by Sandra Madden

December 2003
ISBN: 0-8217-7527-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

In the post Civil War era, a charming widower and a deserted wife meet and fall in love unexpectedly in Sandra Madden's, The Lieutenantís Woman.

October 1865óTrace Reardon, is attempting an unobtrusive escape from yet another house party for the Naval Academy where he is employed. He had almost accomplished his goal when suddenly he hears a loud crash and a plaintive 'oh no'. Curious, Trace discovers a young maid, Susannah Partridge, amongst the shards of broken crystal. Mortified, and cursed with chronic clumsiness since her childhood, Susannah makes an effort to explain the accident to her well-bred employer, but is callously discharged. Sympathetic Trace, a southerner by birth and irrefutably the most unpopular of guests at the party and the Academy, defiantly offers the lovely young woman a position in his own household. Susannah is reluctant. Trace however, convincingly explains his urgent need of a 'temporary' governess for his four daughters. His elderly aunt, who was now in charge of their care, must soon return to her own home and family.

Trace does not immediately enlighten her that he is a widower. Nor does he explain his aunts constant nagging to find a suitable wife. Susannah will not disclose her marital status, or her reasons for living in Annapolis. A married woman, looking for her long lost husband, whom she has not seen since the war began, would never be a reliable choice for any position. Both are guarding secrets, secrets they refuse to share with anyone. Trace, tall and darkly handsome, is a burn victim, scarred on one side of his back and shoulders. He fears no woman will ever find him sexually attractive, he was also betrayed by his dead wife. And Susannah, who married hastily, but honestly, is relentless in her search, but feels a strong attraction to Trace nevertheless. Will she find that her husband is a deserter or that she is a widow, or has her young husband forgotten her existence altogether?

When Susannah nervously enters the Reardon household for the first time, she brings her pet cockatiel Bilge along with her. Bilge, as ill behaved as Susannah is clumsy, soon challenges the Lieutenantís well-organized household with a few untimely antics. Traceís daughters immediately accept Susannah and the relationship they develop is adorable. And once Susannah learns that Trace is a widower, she decides to join his aunt in the hunt for a suitable wife.

The Lieutenantís Woman is well written, our hero and heroine very likeable, the secondary characters as well. Nonetheless, I wish I could say the story captured my interest, but it did not. I was never fully engaged. I enjoy a good historical, and can even tolerate some inanities so characteristic of the genre. But, when I put a book down repeatedly and dread to pick it back up again, thatís not a good sign. Some may find this a delightful read. However, I cannot in all honestly include myself among them.

Reviewed in March 2004 by Janice.

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