New Orleans, 1863.  With her family dead Alaina MacGaren finds herself beseiged by a vile Union officer bent on seduction (when she refuses he brands her as a Confederate spy) and she disguises herself as a boy and flees for the safety of her uncle’s home. Accosted at the dock by drunken soldiers “Al” is rescued by Union Captain Cole Latimer. Cole only sees a scrawny, filthy lad and taking pity delivers him to his uncle’s house, where he meets “Al’s” cousin, the captivating but ever so spoiled Roberta – and she is hot for male attention, Yankee bluebelly or not.  For her own safety Alaina continues her masquerade and Cole gets “Al” a job scrubbing floors at the Union hospital (Cole is a doctor). Verbal battles abound between the two over Cole’s constant battle to get “Al” to take a bath. Will Cole finally wake up and smell the coffee and realize “Al” is a woman? Did “Al” do Cole more harm than good by rescuing him from the frying pan and putting him right into the fire of Roberta’s schemes?

The first half of the book is set primarily in New Orleans, and the latter half at Cole’s family home in Minnesota that includes a mystery or two, a few mysterious bumps in the night until finishing with a big, slightly OTT plot twist with the evil baddies at the end. Pretty standard fare for your *old skool* romances, but IMHO better than most and definitely the best of Woodiwiss’ books that I’ve read. I liked Cole’s character a lot and found it refreshing not to have an overbearing un PC Alpha-male for a change. Alaina is spunky, intelligent and independent without that irritating stamping of feet to get one’s way that’s so common in your usual romance heroine. Yes, there’s the usual Big Misunderstanding (argh, could they just not communicate a bit better?), but it did contribute nicely to some added sexual tension and bantering between the two. Warning – this is a chunkster and it is well to the very end before you get your big payola – don’t expect bed-hopping on every page.

I’m not normally fond of chicks in pants books, but I give the author thumbs up for not dumbing us down with the hero-can’t-resist-having-sexual-feelings-for-the-boy-and-freaking-out-over-having-them. There’s a fair amount of sex in the book (it is a romance after all), but nothing too extreme.  This is the second time I’ve read this and outside of the eye-rolling OTT twist at the end I enjoyed it as much as the first time.  3.5/5 stars and recommended for fans of civil war romances.

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