In one of my most anticipated reads for 2017, Shelley Shepard Gray brings to a close her Lone Star Hero trilogy, that focuses on the surviving members of a Confederate “band of brothers.” Having endured captivity in a prisoner of war camp, they have promised to always come to each other’s aid, a promise that they each fulfill more than once throughout this trilogy set in Reconstruction Era Texas.
Similar in structure to the first two books, The Loyal Heart (review) and An Uncommon Protector (review), the narrative moves between the men’s experiences as prisoners on Johnson’s Island and their present day. Here, though, their present day is split a bit between Major Ethan Kelly and Captain Monroe. These were such strong characters that I had trouble imagining what types of women they would be matched with, and I was even a bit skeptical of Ethan as a leading man. He was always so fastidiously dressed and seemed so very much the rich southern gentleman.
It was selfish. He knew that. But he had long ago come to terms with the fact that he wasn’t nearly as good as some thought. He was a study in missed opportunities and multiple faults. (Ethan 47%)
Having no preconceptions, it was interesting to meet Elizabeth (Lizbeth) Barclay and Julianne Fleet and, once their characters were established, I quite enjoyed them.
Ethan is haunted by the memory of a woman who had lost nearly everything, from whom he took what little was left during the war. In meeting her again, he finds an opportunity to assist her and possibly put some of his own demons to rest. But the man who hurt Lizbeth before Ethan ever came along now knows that Ethan cares, and is not above using her to hurt him.
For the first time in a long time, Ethan felt as though he was finally going to do something of worth. Few opportunities had ever felt as sweet. (Ethan 14%)
Devin, in turn, meets a woman who was victimized in another way by his and Ethan’s fellow prisoner, Colonel Daniel Bushnell.
What truly endeared Devin to me as a character was that when he decided he would court Julianne Van Fleet, after basically falling in love with her at first sight, this self-assured leader of men was completely flummoxed by the thought of formally calling on and courting a woman.
More than simply a historical romance, this is also an exploration of attitudes and faith. Faith that is challenged, lost, and renewed. Faith that endures and sustains, for Julianne, as she survives despite everyone turning against her for the choice of survival.
She’d thought her faith was true. Strong. But like her daily attempts of survival, she had only seen part of the whole picture. (Lizbeth 39%)
These are two sweet and somewhat intertwined romances, as this quartet works to free themselves from an evil man. Along the way there are other characters that add to the story, though they remain peripheral, and the most welcome return of Thomas Baker and Robert Truax.
…he could rely on his band of brothers, the men he knew best and knew would always have his back, no matter what the cost. (Ethan 17%)
I often have mixed feelings about the last book in a trilogy or series. On one hand, I can’t wait to see how everything is wrapped up, and on the other I’m not sure I’m ready for it to end. With Shelley Shepard Gray’s Lone Star Hero trilogy, I was also interested to see how she would take the last two members of this band of brothers who survived and bring them closure and happiness. While this did, for much of the book, feel more Ethan and Lizbeth’s story, I thoroughly enjoyed Devin and Julianne’s as well. And while separating these stories into two books would have given a bit more room for character development, I do prefer how this interwove Lizbeth and Julianne’s stories and their entanglements with Daniel Bushnell.
If you have read the previous Lone Star Hero novels, I highly recommend this final story. The men are admirable, the women are strong, the villain is quite villainous, and the romance is sweet, with enough tension and drama to make the story that much more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to reading more from Shelley Shepard Gray, who also authors some of my favorite Amish fiction.
Love Held Captive (Lone Star Hero #3) by Shelley Shepard Gray | Zondervan, October 2017 | ebook, 320 pages
This review refers to a library e-book (and I love that my library allows holds on pre-release e-books – I was first in line!). All opinions expressed are my own.