Sunday, July 10, 2016

ARC Review: Once a Soldier by Mary Jo Putney

Series:     Rogues Redeemed #1
Pub. Date:June 28, 2016
Publisher:Kensington/Zebra
Length:343 pages
Source:NetGalley

Mary Jo Putney is back with a new series that spins off from her original Lost Lords series. Where the Lost Lords all attended Westerfield Academy together, this new Rogues Redeemed series will focus on a group of spies who found themselves facing death together during England's fight with Old Boney.

Just a bit about the Rogues, they find themselves imprisoned in the basement of a home by French soldiers, and are expecting to meet a firing squad at dawn. As can be expected, the conversation turns fatalistic and each rogue talks about the amends he wished he would have made before his death. Spending what they believe to be their last night on earth together, the gentlemen form a bond that, I suspect, will last through this series and beyond. 

Our hero, Will Masterson, attended Westerfield Academy with the Lost Lords. After being devastated by the loss of his wife, Will is in a dark place and decides to buy a commission and fight for England in the Napoleanic Wars. Will never expected to to live through the war and he certainly didn't shy away from taking risks that would give others second thoughts. You can really tell from his behavior that he is punishing himself for what he feels was his failure to protect and care for his wife (who had a weak heart and died in childbirth). When he is asked by one of the rogues to travel to, assess and secure San Gabriel - he never expected to meet his next life mate - an amazon queen defending the fortress. I liked Will and that he was earnest and forthright. I love the close relationships between friends in these stories... and we got to see that with Will and Justin. Will was also quite generous, funding repairs for San Gabriel and providing a wonderful wedding gift for his batman.

I think Putney does a good job at giving us at least one unique character per story... and she did that again here with our heroine, Athena Markham. As the illegitimate daughter to a notorious courtesan and difficult duke, Athena felt the sting of society growing up. Despite this, Athena loved her mother dearly and, until her mother's death, she was afforded an interesting education as she was her mother's companion through various affairs. One of these affairs was with Prince Alfonso of the tiny kingdom of San Gabriel, which is how Athena became close friend and adviser to Princess Maria Sofia de Alcantara. In addition to Athena's unconventional upbringing, she is also not the typical petite historical heroine. Athena, much like her name, is described as an amazon - a woman warrior. Our hero first meets this tall striking woman at the end of her rifle. I really liked that Athena was a unique and capable heroine.  However I did not like that she was afraid to take a chance on Will just because of his title. I know she had her reasons... but I wish she would have trusted him a little more.

The relationship between Will and Athena was hot and cold - mostly due to Athena's reluctance. Will knew what he wanted and he never stopped trying. I enjoyed Will's chase and felt bad that Athena made him work so hard. I do wish this one would have had a little more steam to it though.

The secondary plot involving the war and danger in San Gabriel was well done. I felt like those aspects really helped moved the story forward and gave the reader something to focus on when the romance was taking the back burner. The small kingdom was described beautifully, and it was nice to have a setting outside of England. (San Gabriel is a fictional valley between Portugal and Spain.)

I received an advanced copy of this book from Kensington Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an  honest review.