Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings (review)

holdingthefort_jennings_bethanyhouseJust as Regina Jennings’ For the Record (review), started last year and ended an enjoyable series on a high note, I hoped that Holding the Fort would be a great way to start a new series and a new year.  Turns out, this was a great choice (though staying up until 2am reading was not).

With a heroine in a situation where she doesn’t quite belong, a hero a bit out of his depth in his current situation, and a varied cast of secondary characters, all the elements are in place for another romp of a story.  

She was Lovely Lola.  She could enchant with her performance and make them love her show.  Could she make them love her, though?  Because she was already falling in love with this family. (p.144)

Louisa Bell as the former saloon singer Lovely Lola Bell, is unemployed and on her way to pull her younger brother out of a scrape at Fort Reno in Indian Territory, only to find herself masquerading as a governess for the two daughters of the commanding officer, Major Daniel Adams.  After, that is, one of my new favorite hero-meets-heroine scenes, involving nothing less than a horse trick and an aria.  And then there is the second meeting…

Him and his rough manners.  He had to remember that a missionary lady like Miss Bell wasn’t used to soldier talk. (p.124)

Watching these two characters find their way to each other is a delight, making chess seem almost romantic, with the greatest obstacles being Louisa’s struggles with her faith and her deception while Daniel is sure something isn’t quite right and secretly setting tests for the unexpectedly young and attractive governess.

Miss Bell had not been unconscious last night… For starters, one did not heartily declare their intention to faint, then direct someone else to leave before proceeding to drop. (p.109)

Daniel’s daughters present challenges to Louisa, as she struggles to work ahead in order to actually teach 10 year old Daisy and 16 year old Catherine.  Daisy’s exuberance and Catherine’s stubborn nature lend interest and even a bit of excitement to the story, while leaving the reader looking forward to meeting them again as the series continues.  A few of the male secondary characters, including Louisa’s brother Private Bradley Willis, will be interesting to read more about as well – if they can keep themselves out of the guardhouse long enough, that is.

[Bradley]’d thought he was brave, riding out with other soldiers, armed to the teeth, but his sister was playing a much more dangerous game.  What made Louisa think she could fool a man like Major Adams into thinking she was one of his set?  Didn’t she know how likely she was to get hurt?  Louisa had always longed for a respectable life for them both.  No wonder she’d jumped at the chance to play like she was a lady, if only for a few weeks.  As long as she didn’t ruin his chances at a career in the cavalry. (p.195)

Beyond the details of period dress and military life, I enjoyed the inclusion of historical events and figures.  Though my knowledge of him is limited, I never thought General Sheridan would be so amusing.  Then again, this is Regina Jennings.

While there were elements that reminded me of another recent read set in a late 1800’s Army fort, My Heart Belongs in Fort Bragg, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille by Erica Vetsch (review), it is definitely it’s own story told with Jenning’s signature humorous flair.

A highly entertaining Historical Romance for those who enjoy a frontier type setting and strong statements of faith with sweet romance between a spunky heroine and a handsome widower with secondary characters that leave you wanting to continue reading the series.  Highly recommended and easily one of my favorites so far from this author.

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings (The Fort Reno Series, #1) | Bethany House, 2017 | paperback, 352 pages

This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received for review through Bethany House’s Blogger program.  All opinions expressed are my own.

From the Publisher:

With Miss Bell as the Teacher, Everyone’s Bound to Learn an Interesting Lesson

Dance hall singer Louisa Bell has always lived one step from destitution. When she loses her job at the Cat-Eye Saloon, she has nowhere else to go but to her brother, a cavalry soldier stationed in Indian Territory. But he’s run afoul of his commanding officer. Unsure what she can do to help him and desperate for a job, she doesn’t protest when she’s mistaken for a governess at the fort. How hard can teaching really be?

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno, especially raising two adolescent daughters alone. If this new governess doesn’t work out, his mother-in-law insists she’ll raise the girls herself–far away from the fort. Miss Bell bears little resemblance to Daniel’s notion of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he finds himself turning a blind eye to her unconventional methods. Louisa has never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough to help her brother and to secure the respectable future she’s sought for so long?