RETRO REVIEW: Ride the Fire by Pamela Clare
Sandy M’s review of Ride the Fire (Blakewell/Kenleigh Trilogy, Book 3) by Pamela Clare
Historical Romance reissued by Berkley 5 Feb 13
I’ve been wanting to read this book for forever. Everyone I talk to who’s read it says it’s a wonderful story. I never doubted that. I mean, it’s Pamela Clare, and her historical novels are some of my favorites. I finally made the time to sit down with Nicholas and Elspeth, now that their story has been reissued. My god, what a journey.
From beginning to end what these characters endure is horrific times one hundred. But as they come out on the other side, you’re amazed at their strength, their survival, and that their love is still intact. That’s where Ms. Clare excels. The perseverance of her characters is as raw and intense as their lovemaking, the way they live life.
Nicholas Kenleigh has been captured by the Wyandot when he tried to help two young soldiers evade an ambush during a skirmish. Though they were at first treated quite well, Nicholas knew that hospitality wouldn’t last. Now tied to stakes to await their deaths by fire, each man is being tortured as tribe women place cuts deep enough into their bodies to place glowing fire embers inside. This scene is gut wrenching. While the two younger men cry out in agony, Nicholas vows not to utter sound, all the while staring down the chief of the tribe. His stoicism is what saves him and ends his life as he knows it. The chief’s daughter decides Nicholas can give her strong sons, so she gains his release by going to her father. But what Nicholas goes through at her hands for next number of years before he can escape only leaves an empty shell of the man everyone loves and knows.
After striking out at his younger sister once he arrives home and tries to acclimate himself there, Nicholas puts up a cold, indifferent front and leaves his family behind. He lives off the land, dealing with people only when absolutely necessary. When he’s attacked by a marauding Indian party, barely surviving Nicholas stumbles onto the homestead of Elspeth – or Bethie as she’s called – where she lives alone and is pregnant but wielding a rifle to protect herself and her child. After a rocky start, they warily dance around one another until Bethie’s baby is born. Nicholas is her rock during the birth, and I think this is where their relationship truly starts, though neither one of them really knows it at the time. Especially because Nicholas is determined to make sure Bethie is back with her family where she’s safe, not knowing she’d never be safe there.
As they make their way from the Ohio Valley east toward home, they both have fears about making it that far. Outrunning revengeful Indian tribes, they, along with other folks they pick up along the way, make it to Fort Pit, only to face the danger of a united Indian front, imprisoning soldier and civilian alike inside the fort. Both Nicholas and Bethie face their pasts here, officers looking to Nicholas for his expertise in dealing with the tribes on a military and personal front and Bethie’s biggest fear of seeing her stepbrother again. Keeping Bethie and Belle safe is Nicholas’ only concern. Then when life seems to be on the upswing, Nicholas’ father and brother-in-law come looking for him, which is a wonderful first family reunion, danger once again intrudes and both Nicholas and Bethie feel compelled to help.
Once home, Nicholas receives a welcome he never imagined. The scene with his mother is wonderfully heart wrenching, as well as with his sister. Bethie is taken into the family fold with open arms, something she doesn’t think will happen. But knowing Nicholas as she now does, how could she ever think his family would refuse her? She now has more love in her life than she knows what to do with, absorbs it so quickly she’ll never be alone or cold again.
Pamela Clare keeps my heart pumping throughout the book, these two in danger at every darned turn. I’m glad she didn’t keep me waiting for the loving to occur until the last quarter of the book, like sometimes happens in romance. All that sensuality helps temper the horribleness Nicholas and Bethie go through, that’s how real Ms. Clare writes. In between all that realness grows a relationship that you know will last a lifetime and beyond. While I’m one who can forgo historical accuracy as long as I’m given a to-die-for hero and a heroine he deserves, Ms. Clare always gives readers a first-class look at early America, Ben Franklin and all this time around. I’m so very happy I finally read this book. It’s now firmly ensconced on my keeper shelf.
There was only one rule on the frontier—survival.
So when wounded, buckskin-clad stranger appeared at the door of her isolated cabin, Elspeth Stewart felt no qualms about disarming him and then tying him to her bed. Newly widowed and expecting her first child, she had to protect herself at all costs. And Nicholas Kenleigh threatened not only her safety, but her peace of mind. The terrible scars on his body spoke of a tortured past, but his gentle touch and burning gaze awoke longings she had never expected to feel. Bethie had every reason in the world to distrust men; the cruelty she suffered at their hands had marked her soul, though her blonde beauty showed no sign of it. But little by little she found herself believing in Nicholas, in his honor, his strength. As he brought her baby into the world, then took both mother and daughter into his care, she realized this scarred survivor could heal her wounded spirit, and together they would… Ride the Fire.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: