Genre: historical romance
In a time of war, love has its own rewards...
Saving soldiers' lives at the Confederate army hospital Chimborazo, Annabeth Phelan is no ordinary Southern belle. She's never known work more exhausting or rewarding. And she's never known a man like Dr. Ethan Walsh, with his disarming gray eyes and peculiar ways. But now the Confederacy is charging her with another service: find the Union spy at Chimborazo.
Ethan's one passion is saving lives, and if he can do that by helping to end the war, he will - even if it means spying for the North. He's gotten used to fooling Confederates, but he can't bear lying to Annabeth. And together, they are about to discover a new passion - one that could even transcend the chaos of war.
I have to admit, as much as I loved the first book in the series, so much did I dislike this one. I just kept reading hoping it would get better, but sadly, for me, the nice ending did not redeem the whole book.
The story starts with Ethan and Annabeth (Beth) working as doctor and nurse in a hospital during the war between North and South. Ethan is recruited as a spy for the North, telling secrets he learns from the wounded soldiers he treats, so a Union sniper can kill their commanding officers. This sniper is Alexi/Fedya from the first book, helped by Mickey, Ethan’s younger brother, as a spotter/guide.
Annabeth is recruited by a childhood friend to find out who the spy is at the hospital, betraying the wounded soldiers secrets. She sets out a trap, not believe it is Ethan. Ethan and Annabeth are working close together, and falling in love. Until the trap closes, and they are both send to prison.
Annabeth desperately wants to find her only remaining brother, who was a victim of Ethan’s espionage. But when she sets out to exchange Fedya, the famous Union sniper, against her brother, someone else is exchanged in her brothers’ stead. After sleeping with Ethan when Mickey is severely wounded, she is then let out of prison by her contact. She will no longer be safe from the other prisoners or guards.
Ethan does not know why Beth suddenly does not appear to help him heal the prisoners anymore, nor does he know why Fedya has suddenly been released. But when Mickey awakens, he believes himself to be someone else, and Fedya his brother. He doesn’t know Ethan at all, nor does he listen to him. And so Ethan loses everyone when Mickey escapes to find Fedya.
When the war is over, Ethan sets out to find Annabeth, and ask her to marry him. He knew where she grew up, and finds her in her old home, pregnant and maligned for sleeping with the enemy. They marry, and move to Kansas, where Ethan will become to doctor in a small town called Freedom.
Ethan never knew that Beth was the one who set the trap that ended with all of them in prison, and when her secret is revealed, he does not believe in her anymore. She lied to him, she deceived him. It does not matter that she was trying to prove his innocence, when he was the spy they were looking for after all.
But during their argument, Beth looses their baby, and while Ethan is drinking himself unconscious in the saloon, Beth leaves him. At first she just wants to escape the pain and the memories, but then she accepts Mose’s request to join him at Pinkerton, and continue the work she was so good at: as a spy.
Now it is 5 years later, Annabeth is very close at infiltrating one of the most dangerous gangs of outlaws in the west, when she gets a message from Fedya that Ethan needs her, he is in trouble. Without hesitation, she rides off to Freedom, to Ethan. What she finds, is Ethan who thinks she is dead, and involved with another woman. Ethan, addicted to laudanum, because alcohol did not work anymore. Is there enough between them to save their marriage, is it worth trying? But Annabeth has no intention of staying, Lassiter will expect her back at camp in a few days.
Well, the verdict. It is not a bad book, it is very well written and engaging. But for me, it is just depressing. Only bad and sad things happen in this book, and not for one moment could I like Annabeth or Ethan. Ethan is just a drug addict, and he comes very spineless over on me. Annabeth never showed a softer side to herself, why did she ever fall in love with Ethan? Because he was a good and caring doctor for his patients? Because he thinks her beautiful, when other men only see her as too tall and dislike her red hair? Because Ethan is the most gorgeous man she has ever seen?
They had sex with nothing resolved between them, without either telling the other their feelings, what happened during the past 5 years.
The title of the book then. The main villain, the one Annabeth is trying to get arrested, has a secret hide out place called Wonderland. Apparently, he has only read one book, Alice in Wonderland, and is enchanted with it. Unfortunately, the Red Queen is his favourite character, he kills very easily, though Annabeth thinks him more the Mad Hatter.
I know other people who love this book, but sadly, I just could not enjoy it. Only a bit of the ending, and that was not enough for me. I will not give up on this series though, Lori Austin/Lori Handeland is one of my favourite authors, so I will try the next book which is due next year.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian