As the granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, Hayley Douglas was groomed from the cradle to someday become Queen herself. Hayley's family have plans to use her to usurp the throne of England, but Hayley is tired of being nothing more than a pawn in a political game and subject to the whims of the men around her. When their enemies start closing in, it becomes too dangerous for Hayley to stay in England. Her uncle arranges passage for her on a ship filled with women who are to become brides for the men in the American colony of Jamestown. Hayley is to hide there with a cousin until receiving word that it is safe to return home, but she becomes so ill during the voyage that she collapses on the shore barely conscious upon her arrival.
Philip Lawrence struggles with his mixed Indian and white heritage. He has chosen to embrace the English ways, and is working hard to turn his land into a tobacco plantation. Philip comes to meet the ship, not to select a bride, but in hopes of finding an indentured servant to help him. When he sees Hayley crumple to the ground and no one seems willing to help, Philip can relate, since he too has often been ignored. He immediately goes to her aid, and realizes very quickly that without someone to care for her she will surely die. Philip requests that he be allowed to take Hayley to his mother who will nurse her, but the official at the dock will only allow her to go if they are married. He agrees and a hasty wedding ceremony ensues.
When Hayley awakens, she barely remembers what has happened and is a little wary of this man who is a stranger to her, but Philip proves himself to be a kind and patient husband. Together they begin to build a life together, and with Philip, Hayley feels more free than she has in a long time. Still, she can't help wondering about the fate of the family she left behind in England, and is unable to tell Philip who she really is due to a vow she took before leaving. Trouble is also brewing with the Indians who resent the encroachment of the white settlers, and Philip's brother has allied himself with their cause. Philip and Hayley will have many obstacles to overcome on their path to happiness, but their shared faith in God will sustain them through it all.
I'm fairly certain that Come Gentle Spring is another re-read from my teen years. Although I didn't remember the story before beginning, there were several moments where I felt a sense of deja vu. It takes place in Colonial America near the settlement of Jamestown close to thirty years after the events of Where Morning Dawns, and is a next generation story following the sons of Maggie and Towaye the hero and heroine of that book. In my opinion, there aren't nearly enough Colonial set romances, so I really appreciated that aspect of the book. It also explores some of the tensions between the white settlers and the Indians during that time period. It appears that the author did her homework when writing the book, as I felt like I had been transported back in time and could see the little cabin and tobacco fields near the banks of the James River. Much like its predecessor, Come Gentle Spring, is another speculative story, this time concerning a legend which had Mary, Queen of Scots secretly giving birth to a daughter who grew up in a convent in France.
Hayley is the granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots through that legendary child, so she has lived the life of royalty, being pampered and well-educated. Her family had in mind to someday usurp the throne of England and make her queen, but when their plotting places her life in danger, she is sent to the New World for her own safety. Upon her arrival in the Virgina Colony, Hayley is so ill as to be virtually incoherent, and ends up in an accidental marriage of convenience with the hero, Philip. She had been rather tired of all the men in her life always calling the shots and her simply having to obey. When she finally wakes up, she is afraid that it is going to be just the same with Philip, but is pleasantly surprised to find that he treats her as an equal partner in their marriage. Much to her embarrassment, Hayley doesn't have any idea how to cook, clean, or do any of the chores associated with frontier life, but she was a quick study. I liked that in spite of her coddled background, she never acted spoiled and was a determined woman who wanted to be "useful" to Philip. I liked Hayley a little better than Maggie from Where Morning Dawns, but much like her mother-in-law had done with Towaye in that story, Hayley also avoids sharing Philip's bed for a long time, even though in this case, they were legally married, and Philip was making his interest pretty clear. This was slightly frustrating, but not quite as bad as in the first book, partly because I didn't feel like it was as big a part of the story and partly because it did make some sense since they were complete strangers to each other at first.
Just like Towaye, Philip was a wonderful hero who embodied a lot of his father's personality while embracing his mother's culture. He's very determined to build his own tobacco plantation that he hopes to grow into a legacy to leave to his children. Right from the start, he was kind to Hayley, taking care of her when others probably would have left her to die. He even gave up his only means of hiring a servant to help build his plantation and married Hayley when he had no intention of taking a wife right then, just so the Jamestown officials would allow him to take her to his mother to nurse her back to health. Philip was a very understanding man in more ways than one. He sensed that she wasn't familiar with menial labor and took it all in stride never expecting too much from her and helping her out until she learned everything. He also completely comprehended Hayley's reluctance to sleep with him and was more than willing to wait until a "great love" blossomed between them. It was a little odd and again frustrating, that when Hayley finally came around, Philip was the one who started being reticent. Thankfully, it didn't take long for his reasons to be revealed and when they were, I think I liked him all the more, because he turned out to be much more observant and intuitive than I would have imagined. My favorite thing about Philip though was how he brushed Hayley's hair every night before bed. It was such a gentle, intimate gesture that I thought spoke volumes about the kindhearted man he was.
One thing I really appreciated about this book is that the author didn't rely on the tired, overused cliché of inspirational romances in which one of the two main characters doesn't know God. In this case, both Philip and Hayley already had a well-established faith when the story opens, so it leans more toward the inspirational message of trusting God through difficult circumstances rather than feeling preachy. There is a continuation of the culture war from the first book though, because in spite of being mixed heritage, Philip has chosen to live the English way, while is brother, Saponi, has chosen the Indian way. In some ways, I felt like the author was giving more of a preference to the English way, due to Saponi's hatred of all things English and the fact that he and other Indian characters were primary antagonists. However, I wasn't quite as bothered by it as I might have been, because the reality of the time was that some Indians did disdain the English and their ways and often attacked settlers, even those who were trying to be at peace with them. Also, Philip ran into some prejudices of his own from the Jamestown residents in the beginning and later from others in the area when he decided to run for a seat in the House of Burgesses. I also enjoyed seeing Maggie and Towaye so many years after the end of their own story, and that they were still completely in love. It helped to solidify their HEA which hadn't been quite as perfect as I would have liked to see when their book ended. Overall, Come Gentle Spring was an easy read that I found to be pretty enjoyable, and a good wrap-up to this duet. I'll be looking forward to trying some of Irene Brand's other works now too.
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