This is my June entry for Kmont's Year of the Category Challenge.
Major Westhaven's Unwilling Ward by Emily Bascom
Lily is horrified to learn her late brother has placed her under the guardianship of brooding Major Daniel Westhaven! He's insufferably rude and arrogant, and clearly disapproves of her—so why does Lily find herself longing for his touch?
Battle-scarred Daniel wants nothing to do with society, and intends to swiftly fulfill his promise and find troublesome Lily a husband. Only, she brings light into his dark life—and his even darker heart. But surely a beauty like Lily would never choose a beast like him…
This Harlequin Historical takes place in Post-Revolutionary War England. Lily's brother died in the war and left her guardianship to his superior officer and good friend Daniel Westhaven. Because Daniel himself is severely injured in the war, he cannot seek guardianship immediately, and Lily becomes destitute over the course of the next year. When they do finally meet, Lily is still so heartbroken when her brother is discussed that she rebuffs all discussion of him, leading Daniel to believe that she is nothing like her wonderful brother, didn't truly care deeply for him, and cares only for dancing and parties. In truth, much to her dismay, she has realized that she must find a husband and puts on a front at all the parties in order to attract a husband she really doesn't want. They obviously get off on the wrong foot, and each resents the other.
Thankfully, this misunderstanding is cleared up fairly quickly, and what we are left with is a simmering attraction to one another that Daniel is unwilling to act upon (with the exception of the few times he acts upon it - oops).
Overall, I found both Daniel and Lily to be likable characters. Daniel was obviously suffering emotionally far more than physically. Although he had come a long way in his recovery from his amputation, he hid it well, and was unwilling to allow Lily to see him as anything less than a "whole" man, which is obviously how he viewed himself. Lily was a strong character who, once she realized she wanted to be with Daniel, went out of her way to show him how great she thought he was.
I would have been happier had this book not contained a silly kidnapping plot. Why must authors persist in adding suspense when a simple (or not so simple) conflict works just as well? A rival for Lily's hand, Denham would have served just as well had he been a nasty rival rather than kidnapping her and forcing Daniel to kill him. Unless it serves to seriously forward the story (and here I don't feel like it did), I really wish that authors would just forego the kidnappings in otherwise non-suspense books. KThx.
Kidnapping aside, the best scenes are the ones where Daniel is forced to confront his own behavior and feelings, either with his longtime butler or with Lily. The scene where he finally reveals his amputation to her with tears in his eyes was very beautifully done.
I liked the author's voice, the characters, and the overall story. I could have done without the villain. I'd definitely read another book by Bascom, assuming it didn't contain another kidnapping plot to muck up the otherwise terrific book.