Anne Gracie was a RITA finalist for Best First Book with Gallant Waif, but did not win. She was robbed.
Kate Farleigh is a poor relation, but a prideful, stubborn one. She abhors the idea of being a charity case, which is her fear when she is swept up by her mother's godmother, Lady Cahill, and bundled into a carriage. But the devious Lady Cahill has plans for Kate: her stubbornness and no-nonsense attitude are just what her beloved grandson needs.
Major Jack Carstairs has returned from the Peninsular Wars, scarred and with a serious leg wound. His fiancée dumps him and he is disowned by his father, so he shuts himself up alone in his ramshackle country house. He refuses to see anyone, preferring to wallow in self-pity and bitterness. That is, until his grandmother drops Kate into his lap as his housekeeper.
Kate quickly works out that Lady Cahill wants her to not only set the house to rights, but Jack as well, and she sets about it with a strong back and a stronger mind, refusing to take no for an answer. Her relentless obstinacy succeeds in getting Jack to think about something else for a change - and if it is only thinking about strangling Kate, well, it is a start.
Jack has really had it very hard indeed and is an angry, despairing shell of a man when Kate arrives. She brings him to life through sheer force of will. Kate followed the drum, taking care of her brothers and father in the army, all of whom died during the war. She has had her share of suffering and it has given her a terrible competency and little patience for someone who came home from the war alive, if not whole. She and Jack have loud, roof-raising rows - it is fun and riveting reading. Jack and his army fellows are later in a position to help save Kate during a moving scene at a ball when the action moves to London - fabulous, two-hanky stuff.
If you haven't read Gallant Waif, I urge you to track down a copy. It's a delightful book and a stunning debut novel - one to be savored during many rereads.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, February 25, 2008