Sweet Release (Blakewell/Kenleigh Family Trilogy #1)
by Pamela Clare
For five pounds in cash, the convict was hers. Though Cassie hated the slave trade, her Virginia plantation demanded the labor, and she knew this fevered man would surely die if she left him. But as his wounds healed and his muscled chest bronzed in the sun, Cassie realized Cole Braden was far more dangerous than his papers had indicated—for he could steal her breath with a glance and lay siege to her senses with a touch.
Abducted, beaten, and given a new name, Alec went from master of an English shipbuilding empire to fourteen years of indentured servitude in the American colonies. There, he was known as Cole Braden, a convicted ravisher and defiler of women. And while he longed to ravish the auburn-haired beauty who owned him, he knew his one hope of earning her love—and his freedom—was to prove his true identity. Only then could he turn the tables and attain his ... Sweet Release.
I have long been a fan of Pamela Clare’s writing, starting with her contemporary I-team series, but recently I have found that her historical novels are excellent as well. Sweet Release is the first in this trilogy and a fantastic beginning to be sure. Set in pre-revolutionary war Virginia, the history of this novel is enthralling and rich. Though this time period has never been a favorite for me, Ms. Clare has changed my mind with this new story.
Alec has been dropped into an unknown world, without anyone to believe the truth of his identity. Beaten and kidnapped from his coach in London, Alec was forced into a new identity as Nicholas Braden, a rapist and convict. Now he is trapped in Virginia on a plantation, forced to work beside slaves and bondsmen until he can prove his name. But the owner of the plantation, his owner now, is no less than a beautiful, troublesome woman. One who gets under his skin in every way and turns him on beyond belief. Dealing with his new life and trying to resist Cassie is proving to be difficult and he begins to question whether he actually needs to resist at all. Will giving in to their attraction bring him and Cassie the chance to find happiness, or will it destroy them both?
Cassie has secrets to keep and is determined not to allow Cole/Alec dig her secrets up. Working beside her workers, Cassie tries to keep her family’s plantation alive, even though her father is sinking into dementia and there is competition around every corner wanting to shut them down and take over the business. Taking care of her younger brother, the heir to their plantation, and all of the people whose very lives depend on her, has left Cassie reluctant to deal with suitors. She knows that as a woman she will never be able to run her family’s business and that as a single woman she is in danger of being taken advantage of. So when Cole/Alec pursues her, Cassie becomes suspicious even as she begins to fall in love with him. The passion Alec inspires in Cassie is new and exciting, but acting on it could mean the death of her dreams and the man she loves.
Alec and Cassie are a passionate couple, even for their time period. Even though they try to resist the chemistry between them, circumstances keep forcing them into close encounters and make it impossible. As Cassie is around Alec more and more, she sees the true man he is and starts to trust him. As that trust grows, she accepts that being with Alec might be worth any cost. Making love with him brings her the happiness she’s always yearned for and having him at her side will make her life complete. Alec knows that being with Cassie could have repercussions, but being without her is unacceptable to him. Taking her to his bed shows him that he needs to work harder to prove his identity so that he can take her as his wife.
When tragedy hits, placing both Cassie and Alec in danger, time is limited for them to prove their innocence and allow them to be together and have a future. Working against the clock Cassie and Alec, with the help of a few friends and loved ones, try to find any ways to keep Alec from being executed. Action, outlandish schemes, and a glimpse into an eighteenth century governor’s trial keep the plot streaming and the reader unable to put the book down. In the end it takes a bit of good timing, a good but dangerous plan, and the love of two people destined against all odds to be together, to bring the story to its HEA.
Sweet Release was a great historical romance novel, based around a not so common issue, with lovers coming together against all odds. Cassie and Alec are obviously a case of opposites attract and are perfect for each other. Their love story, combined with the plot of their secrets and the uncovering of those secrets, combine to make a groundbreaking novel into a fabulous read for any time and place. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, Jamie’s story, and learning how the family came together crossing the ocean into two continents. Awesome! If you've never read anything by Pamela Clare run, don’t walk, to buy this novel.
Rating: 4.75 stars