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The Captain's Woman    by Merline Lovelace order for
Captain's Woman
by Merline Lovelace
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When U.S.A.F Colonel Merline Lovelace retired from the military in 1991 she decided to use the knowledge and experience gained over her twenty-three year career for the plots of romance novels. Since then her books, many of them peopled with military characters and situations, have gained a large readership around the world. She writes not only contemporary romances for various publishing lines, but also regularly crosses over into historical romance. Her latest, The Captain's Woman, is the third in the Garrett Family series and is set against the backdrop of the Spanish American War, with a focus on the formation of the US Army Nurses Corps.

Victoria Parker is viewed by many as a spoiled rich girl who'll never graduate beyond writing society columns for her father's newspaper, The Cheyenne Daily Tribune. Even Sam Garrett (the army officer for whom impetuous young Victoria has fallen) sees her in this same unflattering light. Victoria would like nothing more than for Sam to notice her, but he's in love with another woman, widowed army nurse Mary Two Feathers Prendergast. When Victoria is injured while intervening in a disagreement between Sam and another man, Sam must rescue her from her own folly. Since they end up alone in a hotel room for some time before a doctor arrives to check Victoria's bruises, Sam realises that to preserve her reputation, he must do the honourable thing and ask for her hand in marriage. Angry over the brotherly way Sam continues to treat her, Victoria wants to refuse. Yet she still loves him and hopes that if she agrees to his proposal, he might some day see her as a mature woman.

Before they can be married America declares war on Spain and Sam ships out with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders to help with the training of the cowboy cavalry. Unwilling to be left behind, Victoria follows Sam to Cuba where she wades into the action as a full fledged war correspondent and is soon making a name for herself by gritty reporting. Faced with the reality and horror of war, and with disease and death, she grows up very quickly. She also finds a new friend in Mary, and as Victoria learns more about her and her dedication to the sick, she finally understands why Sam loves Mary. When Sam is eventually reunited with Victoria, he discovers a very different woman from the one he proposed to in Cheyenne, a much-matured woman he could easily grow to love. A malaria epidemic, storms at sea and various other precarious situations keep Sam and the three people he holds most dear (Victoria, his daughter and Mary) apart, but eventually they are reunited and Sam, Victoria and their young daughter can finally begin a life together.

The Captain's Woman is a captivating story filled with engaging characters and plenty of military history about a war that's been generally bypassed as a fictional setting, especially in the romance genre. Historical romance lovers should definitely not overlook this one.

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