Wednesday, November 16, 2016
TBR Day. A Kind of Honor / Joan Wolf. 1980
Wow. This book is nearly 40 years old. And no, it hasn't been in my TBR pile 36 years. I bought it used a number of years ago, so I have had it a while. The romance I read these days is written much differently than it was back in the 80's. It was kind of refreshing to read a book so noticeably different in style and tone from those published today.
A Kind of Honor is Joan Wolf's second published book. (And it's a vast improvement over her first book, which I reviewed for TBR Day 6-1/2 years ago.) This one takes place during the winter/spring of 1812-13. England is preparing for what it hopes will be a final and decisive blow against Napoleon's army in Spain. But there's a traitor leaking vital information to the French. Our hero, Adam, who is home after being wounded in Spain, is tasked with finding and stopping the leak.
It's made obvious right away that the traitor is a French émigré, the Duc de Gacé. Gacé is married to an Englishwoman, who is described as the most beautiful and gracious woman in Society. Amanda, or "Nanda" to her family, is unhappy in her marriage to Gacé. Her focus is on her step-daughter and her son. As Adam works to expose Gacé, he falls in love with Nanda and she with him. So now he must also find a way to free her from her husband.
The book is told primarily from Adam's point of view. Occasionally we are let into Nanda's head. A couple of the transitions were a bit abrupt and confusing-- I chalk that up to it being some of Wolf's earliest writing. But there's also a feeling of distance from the characters. There's an awful lot of telling and not much showing. In many ways, it reminded me of some Presents I've read that were also written in the 80's. Anyhow, there's so much focus on Adam and his work that the romance is very much in the background. So that part didn't work so well.
What did work well was the historical aspect. This book is firmly rooted in time and place. Not only are the efforts to defeat Napoleon front and center, but there's a genuine feel that the social mores of the time are important. When they are broken (because yes, there is adultery) they are not broken lightly.
For those of us who like our historicals to have that strong sense of time and place, this book works very well. It's also interesting to look at an author's earliest writing. Only two years after this would come His Lordship's Mistress, which is one of my all-time favorites. But unfortunately, A Kind of Honor lacks that emotional connection that I'm always hoping for. Still, I have to say that even though I wished for more romance, I really did enjoy reading it.