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Book Review: A Dream Defiant by Susanna Fraser

Title: A Dream Defiant
Author: Susanna Fraser
Genre: historical romance
Published: 2013
Format read: ebook
Rating: B+

A Dream Defiant is an unusual historical romance. First, it portrays an interracial relationship in the early 1800s—1813, to be exact. Second, its hero is not only the son of escaped slaves, but is also an NCO in the British army. Fraser admits in her author’s notes that she didn’t find any evidence of black soldiers fighting under Wellington during the Peninsular campaign, she didn’t find any data to suggest it was impossible…and Corporal Elijah Cameron was born.

At the beginning of the novella, Elijah and his men are in the process of reaping the spoils of war—raiding a baggage train abandoned by the retreating French army. It’s been a long day of fighting, and he just wants to get in, get out, and get his men and himself back to camp.

But an encounter with a French soldier leaves a young private from his unit dead. Too late to prevent the man’s stabbing, Elijah scares off the attacker and promises the man that he’ll deliver the ruby necklace that the soldier died for to his newly widowed wife so that she could follow her dream.

Nearly every night before going into battle, Rose Merrifield’s husband asked her the same question.

“If I fall,” he’d say lightly, as if it was a fitting matter to jest about, “who will you choose for your next?”

Rose never gave an answer—it didn’t bear thinking of. But now that the unthinkable had happened, she knew that her options were limited. Going back to England was a possibility, but finding work once there would be difficult with a small child, and her husband’s family couldn’t afford two extra mouths to feed. She’s always dreamt of owning her own inn, but doing so on her own would be difficult, if not impossible. Would the money she could get for the necklace be enough? Regardless, she’s still on the continent, and she soon realizes that staying unprotected among the army men wouldn’t do. She’ll have to marry again—and, once Elijah gives her the necklace her husband died for—she knows she has to do it quickly.

Elijah has always liked and respected Rose—she’s by far the best cook at camp—but he’s amazed when she asks him to marry her. He knows she needs a protector, so he agrees, never believing that it will be more than a marriage of convenience between friends. But he suspects that he, at least, wants more. But does she? Where does he fit into her dream?

I thought this story was very well done. It was amazing to me that Rose would need to consider marrying again so soon after her husband’s death, but given the circumstances it’s absolutely understandable. I enjoyed watching her relationship with Elijah grow from mutual respect to friendship to something more. It was very sweet and believable, though of course not without issues, both from within and on the outside.

My only real complaint with this story is that it could have been much longer. We don’t see Elijah as his finishes his army career or the new family’s journey back to England. We don’t witness their struggles to make Rose’s dream of owning the inn in the town she used to live in with her husband come true. Instead, the action jumps from their early married days to two years later, when they’re back in England. This is one novella that really could have benefited from being expanded into a full novel—there’s so much more of their lives that could be explored! Still, I enjoyed what was here very much, and definitely will be looking for more to read from this author.

In a nutshell: an unusual and enjoyable historical novella from a new-to-me author. B+

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