damaged man who manages to keep a remarkably sanguine outer façade. Instead of doing something memorable with this character, however, the author instead uses his issues as wince-inducing props for him to go all hot and cold with Cassie in a singularly unoriginal and uninteresting manner.
Cassie is also damaged in her own way. She has a horrific father, and unlike James, hers is still alive, sadly, and she is terrified of him. While James retreats from his own childhood by seeking order and trying to be as dispassionate as possible about things, she retreats into fanciful, almost girlish whims and daydreams. Hence, her story about talking animals. Our heroine babbles and does a lot of things that may otherwise be annoyingly precious, but here, Cassie’s behavior makes sense as she has very little genuine interactions with other people.
Therefore, I have two characters here that I actually like. They are very tortured, and their developing attraction makes sense as the two of them share much in common, both good and bad, and something tells me that, in another story, this romance would be a remarkable tearjerker. The author has the characters, the chemistry, the pathos all sown here, so how can things go wrong?
Well, here’s how: the author insists on using all the angst as another tiresome excuse for the main characters to play hot and cold. The hero rejects the heroine for her own good. The heroine rejects him because he doesn’t say the words. You know that song and dance by now, I’m sure. Worse, this annoying circular dance takes place often at irrational moments. For example, the hero has just saved the heroine from a harrowing experience at the hands of her father, so of course she loudly rejects him when he proposes because he doesn’t say the pretty words she expects him to. That makes sense!
Furthermore, the hero only reveals the true extent of his issues to Cassie very, very late in the story. Oh, he sleeps with a gun, he thinks he is worthless, and there are many, many genuine concerns any reasonable fellow would have about marrying him, but who cares? Cassie is thrilled that James did all that drama “only” because of these issues and not because he finds her disgusting or anything like that. He loves her, so that’s all that matters!
And that’s the problem with this story in a nutshell. Genuine emotional issues… all squandered because the author treats them like they are mere equivalents to some tiny misunderstanding, easily resolved with a hug and a shag. I love Cassie and James for what they are and what they could have been, hence A Warriner to Rescue Her doesn’t just disappoint me – it practically pulverizes my heart into a puddle of goo and then takes a dump on top of it.