Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Review - - The Bastard

The Bastard
Brenda Novak
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: November 1, 2011


Brenda Novak is best known for her bestselling romantic suspense titles, but some longtime fans will remember her first book, the historical romance Of Noble Birth (Harper Torch, 1999). Circumstances took Novak’s career in a different direction, and the historical romances she had planned to follow her first one were never published. But the digital revolution in publishing has allowed her not only to rerelease Of Noble Birth but also to publish the book that was meant to follow it, The Bastard.

Jeannette Boucher is quite young, but she is old enough to understand that her arranged marriage to the very wealthy Baron St. Ives, forty years her senior, will be the salvation of her family, French aristocrats now destitute in the wake of the Revolution. With the ceremony behind her, Jeannette is waiting for her husband to consummate the marriage when her younger brother brings her word that her ancient, impotent husband is so desperate for an heir that he has invited several of his peers to share the bridal bed with his new bride. Horrified, Jeannette escapes into the night, intending to flee to London and find sanctuary with an English cousin. Sheltering from the rain in a pub frequented by sailors, she learns their ship will sail to London before it sets out to sea. Pleased with the promise of a mere two-day journey, Jeannette disguises herself as a ragamuffin boy and persuades a ship’s officer to accept her as a new recruit.

The officer is Lieutenant Crawford Treynor, the bastard offspring of an aristocratic English lady and a man not her husband. Given to an abusive farmer to raise, Treynor ran away at fourteen after a particularly brutal beating and joined the Royal Navy. He has worked himself up to his present rank through initiative and effort and is determined to one day command his own ship. Protecting Jeannette jeopardizes all he has worked to attain, but his honor—and his heart will allow him no other choice.

This is a high-adventure tale, romantic in a fashion rarely seen in today’s romances. In style, its similarities to Of Noble Birth are strong, but the strengths that have made Novak’s romantic suspense popular are also present: her gift for creating compelling characters, her attention to detail, and the mix of action and relationship development. Both Jeannette and Treynor are strong, distinctive characters. Jeannette, despite her youth, is no passive miss waiting to be rescued, but neither is she a contemporary woman in period costume. She initiates action, she possesses courage and persistence, but her vulnerabilities are those of a woman alone in an age when men held most of the power.

Treynor’s ambition is fueled by his pride and his drive to overcome the stigma of his birth, but his achievements are no less admirable for that. His anger at his mother’s treatment of him as a child and at her refusal to answer his questions rings true. The respect he earns from those under his command affirms his strength and leadership. The details of life on an English ship add authenticity. If all the loose ends are tied rather too neatly in the end, that’s a small flaw, one that readers who like their HEAs to be inclusive and unambiguous may find quite satisfactory.

Reading The Bastard was an interesting experience. I liked seeing the seeds of a talent that has developed beautifully, but I ended it knowing that I prefer Novak’s romantic suspense and contemporary romances. It was too reminiscent of the books that drove me from bestselling romance at a time when many readers were becoming hooked on it. Readers who remember that period more fondly than I or younger readers with more of a taste for swashbuckling will likely embrace Brenda Novak, historical romance writer, with delight. As for me, In Close (Bulletproof Book 3) is on my TBR shelf, and I’m eager to read it.



  1. great review Janga.

    Hope i can read this book soon ;)

  2. I could do with some swashbuckling. THE BASTARD looks like a fun read to me.

  3. I want to read this one so much, I was intrigued when I first heard of it, I have never read a historical by Brenda and it is on my list of TBB.

  4. I bought this one yesterday, it looks interesting to me and I like seeing author trying out different genre.

  5. Eli, I'm hoping to give this one a whirl too! :)

  6. Marybelle said, I could do with some swashbuckling.

    LOL! I my teeth on Errol Flynn's movies. I'm always up for a bit of swashbuckling! ::grin::

  7. Dianna, I haven't read Brenda's historicals either. I didn't discover her until she had started writing romantic suspense.

  8. I have heard that this is a terrific book and I look forward to reading it. Sounds like it has everything: romance and intrigue with a gutsy heroine thrown in for good measure. What more could a reader ask for? Thanks for the super review, Janga.

  9. I think one of the most exciting things about the innovations in publishing is that writers can write the things they want to write even when the books are departures from their usual productions.Although I still prefer Brenda Novak's RS and contemporaries, I'm cheering that she published something she'd long wanted to do. Yay for her and for the readers who will love it.

  10. Janga, I've heard great things about this book. I liked the reference in your review to the heroine being strong but not a contemporary woman in historical dress. I'm looking forward to reading this.

  11. Thanks for another wonderful review!
    I planned on maybe getting this book, but now I will definitely get it.
    You got me at 'swashbuckling'!
    I have to have my high seas adventures. :-)

  12. I have to admit I haven't ready any of Brenda's books. Maybe I will give this one a try and then check out one of her more recent releases. Thanks Janga.

  13. I have been wondering about this book myself, will have to check into it.

  14. I like the old swashbuckling style romances every once in a while. I too like her well crafted suspenses, it is a more "mature" style of book. My first love, however, was this style historical romance and it is still a favorite.
    Thanks for the review.

  15. Very well done and interesting review, Janga, thank you. I have been hooked on historicals for a very long time so I have seen the changes in the genre that you describe so well. THE BASTARD sounds very much like the early books of Jane Feather and even Gaelan Foley which I enjoyed at the time they were written, but that now seem dated in comparison to current trends. This makes me wonder if this book was written closer to the time of OF NOBLE BIRTH as it's follow up book. Conversly, she may have written it more recently but wanted to give it a similar feel as that first book. What do you think?

    Finally, to confuse the issue I do have to agree with Marybelle " I could do with some swashbuckling.