Beware the reluctant bridegroom...
Spencer Becket was only eight when he arrived in Romney Marsh as part of the mysteriously displaced Becket family. The son of a seaman and a mother who’d died in childbirth, he grew up longing to be a soldier. His adoptive father reluctantly purchased him a commission, and Spence was off to fight in America, chockfull of passion and ideals. He returned home older, perhaps wiser, but also with one small patch of his memory inconveniently missing.
Beware the compromised bride...
Mariah Rutledge is the daughter of a British officer killed during a losing battle, and she joins other women and children forced to flee into the swampy forest to avoid capture. For long weeks, she helps care for one of the few wounded soldiers that managed to reach safety. She calms him when he cries out in delirium, presses her body close to his, to warm him as he shivers in the damp chilly nights. He becomes her reason to stay alive, alone, in the wilderness. It is highly possible for a woman in those circumstances to make an emotional mistake.
Beware the flames...
At Becket Hall, alternately battling and loving each other, Spencer and Mariah unexpectedly discover what appears to be a plot to restore the recently vanquished Napoleon to power in a most unusual way. A deadly way. Bound by the secrets that are all that keep the Beckets safe, Spencer and Mariah must battle the world and their own devils in order to prevent a tragedy ... but will the price for this victory be their very lives?
With this tedious return to Romney Marsh (after Beware of a Virtuous Woman, etc.), Michaels hits her series' first speed bump, eschewing the light comedy for which she's known in favor of high drama and intrigue. The result is a contrived romance with more bluster than action. The story kicks off during the war of 1812, in which Spencer Becket is battling American troops. A blow to the head sends him back to his family's island enclave with no memory of how he survived. However, a pregnant Mariah Rutledge soon arrives to fill in those gaps and deliver Spencer's son, a child he can't recall conceiving. The Beckets welcome Mariah into the fold, but keep her in the dark about their privateering past. Sensing they're holding back, Mariah spies on them and forces herself (twice) onto a ship bound for danger. That a new mother would desert her baby just to prove herself to the in-laws is absurd, anachronistic and unfortunately all too typical of this story, an awkward marriage between gaiety and gravity. It's easy to get the sense that, in trying to do too much, Michaels just skims the surface of character and plot.