Their father dead and disgraced after a bribery scandal, Honore Legarde and her two siblings sell all and head for their aunt and uncle’s home in St. Louis. The riverboat trip is not without its mishaps and disaster strikes (natch), leaving Honore and younger sister Lisette up the creek without a paddle and no money to travel further. Fur trapper Bastille DuChamps rescues the young girls from the attentions of an unscrupulous riverboat man and takes them to a safe home. Bastille is smitten with Honore’s beauty and intelligence, but the emotional baggage he carries from his past sends him running back to the relative safety of the wild frontier. The situation in St. Louis is a bit different from what they were led to believe, but Honore makes do and works hard until a better offer comes along (Lisette’s health is not good), that of *governess* to older businessman Matthew Leigh’s young son Lewis.
While strictly a business arrangement at first, Matthew eventually makes Honore an offer she can’t refuse, and that’s when things get complicated as secrets from Matthew’s past begin to threaten them all. Honore uses her wits and intelligence to build Matthew’s river-boat building business (she’s actually better at it than he is), which drives a further wedge into their tenuous marriage. The latter third of the book continues to the next generation as Honore’s daughter Celeste takes over her half of Mathew’s business and she finds herself locked into a battle of wits with Lewis as he schemes to take it all from her. There is quite a bit more to it than that, but I don’t care to spoil further (plus I have other things to do today).
Definitely not the best I’ve seen from this author, but still an engaging read and one I had a hard time putting down. Matthew’s quick change from gentlemanly (albeit pompous) older nice guy to major jerk was a bit hard to swallow, but he was still fun to watch. I really liked the relationship between Honore and Bastille (can I have one of him for myself?), and I also liked the relationship in the latter part between Celeste and ________ , but I’d liked to have had more of them as a pair. The best part of all was the details on the ins and outs of the riverboats in the early 1800’s and most especially the danger of those steam engines when they are pushed to the max – the consequences can be quite horrifying indeed.
Scary stuff, no? I know the cover screams romance, but there really is a fair amount of history as well. Any sex that is in this book is very tame, especially by today’s standards. A quick easy read for a rainy day. 3.5/5 stars.