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Review of Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings   Leave a comment

 

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out.

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

***

 

I originally requested this as something for my mom to read. Originally, I was thinking about going for the sequel to Harbingers, which I reviewed a few months back. But upon reading the premise, what little enthusiasm I had quickly evaporated. So I asked my mom to choose the book she liked the most that would appeal to her, and I’d give it to her to read after I was done. This was her top choice.

My expectations going into this read were low. I don’t particularly like stories set in the old west, and after my last read, I held little hope of even the romance element being worthwhile. Imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying the story!

As far as pace goes, it doesn’t lag. Everything is kept moving, without the boring spots you sometimes encounter with historical romance fiction. And the characters themselves are ones with heart and personality that keep you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Louise is a spunky strong woman, with a passion for singing and a heart that’s devoted to those she cares for. With her parents dead and her brother serving in the army, singing in saloons is the only thing that has stood between her and the street. When she’s faced with unexpected unemployment and then news of her brother in trouble with his commanding officer, she makes the decision to go seek a new life for herself and straighten out her brother. Her hope is that the US Calvary is in need of some wholesome entertainment. But after promising to make a simple delivery of books, she is mistaken for the governess Major Daniel Adams requested to help rein in his unruly girls. Though she has little book learning, she goes along with the assumption, figuring it will give her the chance to aid her brother.

Major Adams is great at running a fort, but he struggles with raising two girls. Caught between the two, he’s forced to always be at his best with little time for engaging in any silliness. Allowing himself to try out a stunt ends up with him injuring himself right in front of Louise. When she doesn’t reveal his secret, he feels obligated to give her a chance as the governess for his children, despite his suspicions.

I really enjoyed Louise and watching her use her wits to maintain her facade as a refined and educated woman. Even though she feels completely overwhelmed and fearful of the moment when she is found out, she doesn’t back down. She gives the performance of a confident governess her best shot, and during her free hours when she is alone, struggles to learn the subjects she needs to stay ahead of the girls she is tutoring. What also adds to the character is that she has always been judged by the church ladies of her hometown and scorned by them without ever being given the chance to prove herself or that the accusations against her are false. As a result, she doesn’t see God as a loving God, and doubts her self-worth.

Major Daniel Adams, as far as male leads go, wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t call him a favorite, he worked well in the story. He’s a typical stiff military man, but with Louise, that’s when more personality and feeling breaks free. Though he’s suspicious of Louise’s story and background, he opts to give her a chance. His attraction to her grows, especially when he sees how well she and his children get along.

What I really liked about Major Adams was that he went by Louise’s heart and stuck by her. Even when given the opportunity to find evidence that would provide him with the truth about Louise, he refused to take it, choosing instead to trust her and what he felt in his own heart about her.

Personally, I feel there should have been another character to help with leading Louise and Daniel in having a relationship with God, or a stronger one in Daniel’s case, since he was already a Christian. It felt awkward when he would go talking about God and how Jesus is there for all, since it felt like he was a little lost too and needed guidance himself, but it doesn’t detract from the story. The romance is good, and you’ll be rewarded by a sweet ending that makes you eager for the next book in the series.

Verdict: A definite buy!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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