William Ainsworth, second in line to the Earldom of Cannahan, joined the British Army like so many other second noble sons to find honor and glory. But his first battle drives home the realities of war and reminds him that nobility means nothing on the battlefield. Under the protective eye of his loyal batman, Duncan Blair, a grizzled soldier, Ainsworth matures into a hardened commander, capable of undertaking any task set before him. The two men forge a deep friendship during the campaign and the long hours in between the fighting. Just as that friendship crests into something more, however, duty and injury send Ainsworth home. Though the miles separate them, William and Duncan keep safe the promise of what might be and remain determined to find one another again.
Saints Save a Sinner is another in Dreamspinner Press’ 2015 Daily Dose collection and an excellent addition. The author has done a good job of giving readers a hint of British military life at the turn of the 19th century. Ranging from the desert sands of Egypt, to the blistering heat of India, and the bloody hell of Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign, and covering more than a decade, Saints Save a Sinner, tells the story of two dynamically different men, bound by honor, mutual respect, and love. The writing is crisp and descriptive and furthers the plot with a natural, smooth cadence that reads easily and brings the story to life. The historical information is limited, of course, but readers are given enough detail to understand the context of the various situations that Duncan and Will encounter.
Duncan and Will are both captivating characters, though for different reasons. Will is young, rich, and naive. He is a natural leader though and understands that he can learn much from the gruff Scot who serves as his Sergeant and batman. He is loyal and willing to learn and genuinely cares for the men under his command. All of these characteristics combine to make him a likeable and relatable figure and a man you desperately want to find a happily ever after.
Duncan is a twenty-year veteran by the time he meets Will and he has earned the respect of those above and below him. Upon meeting Will, he decides to take the young lieutenant under his wing. Duncan is fatherly during their early years together, but as time, battle, and the stubborn Scot forge Will into a man, their bond evolves into friendship. He knows how to soothe, comfort, and bully Will, all of which he needs at different times. Duncan is kind without being coddling and his absolute devotion to Will, on and off the battlefield, make him the real hero of this story. He understands duty and sacrifice and must endure both, which read as a natural part of his personality, rather than some form of martyrdom or worse, a forced plot device. The author has done an amazing job of creating two unique men to whom I quickly became attached.
My only complaint with Saints Save a Sinner was the scope of the material the author chose to tackle. There is such a vast swath of history and military conflict that both the details involving the progression of time and the relationship between Will and Duncan seemed slightly lacking. Neither the plot nor the romance actually felt rushed and the author did a good job at providing a strong, believable resolution, but we are only given glimpses of their lives together and never a fuller picture. I always felt that I was missing a part to a puzzle I desperately wanted to see completed. The battles are usually described after the fact and it would have been nice to read more about these men in action. This isn’t a huge detriment from the overall story, but I would love to see this expanded into a full sized novel. Will and Duncan are such a wonderful couple that I would truly enjoy reading more about their adventures together.
Overall Saints Save a Sinner was an excellent story and Will and Duncan are so vivid they seem to reach out from the pages to grab your attention and your emotions. Consider this one definitely recommended!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.