It’s not often that a novel is able to bridge a gap between the era in which it is set and a situation that is relative to the present day. Velda Brotherton did exactly that with her novel, Rowena’s Hellion, the second part of the Victorian Series. She takes compelling characters used to the refined society of Victorian England, sets them in the American West, and works through the difficulties of what we today call PTSD.
Rowena is one of the Duncan girls, one of three women rescued from a Catholic orphanage in England by Lord Blair Prescott. By the time we get to this second installment, a lot of history has passed between the Duncans and Blair. The focus of this novel is Rowena’s love and support of Blair, and Blair’s resistance of that love due to demons he faces from the war. Blair suffers from PTSD—what was then called “nostalgia” or “soldier’s heart”—and despite a budding relationship between Rowena and him, he tries to protect her by keeping his distance. Complications in his plan arise when he is unable to stay away and must rely on her more than ever.
This book attempts several things, all with great success. First, Brotherton wants to paint a picture of what the West was like to English nobility. She uses the setting as well as the language, clothing, and societal norms to convey the differences between worlds. Second, she wants to show what daily life is like for a veteran with PTSD, particularly in a time when it was often overlooked and untreated. Blair’s visions, dreams, and reactions give a vivid and heartbreaking portrayal of the horrors these men went through, what are veterans are still going through. Finally, Brotherton wants to give readers a poignant and powerful love story. And she does exactly that. The way Rowena is able to breakdown Blair’s defenses is as moving as Blair’s fear of hurting her and need for her.
“I decided I was meant to be a spinster. Even thought of going into the convent, but the sisters were so mean spirited at St. Ann’s that I did not think I would enjoy that.”
“Oh, love, I cannot imagine you as a nun. Never.”
“What, you think I’m not worthy?”
“Not that at all. I think you are too full of mischief. And you enjoy the sort of loving that isn’t allowed in a convent. Truth be known, I can see where Tyra gets her—what is it the westerners call it?—orneriness.”
She punched his shoulder gently. “Is that right? I will have you know I am the picture of decorum.”
“Oh, you are?” He laughed again. “I just realized something.”
“I am actually enjoying myself. I cannot remember the last time I felt this good.”
Tears filled her eyes and she cupped his face.
“Rowena, don’t cry. What is it?”
“I want you to be happy, so much it hurts me here.” She clenched a fist over her heart, sucked in a sob. “I guess that’s what love is.”
Silence covered him like a cloak, and he stared at her. He was so frightened for her, yet so sure he needed her more than he needed to take his next breath. Took her fist in his hand, pulled it to his lips and kissed the fingers tenderly. He could not speak. Sat there gazing down at her and hanging on to her hand. She was his connection to reality.
Rowena’s Hellion captivates the audience from the first page and takes them on a journey through compassion, fear, disaster, and healing to the ultimate destination—a realistic portrayal of love. If you enjoy historical romances, you’ll love Velda Brotherton’s latest installment in her Victorian series: Rowena’s Hellion. (click to tweet)
Rowena’s Hellion, and all of Brotherton’s work, can be found on Amazon.
Velda Brotherton has a long career in historical writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of history and the west is responsible for the publication of 25 books and novels since 1994. But she’s not about ready to stop there. When the mid-list crisis hit big city publishers, she turned first to writing regional nonfiction, then began to look at the growing popularity of small presses as a source for the books that continue to flow from her busy mind. Those voices simply won’t shut up, and so she finds them a home.