The Magnolia Duchess (Beth White) – Review

5 stars

 

Publisher’s description
As the War of 1812 rages across the newly formed United States, another war rages in Fiona Lanier’s heart–one that threatens to tear her family apart.

Fiona can scarcely take in the news of her brother’s capture and imprisonment by the British Navy. It is almost as unbelievable as the half-drowned British sailor who is washed ashore on the beach of Navy Cove.

Charlie Kincaid claims to have no memory of his life before being discovered by Fiona, but in a world that seems saturated with treachery, she cannot be sure he is telling the truth.

As Charlie’s memory returns in agonizing jags and crashes, he and Fiona discover that falling in love may be as inevitable as the tide. But when political allegiances collide, they’ll each have to decide where their true loyalty lies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Charlie, they’re going to garrison both Fort Charlotte in Mobile and Fort Bowyer right here on the Point.  There will be militia and regular soldiers swarming all over the area.  If it’s discovered I’ve been hiding a British citizen in plain sight, I’ll be suspected of treason!”
He hadn’t let himself consider that inconvenient possibility.  He scratched his itchy nose.  “I don’t want to bring trouble on your family.  You’ve all been kind to me, even Léon.  My headaches are less frequent, so perhaps I should move along, possibly head for Pensacola.  I could hunker down there with the Spanish until my memory comes back.”
“I hate to say this, but you’ve got to consider the possibility that it won’t.”  Fiona’s voice was strained, and he could feel the tension in her shoulder against his.  “Charlie, you could always go home.  The people there love you.  There might even be a doctor who could help.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”  He’d tried for humor, but feared he might have merely sounded pathetic.  “I mean – just because I can’t remember why I left home doesn’t mean there wasn’t a good reason for it.  What if I’m wanted for some crime in England, and I walk right into trouble?”
“Now you’re being silly.  You can’t change your basic nature, and you know you’re a good person.”
“Bat guano notwithstanding, I’d like to think so.”  He was quiet for a moment.  “Fiona, do you want me to leave?”
“Do you want to leave?”
She’d turned the question back on him, and honesty was hard.  He’d never been one to beg for help if he could avoid it.  He also didn’t like admitting how attached he’d gotten to Fiona and her merry band of fisherman-shipbuilders.  To be perfectly frank with himself, he was mainly attached to Fiona – her bright, innocent way of looking at the world, her wholesome beauty, her infectious laughter, her ability to see past the way he hid his feelings behind teasing.
He dipped his head.  “No, I do not want to leave.  I don’t know if I ever had friends before, but I know that I have at least one now.”
She stilled.  “Yes, you do.”
The air vibrated between them.  He would have kissed her, in fact his throat ached with the wanting.  But what if there was already a woman in his life?  He would not take advantage of Fiona’s affections when he could be already committed to someone else.  “Thank you,” he forced himself to say lightly.  “I’ll stay – for now.  But you’ll tell me when I must go, yes?”
“Yes, of course.”
Did she sound disappointed that she hadn’t been kissed?  His heart whistled a little tune as he stepped back.  “Good.  Now let’s clean and fry a couple of those fish for supper.  And you can teach me how to make hushpuppies.”  He took her hand and pulled her out of the barn, laughing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The short take
Historically informed, well-written, and utterly captivating!

Full review
This was a fantastic read.  I enjoyed both of the preceding novels in this series, but in my humble opinion, Beth White has saved the best for last.  There is something particularly compelling about a story in which political loyalties conflict with personal affections, but the way it unfolds in this novel – the complexity of the characters’ motivations, their actions and their reactions, the twists and turns in the plot – it was a potent combination that provided more than one surprise and maintained a finely tuned tension that made it difficult to put this book down.

The story takes place between August 1814 and March 1815, during which time the British attempted to capture the cities of Mobile and New Orleans.  For those who have read the previous book in the series, The Creole Princess, (which is not necessary, but well worth the read), this novel features the next generation of the Lanier family.  Fiona Lanier is the daughter of Simon and Daisy Lanier, and her cousin, Maddy, (a secondary point-of-view character) is the daughter of Lyse and Rafael.

Charlie Kincaid is the grandson of a British Admiral, Lord St. Clair, whom Fiona and Maddy visited in England with Maddy’s parents some nine years ago.  When Fiona finds Charlie washed up on the beach at Navy Cove she recognizes his face straight away and, despite the fact they are political enemies, takes him to her family home to nurse him back to health, concealing the full truth of his identity behind his partial memory loss.

During his convalescence with the Lanier family Charlie is absorbed into their family life, developing an affection for them all – especially the intelligent and winsome Fiona – but when Fort Bowyer is attacked by the British, it is forcibly borne in on both Charlie and Fiona that their actions could be considered treasonable; he, by helping to defend an American fort against his own nation, and she, by harbouring a British citizen.

The situation only becomes more complicated when Charlie sustains a concussion in the attack, triggering the return of his memories.  He now knows his duty, but does he still believe in the cause?  His time with the Lanier family has exposed him to a different way of life; one unfettered by centuries of tradition and family expectations; one he wants to build with Fiona as his wife; one he would not want to surrender to an invading monarchy.  If only their countries were not at war…  If only he were not a commissioned officer in His Majesty’s Royal Navy…  If only he knew the right path to choose…

And that’s just the beginning of this story!

In Charlie and Fiona, Beth White has created strong, principled characters who walk a fine line between loyalty to their country and their family, and love for each other.  I loved Fiona’s spunk and Charlie’s irrepressible sense of humour (even in the most unlikely situations), but most of all, I loved their abiding love for one another in spite of the obstacles in their way.  There is so much more I want to say, but it’s difficult to do so without spoiling some part of the plot; and really, seeing what happens next is a big part of this novel’s attraction – even if the eleventh-hour complication did feel a little contrived for maximum dramatic impact.

A well-written, action-packed, and thoroughly enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Buy from:        Amazon.com                   Amazon.com.au

Release date:  19 April 2016 (available on Kindle from 12 April 2016)
Pages:  353
Publisher:  Revell Books
Author’s Website:  http://www.bethwhite.net/

Previous books in series

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About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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One Response to The Magnolia Duchess (Beth White) – Review

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite ‘Hate-to-Love’ Romances | Fiction Aficionado

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