My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve been waiting to read Reclaimed Love by Ramona Flightner ever since I finished Banished Love some months ago. Oddly enough, this installment was equally as lovely as it was frustrating for me. Even though the author wove a tale that was very enjoyable in its setting and storytelling, there were times I thought I was being tested for patience. Why? Let’s see if I can elaborate.
Banished Love was set at the turn of the century Boston, in the midst of the industrial revolution. The mention of modern machinery and the women’s rights movement at times take the center stage. In fact, our h, Clarissa, is a budding suffragette herself. Being the daughter of an Irish immigrant blacksmith, she knows ups and downs very well. Clarissa is very independent minded. She also teaches at a local school. Her father Sean and brother, Colin, have encouraged her in all her endeavors. Though her mother’s death left a hole that can never be repaired, Clarissa’s life was going better than most women, that is until the arrival of Widow Smythe, who snagged her father into an unholy matrimony. Mrs. Smythe is a menace. She’s small-minded and doesn’t like the way Clarissa has been brought up. Moreover, she wants to control the whole household now that she’s the ‘mistress’ of it. It’s a pity none of her step-children care for her. The only person she can control is probably Sean. She begins wrecking havoc on Clarissa’s life as soon as she steps into it.
Clarissa met the young and superbly handsome carpenter, Gabriel, quite accidentally. It was literally an accident, which is how they see each-other for the first time, becoming smitten ever since. Though Clarissa knew due to unequal social status she and Gabriel will have some difficulties, she’s determined. Gabriel is a good, kind man with a decent income. He’s an orphan, having 2 younger brothers to look after. Richard, the immediate is Colin’s friend and works with him at the forge. Jeremy is not seen as he’s in the army, fighting somewhere in Asia.
As Mrs. Smythe and Gabriel’s evil Aunt Masterson come together to make her life hell, Clarissa could do only so much against the so-called social conventions. In the meantime, her ex-fiancé Cameron returns. He begins to pursue her, saying he wants her back. But she and Gabriel have already fallen in love and she sure as hell doesn’t care for that jerk. Mrs. Smythe, however, is determined to break her relationship with Gabriel and re-establish Cameron; her excuse, Cameron is the better catch since he’s from a well-off family. That jerk jilted her at the altar, citing ‘he wasn’t ready’. Naturally, he has been a pariah at Clarissa’s. But that means nothing to that b*tch. In the meantime, she’s happily manipulating Sean with her pregnant state so that things are done her way, something that was very frustrating to read.
When Masterson starts spreading rumor that destroys Gabriel’s good name and any chance of him working in Boston ever again, he’s forced to leave the city to for the unknown to begin anew. With that, she succeeds in breaking the young lovers apart. Clarissa’s father supports the whining of Mrs. Smythe. Though Gabriel promises that he’d wait for her, the old vulnerabilities come rushing back and Clarissa can’t help feeling abandoned once again. She knows tough times are ahead, seeing how she’d never be able to get rid of that b*tch from her house. She’s left to fend off the advances of Cameron and a hellish life, thanks to her ‘dearest’ step-mama.
Reclaimed Love starts right there. Whereas book 1 had only Clarissa’s POV, this time, as added bonus, we get to see Gabriel’s POV. Though there is a constant POV shift, I didn’t find it distracting.
Gabriel has just landed in Butte, Montana, a mining town high above the mountains. He recently met Matthew, who is responsible for this journey. Though basically miners live in Butte, Gabriel soon finds a job as a carpenter. Gradually, Gabriel begins to eke out a life for himself around this quite modern yet somewhat shabby town. He makes friends among the miners, with one of Matthew’s friends, Ronan, Liam, Matthew’s supervisor at the mine and his wife Amelia. Though he finds life better than before, Gabriel never once stops thinking of his Clarissa, especially in the middle of the night when he’s all alone while his unmarried buddies go out and make merry. They’ve already figured out he has a woman waiting, to whom he’s going to be faithful. Gabriel writes to Clarissa but hasn’t been receiving any replies. He’s duly concerned. He can’t even imagine Clarissa giving up on him.
Clarissa, of course, hasn’t forgotten Gabriel. It’s far from that, as he keeps haunting her dreams and waking moments. It’s that she hasn’t received any letter from him either, fretting over the state of their relationship too. What neither of them knew that b*tchy Smythe has been intercepting the letters and destroying them. It becomes apparent that Clariss’s life has become even worse. Smythe just gave birth to a girl and wouldn’t let Clarissa hold or hug the baby, citing she’s ‘spoiling’ the baby, neither would she, the mother, hold her more than necessary. Good God! She was despicable in the first book, here, she has outdone herself! She not only manages to ban Clarissa’s teaching but is successful in locking her up in the house with the excuse of training her to be a ‘high-born lady’. And she keeps bringing Cameron in. She’s very determined about this match and would do anything to make it happen, as we find out later on.
One day, Clarissa catches Smythe in action. She tries to take the letter from her but the b*tch throws it in the fire. I was SO MAD. Seeing that strong girl render into someone so helpless just for one b*tch and a pathetic excuse of a father who clearly had no common sense, was hard to swallow. After this incident though, Clarissa seeks out Richard’s help on delivering the letters. She informs Gabriel too, so that he knows that everything is good between them. Smythe, however, doesn’t take it well and begins bringing up Cameron or thrusting the jerk in her path. It becomes so bad that Clarissa seriously begins contemplating going to Gabriel. But he has never invited her, as the b*tch would remind her (to make a point, that Gabriel doesn’t care all that much), so how can she travel to him without knowing what he wants?
