Ransome’s Honor by Kaye Dacus will not disappoint fans of sweet Regency romances or Christian Romance novels. We first meet Julia Witherington at the age of seventeen accompanied by her parents as they set off for a splendid evening of dancing in Portsmouth’s public assembly hall. The war with France has ended with the Treaty of Amiens. Julia’s father, an admiral, is to be introduced as Sir Edward for the first time and she expects to receive a marriage proposal from dashing Lieutenant Ransome. Sir Edward, who made his fortune in the Royal navy, has filled Julia’s marriage coffers with 30,000 pounds. Although the Lieutenant must still make his mark in the world, Julia is more than willing to share her largesse. But William, too proud to be considered a fortune hunter, changes his mind about proposing. A hurt and humiliated Julia instantly understands that Lt. Ransome had been angling after her father’s patronage and that she’d merely been a means to an end.
Flash forward twelve years and we meet Julia again in 1814. She’s turned into a beautiful, mature, and successful businesswoman who has been managing her father’s sugar plantation in Jamaica. Still unmarried, she has returned to Portsmouth following her mother’s death and become the darling of Portsmouth society. William Ransome, now a captain, is awaiting a new assignment. When Julia learns of his presence in Portsmouth, her stomach clenches at the idea of seeing him again, for she has grown to despise him. Or has she? Their re-meeting is fraught with tension on Julia’s side and it reminded me of Anne Elliot’s first unexpected meeting with Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. In fact, the first third of this novel reminded me of Jane Austen’s last novel, only in this instance it is the Captain who regrets the years apart and Julia’s ego that still smarts from his non action.
No romance novel would be worth its salt without a villain, and Ransome’s Honor offers three. Foremost in the blackguard department is Sir Drake Pembroke, who has gambled away his extensive fortune and who needs to marry an heiress as quickly as possible to keep the spectre of debtor’s prison at bay. For Georgette Heyer fans, his character reminds me of Stacey Caverleigh in Black Sheep, an equally disreputable fellow! Drake’s Mama, who happens to be Julia’s chaperone, does everything in her power to promote her son as Julia’s mate, and is even willing to use lies and subterfuge to gain the upper hand. (Attention: Plot spoiler) She enlists Julia’s aunt, Lady MacDougall, in her quest to acquire Julia’s fortune to pay of Drake’s debts. And this deception hurts Julia’s feelings most of all, for Lady MacDougall is her dead mother’s sister and Julia had trusted her to look out for her welfare.
In addition to the villains, we meet Julia’s and William’s friends, who add just the right touch of richness to this plot. Depictions of close friendships are one of the main reasons why I adore films like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Notting Hill. A hero’s or heroine’s companions can say so much about them in a manner that is more natural than mere exposition. In Ransome’s Honor, Julia and William can depend on their friends to come to support them, and they play a prominent role in bringing the novel to a satisfying conclusion.
I was pleasantly charmed by this book, which was written in a style that was descriptive enough to give me a sense of time and place. There are still a few loose threads that need to be addressed, such Julia’s missing brother, whose body has never been found at sea, and her concern over the inaccuracy of her father’s sugar plantation’s ledgers, but I suspect that these issues will be resolved in later books. Ransome’s Honor is the first book of the Ransome Trilogy, which is good news for Kaye Dacus fans. I give this book three out of three Regency Fans. You can order your own copy at this link.
Kaye’s website offers some lovely companion posts to her novel.