By Jan Cox Speas
Copyright 2011 - Sourcebooks Casablanca
Orig. published 1961
Historical Fiction/Some romance but not like that--->
"Don't look so distressed," he said, sounding somewhat amused. "It was not so easy to unseat me, as you see, and I acquit you of deliberately wishing to kill yourself in such an unpleasant fashion. Please do me the honor, however, of promising to be more careful in the future. It is always wise, you know, to look before you leap."
He bowed again, murmured, "Your servant," and rode on, followed by another man clad in sober black and mounted on a sober black horse. Plainly a gentleman's gentleman, the second man gave Page only a slight bow as he passed, but something in his face seemed to convey a friendly sympathy that took some of the sting from her embarrassment. [. . . ]
Page gave an imperceptible sigh. Nothing was going the way it should. It was really quite strange, she reflected with a swift amusement, how the day refused to fit into its normal ordinary pattern. She had been seeking an escape from boredom, but perhaps one should be wary of a boon so readily and generously granted.
--from pp. 12-13 of My Love, My Enemy (Advanced Review Copy: Some changes may have been made to the final printed edition)
My Love, My Enemy takes place during dual conflicts: The War of 1812 and the final year of the Napoleonic Wars. Page Bradley is an American living in Annapolis. 18 and adventurous, she has managed to sneak onto the boat of a fellow named Duncan MacDougall (who works for her father) to accompany him into town for a bit of shopping. Shortly after she's nearly run over by a horse in town, thanks to a little daydreaming, Page finds the rider of the horse of her earlier encounter surrounded by an angry mob in a killing mood. The crowd is convinced he's a British spy. Page saves the day with a little quick thinking, managing to convince everyone that the British man is with her (in 1812, it's safe to say that everyone would know a prominent citizen's daughter), but when their sloop is captured by a British frigate, Page and MacDougall become prisoners. And, then an American ship attacks.
Page goes from ship to ship and then from Bermuda to France, followed by London as plans to return her to Annapolis are continually thwarted by the war on the home front and war in Europe, poor weather and the determination of an American pirate who simply can't be bothered to drop off a young lady when there's such great treasure to capture. Will Page ever make it home to Annapolis? Was Jocelyn Trevor, Lord Hazard, really visiting his sister in America or is he a spy? Why must everyone persist in treating Page like a child?
As you can tell from my description, My Love, My Enemy focuses on history, action and adventure more than romance, although it is Page's story and the reader remains in her point of view. The affection between Lord Hazard and Page Bradley develops gradually and there is nothing steamy, nothing that screams of the common romance -- no deep, impassioned longing or admiration of bodies, nothing beyond a few kisses and even those occur in the latter half of the book, possibly later.
What I Loved about My Love, My Enemy:
This is the kind of "romance" I love, in which the love story is merely one of many things happening, not the sole focus of the novel, beautifully written with exciting battles and an adventurous journey across an historical backdrop of war. The touch of romance, slowly developed, as the hero and heroine often are forced to part company, is quite nearly perfect, in my humble opinion. I'm not a fan of the kind of romance with graphic sex and gushing about each other's bodies and desire. I prefer a gentle, chaste romance that develops at a realistic pace. The blend of adventure and sweet interaction make the My Love, My Enemy both compelling and delightful.
My Love, My Enemy also has an excellent, built-in conflict. Page is American; Lord Hazard is British. They are at war with each other. Much as she finds herself drawn to him, Page is a patriot and Lord Hazard is a soldier. At one point, he actually leaves Page for several months to go fight against Napoleon.
Realistic setting, great characters (I really liked them all . . . well, maybe there were one or two exceptions, but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to dislike them) and rocking fine dialogue make My Love, My Enemy a winner. Don't avoid it if you detest romance. It's a good story. At times, shipboard dialogue sounds very much like that of the Hornblower series.
What I disliked about My Love, My Enemy:
There was one point at which I thought, "How long is this bouncing from ship to ship going to go on?" And, in fact, just after I wondered that, the scenery changed. Page was dropped off far from home. So, honestly? There's nothing I dislike about the book. I know zippo about the War of 1812 and I learned a little -- enough to pique my interest, but not a great deal.
I'm not a fan of the "steamy" romance cover, although I understand the reasoning behind them (romance sells, period) and I do love the background, a ship at sunset. Lord Hazard is never shirtless, as far as I can recall; the book is totally G-rated, definitely a great one to hand to your impressionable teenager. And, ooooh, I love that dress.
Book club report:
I totally forgot to talk about the last meeting of my book club. I missed the December meeting (even though I managed to read both books) because I wasn't feeling well and I skipped the January meeting because I found the book so distressing I didn't want to even think about it, much less discuss it. But, I really was enjoying Let the Great World Spin and our fearless leader encourages members to come, even if they haven't completed the reading. So, I did. It was fun. I really adore this group. They were every bit as enthusiastic as the first time I attended, occasionally raising voices and hollering right over each other.
I learned a bit about the book that I probably would not have caught but nothing that will spoil the reading, so I still intend to read it, eventually. Next month's book is Cutting for Stone, a book that I had not intended to read. I think maybe the size and the title put me off (and, to be honest, I absolutely hated that hardback cover -- I have no idea why). Our group leader encouraged me to find a copy, though, so I can join in on the discussion (after taking me on a tour of her personal library, which is so fabulous I'm still mentally drooling), even though it isn't one I planned on purchasing. And as it turns out . . . I'm loving it, so far.
In other news:
We have four painted walls in my office!!! It's a big, freaking mess in here and the walls need a little touch-up, then another coat. Meanwhile, we've also begun ripping up the flooring. As soon as the walls are finished and the flooring replaced, I'll have my neighbor come over to measure and we'll talk about the L-shaped desk and shelves I'm going to have him build. I'm so, so excited to have the chance to plan my own office arrangement. I haven't had room to spread out and do crafty things (you know, beyond laminating, and you can do most of the work for that on the floor) for so many years I can't even remember how long it's been. Wahoos in progress!!
What wonderful, wahooey things are happening in your life?