If you are a lover of Historical Fiction and don't miss the internal tension of a classic romance where the hero and heroine are at odds, coming together near the end of the story for their H.E.A., then this is the book for you.
In Courage Rises, Ms. Rachel draws us into a sweeping saga revolving around two story lines. The first is with Colonel Fitzwilliam, from the front lines in France to the wilds of Dorset, the second with Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet) within the walls of Pemberley. Yes, our dear boy Darcy is in the story but he spent most of the book in the company of his cousin the Colonel.
Darcy and Elizabeth are happily married, having just returned recently from their four month wedding tour and Darcy leaves his blushing bride to attend London and some legal matters that require his attention. Left on her own for the first time as Mistress of Pemberley, Elizabeth is determined to be an apt mistress, yet unsure - quite understandable given the vast size of the estate.
Colonel Fitzwilliam, after an extremely close brush with death, has been given a letter found on the body of the soldier who saved his life, Captain Hawke. Strangely, the missive is addressed to him and begs him to find the Captain's sisters and lend them aid. Once back in England, the Colonel begins his quest, his debt of honor, only to find intrigue and a lot of dead ends. He enlists the aid of Darcy, whom he knows is in London on business and soon Charles Bingley is drawn into their search for Captain Hawke's sister.
While Darcy is in London, an influenza outbreak threatens the tenants and residents of Pemberley. Left on her own, Elizabeth has no choice but to face this crisis head-on. This will either make or break her as Mistress of Pemberley, and with the lives of many hanging in the balance, her decisions have life or death repercussions.
WHAT I LIKED
Ms. Rachel draws you into the scene in a masterful way. From the first page we are with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the battlefield in France. You can almost feel the grime, smell the smoke and acrid stench of blood. She describes the physical scene with precision. In fact, all of the book's scene descriptions were apt and believable.
She also gave us an inside peek at what it would be like as Mistress of Pemberley. Such a daunting task and don't forget, Elizabeth was only twenty-one years old when this responsibility fell upon her shoulders, yet our dear Lizzie rose to the occasion when left alone in the midst of a crisis.
Ms. Rachel did not force the pace of the story. She let it unfold in a most natural way. Both story lines twisted and turned, with brief intersections in the form of letters. Not once did I feel like she raced to the end in order for Darcy and Elizabeth to be reunited.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
There's little emotional conflict (IMO) and I was reminded of books like 'Pillars of the Earth', or 'The Handmaid's Tale'. There was no romance in this story. All conflict was external. There was conflict of dead-end trails, surly servants, an influenza outbreak of almost pandemic proportions which taxed our characters physically, but other than the emotional strain of Darcy and Elizabeth being physically separated due to circumstances, there was no emotional conflict - at all. Some readers enjoy this type of narrative, but it's not my cup of tea.
Don't misunderstand me, Ms. Rachel is an excellent writer. It's just that this style of fiction is not something I gravitate toward. I enjoy the thrust and parry of witty dialogue and the steamy sexual tension found within the pages of a romance novel. *sigh*
Another thing I'm not overly fond of, and I'm finding this occurring more often, is the switch of character Point of View within the scene. Example:
Elizabeth heaved a great sigh and thought she might as well get dressed and begin her day. As she reached for the bell to call her maid, there was a soft knock on the door, and Fitzwilliam stepped quietly inside.
"Good morning, Mrs. Darcy," he said with a gentle smile. She still blushed a little when he came into her chamber before she was dressed, and the gleam in his eye betrayed his approval. His dark hair was tousled, as though he'd already been outside in the wind.
Mrs. Darcy, he thought to himself as he gazed upon the lovely picture his wife made in her nightclothes. Calling her by his name was still unreasonably thrilling.
She smiled, but noted that he was already wearing his riding clothes, and tried to hide her disappointment.This is my bug-a-boo. In my early days of writing, my editor slapped my wrist soundly when I strayed out of the character's POV. So now when I read incidents like this, it takes me out of the fantasy and for that reason I cannot give a full five teacups.
Other than that pesky POV thinga-ma-bob, this was a well written story with much detail to historical fact and whether you believe the scenarios Ms. Rachel presented, (which I did), or not, this narrative will make you glad we live in a century where we have access to good medical care and communication devices.