Book Review and New Release: Sweet Treason by Gail Ranstrom

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Title: Sweet Treason
Author: Gail Ranstrom
Genre: Historical romantic suspense
Published: 2013
Pages: 250
Format read: ebook
Rating: C+

Emily Nevins is weeks away from her twenty-fifth birthday, when she’ll finally come into her inheritance and be able to fully take care of the land she’s been managing on her own for seven years already. The trustee her father had put in charge of funds, Mr. Dodge, has proven himself less than trustworthy, and Emmy’s been reduced to smuggling and selling off her dead mother’s jewels in order to survive. If she can just make it to her next birthday, though, she’ll have a chance of getting all she’s ever wanted–making her home, Oak Hill, a safe harbor and a self-sustaining farm, and bringing her younger sister Lucy back home from her Scottish exile. But a late-night visitor changes everything….

Ryan Sutton, an American spy exiled from his Virginia home, hides in Oak Hill’s library while on the run from British soldiers. Forced to keep his presence secret or expose her own less-than-legal dealings, Emily finds herself attracted to the colonial against her own better judgement. The feeling is mutual, and the two share a moment, sure they’ll never see each other again. Fate, however, has other ideas….

I was interested in this book because of its time period and location–a book about an American Revolutionary spy in England? Sign me up! Initially the story had a lot of promise–I really liked the characters of Emily and Ryan, and their early antagonistic banter was amusing. I especially enjoyed Emily’s refusal to call Ryan by the correct name–I may actually have snorted iced tea out my nose when she referred to him as “Mr. Button”. Is that TMI?

I enjoyed many of the secondary characters as well, especially Emily’s younger sister Lucy and her eventual paramour, Lord Jonah Devaux. Ryan’s cousins and uncle, Emily’s faithful servants, and the French smuggler too were all sympathetic characters. The first third or so of the novel had me hooked, eagerly turning the pages.

Somewhere after that point, though, things started to get a bit dicey. Quite a few extra plot lines were thrown in there–an angry jilted ex-lover/source of information of Ryan’s, for example, vows revenge. Not one, but two nefarious personages have designs on Emily’s fortune and person. A member of Parliament finds out at a very public venue that his mistress has been less than faithful, and tragedy ensues. Spies on both sides are wounded left and right, with many suffering mortal wounds. At times it became tricky keeping track of all the different threads, and more than once I had to use the “find” feature on my ereader to remind myself of who that person was and why they were doing what they were doing. Unfortunately, in the end, it also didn’t feel like all of these separate plot lines were completely resolved.

The villains of the novel–yes, there’s more than one–show no real redeeming qualities in the end and as a result feel one-dimensional. They’re definitely not as fleshed out as the more protagonistic characters. It’s not the worst complaint to have about a book, but it did make the reading feel uneven.

I also ran a bit hot and cold with Emmy and Ryan’s relationship–mainly because they were constantly doing the same thing. In the beginning their antagonism made sense–they both had secrets that could hurt themselves and others, and no real reason to trust the other person with them–but then they’d do something that screamed relationship and the next minute Emily was pushing Ryan away and thinking about how she was still afraid of him. It got to be old after a while…but then you’d have a really sweet moment, like this one:

This was a token of all Emily held dear—of Oak Hill, her family, of who she was. And now, of Ryan, too. She held it to her heart. She’d thought it was the land that she loved. Her mother and sister who needed her. That it was her duty, her obligation, to preserve those things and keep them safe, no matter the cost. But her mother was gone, and Lucy would have Devaux. All the things she’d held to so tightly suddenly had no meaning. Only this small remembrance and the man who’d redeemed it. All she’d ever need of the past she now held in the palm of her hand.

Climax and falling action of the novel has drama galore and all kinds of action–real page-turning reading–but the resolution itself is amazingly abrupt. Again, there’s unresolved issues there, especially concerning what will happen with most of the things that Emily just mused about holding dear in the passage above, less than a dozen pages earlier in the book.

Overall I did enjoy the basic story here, and liked the main characters. It’s from a new-to-me author, and though I didn’t love everything about the book I’d probably pick up another by her in the future. C+ rating.

I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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