Thursday, January 15, 2015

His Saving Grace by Sharon Cullen

The Basics:
His Saving Grace by Sharon Cullen
Book Four in the Secrets & Seductions series
Historical Romance
Published December 23, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:

I don't often see historical romances that address men returning from war with head injuries, so I was intrigued by the blurb.


For months now, Lady Grace Ashworth has mourned the death of her beloved husband—until the day a very-much-alive Michael arrives at her front door. It’s nothing less than a miracle. However, Grace soon realizes that this Michael isn’t the same man who left for the Crimean War. She’s stunned to learn that he has suffered a devastating head injury. Putting all her own desires aside, Grace resolves to devote herself to Michael’s recovery and to love him no matter what troubles may come.

Convinced that his wife is wasting her time on a broken man, Michael attempts to shield Grace from a life of inconvenience by driving her away. But Grace will have none of that. Despite every obstacle Michael throws in her path, she stubbornly soldiers on, fighting not only for their marriage but for the love they once shared. In the end, will her determination alone be enough to save Michael from the darkness that threatens to consume him?
My thoughts:

His Saving Grace is a very emotional and raw story. It seems to me far more familiar a tale in contemporary terms where many of the issues that Michael faces are addressed as a consequence of PTSD. Suffice to say, Michael's head injury has several symptoms that would each on their own cause anyone to become frustrated, depressed and question their future. For him to experience all of these symptoms together - well, it has a rather negative impact on his general outlook.

Grace and Michael really shine in this book. Both of them have strengths alongside Michael's obvious weaknesses and Grace's bouts of uncertainty. They're imperfect but not unlovable and, in fact, almost all too familiar in our current age of warfare. The emotional ups and downs of the book felt realistic as Grace and Michael experienced small victories and then setbacks. And I think this the key to the success of the book - that the story relies on following the rising and falling of emotions as they try to cope with what their new normal looks like.

While Grace and Michael make very strong impressions, some of the other characters in this book were a bit of a letdown. I was particularly disappointed in the self-involved, self-important younger brother Nigel and his wife Clara. While these two felt more like distant relations, the worst part was that their villainy was so confined. I wanted more action from these two, more pressure and a more concrete threat. Where some of the concern regarding Michael's condition revolved around exposure to the public, I thought Nigel provided a more solid and specific source of tension. Unfortunately, I never felt that he was anything more than a vague presence after his initial flailing about, and Clara might as well have been entirely absent after her initial introduction. She was woefully under-utilized, where she could have gone about undermining Grace's confidence and optimism about the future or really anything other than the nothing it seemed to me that she was left to do.

I enjoyed the story itself and found myself drawn in emotionally, up until the end. In the interests of not spoiling other readers, suffice to say that while I thought the epilogue was quite good and a little out of the ordinary, I thought that the climax of the book was a tad convenient and lead into an ending that didn't have the oomph I wanted. 

Bottom line:

His Saving Grace is a rather unique entry in the 'soldier returns home' category of historical romance. I thought Michael's injuries and the changes in the couple's normal were rather poignant. There were a few downsides to this book for me - I wanted the outside threat to be more concrete, and the ending didn't quite give me what I wanted. But overall, a solid and emotional book that I can happily recommend.

4 stars
For fans of historical romance, wounded soldiers

But don't just take my word for it! I grabbed a few links to other blog reviews of His Saving Grace:

Buried Under Romance

Red Hot Books

All About Romance

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