Devon, the Earl of Malton, is a hero for his deeds at the Battle of Waterloo. But he suffers terrible nightmares, and drinks himself to sleep most nights. A habit he vows to break when he awakes one morning to find a woman sharing his bed, no memory of how she got there, and her angry brother at his door.
Cathleen is mortified when her wastrel brother and his greedy wife propose a blackmail scheme involving the earl, but as a penniless war widow she’s at their mercy. She goes along with the plan and sneaks into Devon’s bed one night, and ends up comforting him through a night terror.
Charmed by her beauty and kindness, Devon determines that rather than pay the blackmail, he will offer his hand in marriage to Cathleen. Although she is deeply attracted to the stoic earl, Cathleen cannot understand why Devon would want to marry her. What she doesn’t know is that Devon owes her a debt that can never fully be repaid…
I’ve sometimes reviewed a full-length novel that I’ve felt would have worked better as a novella because the storyline didn’t contain enough plot and the novel felt as though half of it was padding. In Hero’s Redemption, I felt the reverse was the case.
There are several plot strands to story and all of them suffered from being underdeveloped. Devon, Lord Malton rescues Cathleen Selton from the clutches of her slatternly, grasping relatives by marrying her. But her nasty cousin Lionel and his equally unpleasant wife, Martha, had expected to blackmail Devon into keeping quiet about the fact that Cathleen had spent the night (innocently) in his bed. Needless to say, the marriage foils their plan so instead, they come up with one to murder Devon and appropriate Cathleen’s widows’ portion.
That’s the story in a nutshell, but added in are the fact that Devon, a decorated war hero, is tortured with guilt at the fact that a fellow soldier died saving Devon’s life; and that this soldier turns out to be none other than Cathleen’s late husband. So initially, he proposes to her out of guilt and as a way to make some sort of reparation for the fact that her husband died saving him.
Of course, Cathleen does not know the real reason Devon proposed to her, and even though he knows he should tell her, and in fact plans to do so, he keeps putting it off until she hears it from someone else. I suppose the fact that this is a novella means that this setback in their relationship was actually dealt with quite quickly rather than being dragged out, which is certainly a plus point.
But there is a lot on the negative side which outweighs it. The characters are not fully developed, the fact of Devon’s PTSD is not fully addressed, and Lionel and Martha read like pantomime villains. We are told that Devon finds Cathleen’s voice soothing and that she helps to pull him out of his nightmares – both waking and asleep – and settle him, but that’s hardly a long-term cure (and I use the word “cure” loosely) for PTSD!
Also – I didn’t really want to read about grubby, greedy Lionel and Martha having sex, thank you very much! The word-count was limited as it was, and could have been better spent on developing the romance between Cathleen and Devon which seemed to spring forth fully formed. There was no real getting to know each other – they went from strangers to being in love so quickly, I had to track back to make sure I hadn’t missed something.
To sum up, then, I thought the premise of Hero’s Redemption wasn’t at all bad, but it read like the bare bones of a novel, rather than a complete and, ultimately, satisfying novella.