Regina Alderstock was born an English Lady, but now she was far from home and close to danger. Orphaned in a Spanish city in Napoleon's iron grip, she needed all her wits and wiles to fend off an ardent French admirer; the powerfull and persuasive Monsieur de Thierry. It was in this precarious position that Major Adma Canfield entered her life. This dashing British undercover agent was a master of disguise -- but he made no secret of his desire. Reggie's heart had come under siege by a man for whom all was was fair in love and war... as shefought a battle against his passion that she was not sure shewished to win...
After a mediocre book, and one that although had good points struggled under the weights of some serious problems, I can happily report that the Reluctant heroine was a big success with me!
This is a peninsular war book, and there are not that many of those around. Very often the hero may have served in Spain or Portugal, or we meet other people in the book who have been there, but this is one of the few books where the whole of the action takes place in Spain. Major Adam Canfield is with Wellington’s forces in Spain and he often takes on reconnaissance missions (see ‘Spy’) to get information to bring back to his superiors. In his latest mission, he slips into Burgos to get an idea of the city’s forces and defences since the British are planning to lay siege to it.
The heroine’s situation is much more unusual. She is the daughter of British diplomat so she has been living in various places in Europe where her father’s posts took them. While in Spain, her father died when the heroine was a child, and her mother married a Spanish gentleman, who was a widower with a daughter of his own. A few years later, her mother also died. So Regina Alderstock although British by birth, has lived for years in Burgos with her stepfamily, and she considers Spain her country as well.
Major Canfield is injured in an accident (the contents of a mule cart fall on top of him) during his Burgos mission, and Regina witnessing the accident intervenes and takes the injured man to her home. Because she realised he was British (hence a spy), and was afraid his identity would be discovered if left with any of Spanish townspeople and the French would get wind of him. (How she knew he was British when she witnesses with others the accident, is not clear. She is not psychic as far as I know. Normally that would be a [small] problem here but I was very willing to overlook it, since I was enjoying the book.) Being injured Major Canfield can not travel back to the British forces camp, (a bit south of Salamanca) and the information he has about Burgos is vital. Regina, tries to convince him she should go in his place. And she does. And she goes. Now this may sound unrealistic, and the heroine foolhardy, if this was in another book. However she just travels in her carriage with her stepsister and her aunt, and stay to visit with family in Salamanca, so it is all above board, not suspicious or dangerous. Regina is a very practical, and level headed, and not at all one for silly heroics. She is also clever, witty, kind, has nice manners; in short I could not find a single fault in her. Major Canfield I also liked a lot. Again, I cannot find anything to fault him. And they are suited to each other. Again, even trying to find something that bothered me or annoyed me, or was unnecessary, not logical, irritating, unrealistic … Nope. I can not think of a single thing! Very rare for me :) (Ok, single minor thing: the heroine guessing telepathetically that the injured ‘Spanish peasant’ is British.)
When Regina returns to Burgos after the trip to Salamanca, Major Canfield is gone. The two meet up next in Madrid in a couple of months time. And again later in the book Major goes to see her in Burgos to assure himself that she is well. The book stretches for a period of about 1.5 years and the hero and heroine spend little of that time together. But the book fast forwards in time where interesting things are happening, so that was not a problem at all. Their acquaintance and relationship develops believably and though both are attracted to each other, neither does anything impulsive or foolhardy.
So a great heroine and hero, in a solid story with an interesting and unusual background in the Pennisular campaign. I cannot ask for anything more in a Regency, or indeed in any Romance. I very much enjoyed this book.
PS. There is a problem with the book in that the back blurb (so, not the author's fault) is more inaccurate than usual: The heroine is not orphaned and in danger when she meets the hero (rather he is), and she is not fending off the wiles of a French admirer. Major Canfield is not dashing dressed as a Spanish peasant, there is no desire to keep secret in the beginning, he lays no siege, and Regina fights no battle against his passion. I cannot find a single thing in these two paragraphs that is true or accurate. Apart from their names.