My rating: I’d go there again (4/5)
I have to admit that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Grace Burrowes historicals. There have been a couple that I liked, but for the most part, I have left many books behind wondering what exactly I read. That’s not to say there’s anything bad about Burrowes’ writing, it has more to do with the fact that she has a very specific and emotional style that doesn’t always appeal to me. However, every so often I find one of Burrowes’ books that just works for me, and The Traitor is one such book.
Millicent Danforth is companion to the Traitor Baron’s aunt, an eccentric older woman that refuses to let her nephew’s past tarnish his future. Milly is happy to find a position as a companion and freedom from her overbearing family that uses her as a glorified servant. And it’s always a nice bonus when your employer’s nephew happens to be an attractive lord.
Sebastian St. Claire is the Traitor Baron, reviled by the ton for the part he played during the war. Abandoned in France, Sebastian was drafted into the French Army and put to work as a torturer of the English. On his return to England, Sebastian is constantly called out; however, it seems that someone is pulling the strings, making sure that no one forgets what Sebastian did during the war. Fortunately, Milly sees beyond Sebastian’s traitorous past to the kindhearted man that would do anything for his elderly aunt, and who also accepts Milly for all her faults.
Normally I’m not one for angsty, emotional reads. For the most part, I gravitate towards lighthearted, humourous romantic reads. Generally, I find the level of emotional turmoil to be unwarranted; however, in The Traitor the emotional quality just made sense. Sebastian has obviously been through a lot and is struggling to reintegrate into a society that would rather he be back in France or, more preferably, dead. Of course he’s emotional about this! As for Milly, she hasn’t had a great life so far; she’s struggled intellectually, and this has made her family less than caring for her. That said, Milly is a steadfast and calm woman, and the perfect counterpart to Sebastian.
The romance between Sebastian and Milly was lovely. It was a quiet romance and it took some time for each of them to warm up to the idea of being in a relationship. But what I liked about their romance was their consideration. Both Sebastian and Milly thought about each other and what it would mean for their relationship. Sebastian was insecure about how his past was going to affect Milly socially, and Milly was concerned that her lack of reading skills was going to affect her ability to be a good partner to Sebastian. While there was an intrigue plot in the background, this type of consideration and thought that the hero and heroine had for the other is what made this a strong romance. Milly’s reflection on the state of marriage sums is up perfectly:
Milly had never appreciated how a marriage – any marriage – was the sum of myriad decisions of myriad sizes, one after the other, day after day, night after night.
And each decision could either strengthen the marital bond or weaken it (p. 258).
Ultimately, Burrowes does a fantastic job of actually showing to people in a relationship rather than just the build up towards that relationship that you see in most romance novels. In the case of The Traitor this development is what kept me turning the pages. Yes, the secondary characters and the intrigue plot were engaging, but this would not have been such a strong read without such a well developed romance. I now find myself curious about the next book in the trilogy featuring Sebastian’s very protective valet, Michael Brodie in The Laird, out in September.
If you enjoy Grace Burrowes writing style, try Galen Foley’s novels; she also writes with the same emotional intensity. The one that I would recommend is Lord of Fire. This one also features a hero that is tortured by his past in the war, and it takes an exceptional young lady willing to accept him as is, to come to terms with that past.
Another writer that I thinks writes similarly to Burrowes is Mary Balogh. Specifically, I recommend The Arrangement, one of the best slow moving romances that I’ve read. It’s touching and emotional and completely adorable. While the hero and heroine aren’t necessarily tortured by their past, they do have to make the best of a bad situation. Sophia also reminds me of Milly, with her difficult relatives and ability to look past her hero’s faults.
And my last war hero reading recommendation is Suzanne Enoch’s England’s Perfect Hero. Like Sebastian, Robert Carroway is haunted by his time in service, and because of circumstances beyond his control he’s not viewed as a hero by the ton. Lucinda Barrett is well aware of Robert’s imperfect reputation, but once again, we have a heroine that’s willing to look beyond that.