While preparing to meet the hangman's noose at sunrise, a group of captured men reflect on what they would do if they were saved from their impending deaths. With the toss of an empty liquor bottle by English officer, Will Masterson, the men have a reprieve from execution and flee to safety. Before going their own ways, they agree to keep in touch in the future by way of a book shop in London. Will Masterson goes back to his troops where he survives to see Napoleon's surrender. Just when he's about to sell out of his commission, Major Lord Masterson is given a final mission of heading to a scenic sovereignty bordering Portugal and Spain to assess the damage the French forces committed against San Gabriel.
Awkwardly tall for a woman and having nothing left for her in England but a father who wants nothing to do with her but to keep her illegitimacy secret, Athena Markham finds herself in San Gabriel as a savior of sorts, The fiercely independent woman with a tumultuous past finds herself useful as aid to San Gabriel's Princess Sofia and more importantly to the whole community after the French wrought destruction.
When Will Masterson appears in San Gabriel, both he and Athena share an immediate desire that shows promise if either one would allow. Athena dreads Will discovering about her past, but with their evolving friendship comes a trust she has never found in another, which allows her to unburden her soul. The task at hand though is to protect San Gabriel and the Princess from enemies who lurk in wait of the perfect time to attack the struggling country and while this is first and foremost, Athena's and Will's desire grows.
Will have never met a woman as magnificent as the Amazonian-like Athena, with her height and a admirable fortitude, he wants her badly. Not only in the physical sense does he desire Athena, but in the emotional and binding sense as well. But Athena can't see passed her illegitimacy and the legacy her mother left her. Convincing the proud and difficult Athena to allow him in is quite the journey in Mary Jo Putney's ONCE A SOLDIER.
This amazing romance set against a beautiful and exotic background is perfection for me. Reading Mary Jo Putney describe the Douro River Valley and its environs brings back my memories of trips to Portugal and Spain. I could tell by the way she speaks, that she felt an affinity for the country. Meeting Will Masterson in The Lost Lords series and enjoying his rapport in that series, it's a joy that he finally gets his own story. It's as if his character was calling Ms. Putney's name. He is a wonderful hero and one who will remain with me for quite some time. Athena Markham is remarkable to say the least. This heroine asks for nothing and deserves it all. Her fears about what her life will be like back in England are real but her insistence of pushing Will away is for nought, because the Amazon has met her match, and what a great match it is!
This new and exciting book, ONCE A SOLDIER by Mary Jo Putney is a must read. I look forward to the next installment wonder which hero will have his day.