*MY TOP PICK FOR JUNE!!*
Harlequin Historical June 2010
280 pages By Carla Kelly
BLURB ON BACK OF BOOK:
Illegitimate Polly Brandon has never felt like more than an ugly duckling. So she's amazed when Hugh Philippe Junot pays her such close attention as they sail for Portugal.
Under ordinary circumstances she knows this distinguished lieutenant colonel of marines would never have looked at her, but having his protection for the journey is comforting—and something more that she's afraid to give a name to. Should she trust what she sees in Hugh's eyes—has she turned from an ugly duckling into a beautiful, desirable swan?
Prepare yourself, I am about to gush shamelessly. This is one of the best Harlequin Historicals I have EVER read. And believe me, I read a lot of them. I will now get Carla's other books, they are tied in with this one.
The characters are richly realized, the adventure heart-stopping, the romance, old fashioned, loving and sniffle worthy.
Hugh Phillipe Junot (pronounced Junnit) believe it or not from his name, is from Scotland, complete with a slight sexy burr. His ancestors were French, obviously. He is a Lt. Colonel in the Royal Marines, and not exactly young, he is 37 years old and starting to feel every year. He laments frequently at the grey hairs at his temples. But he is a stunning specimen in his red uniform, and handsome to boot. He has such a self-deprecating way about him that is charming, with a dry sense of humor that is sexy as it is entertaining. I fell in love with Hugh, fantastic hero.
Enter a passenger on The Perseverance, the much younger lady, Polly Brandon, on her way to Oporto to visit with her sister. She is 19 to his 37, I know, I cringed, not my fav to have such a disparity in age, but believe me, it soon does not matter.
Polly promptly becomes violently seasick, and Hugh finds himself caring for her, their slow growing friendship in endearing. How refreshing to not have them tumble into bed for once. He affectionately calls her 'Brandon', and finds the friendship he feels for her growing into something more. I loved that we are often given Hugh's POV, he is such a stunning character, I loved his inner most thoughts. And he feels, ultimately, that he is too old, and rather than declare his feelings, he leaves her in Oporto.
A few weeks pass, and Hugh finds his ship back in Oporto, he argues with himself about going ashore to seek Polly out, he already mailed her a letter, a terrible faux pas. But once he does, both he and Polly are swept up into a suspenseful adventure through war-torn Spain. They are captured by the occupying French, my heart was in my throat through so many scenes. They pretend to be married, thereby protecting Polly from any violation, hopefully.
This could be a movie. I was riveted to each page. So much happens I cannot begin to cover it all. Hugh is so honorable, brave and REAL. And Polly proved to be a real match for Hugh. Spending their nights curled into each other's embrace, they fall in love. And there are some genuinely touching moments that had a lump in my throat more than once. There are no intense love scenes until the end of the book, and even then, they were milder than most historicals, and I did not care. The love story to me, the adventure, the characters themselves so swept me up I did not even miss it. It wasn't needed.
The secondary characters are also amazing, the French Sergeant captor, comes alive right off the page. Carla Kelly spares no punches about the horrors of war, or captivity.
Hugh, when he leaves Polly in Oporto:
Why couldn't he just say good-bye? Just a word and bow and off he would go, back to war. All he could do is stand there, filled with so much regret he wanted to drop to his knees in utter misery.
Oh Yes, Hugh is amazing. A real man, not afraid to show his emotions, one scene he breaks down and cries and I was right there with him.
The blurb really does not do this book justice, as it really is not about Polly's supposed plain looks. No, she is no raving beauty, but that does not matter to Hugh.
This read was an amazing journey from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend this!
4 out of 4 stars for the book
KOVER KUDOS: Again, like the book itself, the cover is perfection. The male model is EXACTLY how Hugh is described in the book, (down to the wavy brown hair) and wow, the uniform! Love the waves crashing through the window, and the surrounding implements of a sea adventure.
4 out of 4 stars for the cover