Susan Elizabeth Philips – Just Imagine – Historical Romance

justimagineAre you ready for a story of love and hate between a confederate and a yankee? Set in the cloudy first few years after the war of the South, the story follows Kit through her teen years into adulthood and her desire to take revenge on Kane, a yankee major who she sees as responsible for the downfall of her plantation.
But true hate can turn into love, or can it not?

Disguised as a boy, she’s come to New York City to kill Baron Cain, the man who stands between her and Risen Glory, the South Carolina home she loves. But unknown to Kit, the Yankee war hero is more than her most bitter enemy — he’s also her guardian. And he’ll be a lot harder to kill than she’s figured on.

b43568e25a69f0d9d732ef4da29271f9Katherine Louise Weston is an orphaned Southerner in the post-Civil War era, looking for the man who inherited her family plantation, Risen Glory. He happens to be a hated Yankee war hero by the name of Major Baron Cain. Katherine, or Kit, as she’s known, is no Southern Belle, but rather a tomboy who passes for male so easily that she finds herself working for her quarry in short order – as his stable boy.

Was everybody blind? Since the day she’d left Charleston, people had been mistaking her for a boy. She didn’t like it, but it was probably for the best. A boy wandering alone wasn’t nearly as conspicuous as a girl. Folks back home never mistook her. Of course, they’d all known her since she was born, so they knew she didn’t have any patience with girlish gewgaws.

She’s come to New York with one goal: to kill the handsome Major, and take back Risen Glory on her own. When she sees him for the first time, she cannot help but admire his good looks and possibly fall in love with him:

Just then the moon came out from behind a cloud, and he was no longer a looming, menacing shadow but a flesh-and-blood man. She sucked in her breath.
He was tall, broad-shouldered, and lean-hipped. Although she didn’t usually pay attention to such things, he was also the handsomest man she’d ever seen. The ends of his necktie dangled from the open collar of his white dress shirt, which was held together with small onyx studs. He wore black trousers and stood easily, a hand lightly balanced on his hip, his cigar still clenched between his teeth.

Cain is growing restless and bored with New York. A professional gambler since he left the army, he runs from any attachments, gives away books and sells off horses before they become too dear. It’s more than a bit clichéd, but in the end, it works. When his long-lost mother leaves him the plantation she inherited from her last husband – Kit’s father – he also finds himself burdened with a stepsister, at least until her 23rd birthday, five years hence. At that time, she will inherit her trust fund from a deceased aunt, unless of course she has married already, in which case she will receive this fund on the wedding day.
His mother was a woman I would not like to meet. Cold and driven only by her selfish pleasures, she seems to me the type who should not be allowed to make kids to begin with!

Inside was a single sheet of paper covered with small, nearly indecipherable handwriting.
March 6, 1865
Dear Baron,
I can imagine your surprise at receiving a letter from me after so many years, even if it is a letter from the grave. A morbid thought. I am not resigned to dying. Still, my fever will not break, and I fear the worst. While I have strength, I will dispose of those few responsibilities I have left.
If you expect apologies from me, you will receive none. Life with your father was exceptionally tedious. I am also not a maternal woman, and you were a most unruly child. It was all very tiresome. Still, I must admit to having followed the newspaper stories of your military exploits with some interest. It pleased me to learn you are considered a handsome man.
None of this, however, concerns my purpose in writing. I was very attached to my second husband, Garrett Weston, who made life pleasant for me, and it is for him that I write this letter. Although I’ve never been able to abide his hoydenish daughter, Katharine, I realize she must have someone to watch out for her until she comes of age. Therefore, I have left Risen Glory to you with the hope that you will act as her guardian. Perhaps you will decline. Although the plantation was once the finest in the area, the war has done it no good.
Whatever your decision, I have discharged my duty.
Your mother,
Rosemary Weston
After sixteen years, that was all.

Kane reads this letter and thinks of his little burden and gets shocked to find out his little step-sister was his stable boy, who picks the same night to come and shoot him. Against her will, he ships her off to finishing school, and three years later finds himself once again burdened with her company. Only now he can’t take his eyes off her. And this time, he can’t run.

Both the hero and heroine are likable, if hard-headed, and it’s easy to feel for them both – except, perhaps, when they are out to exact revenge, which is often enough. Even so, they are trademark Phillips characters, regardless of their setting, and that makes them difficult to dislike. Each has the requisite bad childhood – she was all but forgotten by her weak father, who quickly married a woman who couldn’t stand Kit, and made no secret her dislike. Cain, on the other hand, was the victim of the same woman’s dislike and the havoc wrought by her – only it cut perhaps a little deeper, because she was his mother.

small_southern-belleThe hero and heroine are perfect for each other, but neither will admit it, he because of his fear of attachments, she because she is afraid, similarly, to love anything but the land that sustained her when her own flesh and blood wouldn’t. Nevertheless, no one but Cain would not only allow her to run wild but encourage and even love her for it. And none but Kit would have the courage to chase him down and make him stop running.

The secondary characters are equally memorable and full. Ex-slaves Sophronia and Magnus are as perfect for each other as Kit and Cain, but she refuses to see it. And the divine Veronica Gamble, who at first seems destined to be a predictable and dull villainess, turns out instead to be a sophisticated and intelligent complement to Kit’s own not-so-sophisticated intellect.

On another level, this is a book that examines freedoms and what men – and women – will do to keep them. It’s a terrific love story, and something more. And it’s a Desert Isle Keeper, without a doubt.

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