Even though Clarissa’s own relationship status remains unsolved, she helps sort out the relationship of Richard and Florence, a school teacher friend of hers. Richard and she had a past that was hinted at in book 1. They were in love, but over a misunderstanding, everything changed. Richard is even more handsome than Gabriel, whereas Florence considers her beauty non-existent. That also might’ve played a part, as she couldn’t think a guy like Richard would even want her! But it was clear to anyone that they didn’t get over each-other. Clarissa encourages Florence and Richard to talk so that they can resolve this between them and go back to being happy again. When they finally are reconciled, with Richard even proposing to Florence, none is happier than Clarissa. At the least, she was able to help her friend.
Meantime, Jeremy returns. But the war has changed him forever. As with many surviving soldiers, he was wounded. On the outside, he seems to be healing but the emotional scar ran deeper. Jeremy doesn’t talk about his time in the army, obviously not wanting to relive the horror. But what struck me the most was his own bleak thoughts; was what he did there worth any of the misery and trauma he’s now suffering from? The things he/they did to their ‘enemies’, was he indeed doing the ‘right thing’ for his country? Unfortunately, there is no answer to those questions. But I could see there’s something dark lurking inside Jeremy. I hope there’s a lovely woman out there who’d take care of him and bring him back to life and the living.
Jeremy’s return is a much welcomed news for both Gabriel and Richard. Poor Gabriel certainly misses his younger brother, whom he hasn’t seen for a long time. Not sure when he ever will as he’d never return to Boston. At that point, tragedy strikes in Butte. What seemed like good times with good friends turns into this disaster so quickly, even I lost my train of thoughts. So much heartache, it was unbelievable. :( Yes, it’s a mining town and accidents occurred regularly, yet I couldn’t take it when Matthew and Liam are killed in an accident that leaves Ronan completely bedridden. Amelia just had a daughter a while ago and now both her children are orphans. How can a young woman, who had no one but her husband, take this? Where will she go? Who is going help her and her kids? :(
That is where Gabriel came in. Ever the gentleman, and even though he can barely scrape by after saving what little he can for his future, Gabriel still offers help to Amelia. He extends that help to Ronan too, who was begnning to slide down into a depression. The town is cruel and soon, gossips spread over Amelia and Gabriel having an affair. After that, there was no way they could stay there. Gabriel leaves Butte for Missoula, with Ronan, Amelia and her kids in tow. He writes to Clarissa but the letter doesn’t reach her before her own life suffers the shock of a lifetime. In fact, Clarissa never hears that Gabriel has left Butte.
When Gabriel was planning his journey, Clarissa’s life became dull and unbearable. Smythe becomes bolder in her approach to marry her off to Cameron and one day, she just leaves her with that piece of junk to have a little ‘chat’. What follows didn’t only shock me because I was so unprepared for it, but it alters Clarissa’s life completely. Since Cameron couldn’t convince Clarissa to say ‘yes’ to his proposal, he forces himself on her, to say it politely, so that she’s invariably ruined. Clarissa is in shock. Colin is the one who figures it out before anyone else. I never saw any reaction from Sean. That man should’ve kicked that b*tch outta house for setting something like that up.
Clarissa leaves her house that day for her uncle’s, as there was no way she was living with that b*tch and be reminded of what happened. She never really tells anything to Sean, neither does Colin. Clarissa will still travel to Gabriel but she never confides in him either, thinking he might not love her anymore. I could totally understand the vulnerability but this come to play a vital, and negative, role later in their relationship.
Clarissa seeks out the help of her suffragette friend, an elderly widow named Sophia. When she finds her young friend so different and listless, she instantly knew something was very wrong. Besides Colin, only Sophia knew exactly what. She helps Clarissa to get rid of any unwanted result of that encounter before it takes root. Then Clarissa was journeying with her to a suffragette convention. It was a wonder that her father actually supported her decision, rather than trying to stop her. Don’t really know, I did still wonder if he ever knew of what his b*tchy wife did to Clarissa.
Before Gabriel left Butte, he knew Clarissa was coming to him. He was extremely happy, but fate had other plans for them. In fact, the news reached him just before the tragedy, so he really didn’t have a lot of time to be prepared. His letter was obviously delayed and Clarissa must’ve already left Boston by then.
Here in Missoula, Gabriel begins anew once again. In between, he has met up with his long lost uncle Aidan, who was already reunited with Richard and Jeremy, thanks to Clarissa’s help months ago. She saw this uncanny resemblance in Aidan and asked about Gabriel. It was revealed, not surprisingly, that Gabriel and his brothers thought Aidan died from his wild adventurous ways. Likewise, Aidan heard that the brothers perished with their parents in that fire. You can thank Aunt Masterson for those lies, who never once had a good thought for her sister and her children, all because she married a low born man and shamed their ‘noble’ family. Oh my God, people can be so petty and vengeful, even to their own, that it’s sometimes unbelievable! Masterson was another character that I wanted to strangle along with Smythe. No wonder Smythe was the blind follower to Clan Masterson, bringing more of her bad vibe to Clarissa’s family.
Gabriel tries his best to take care of Amelia, the children, also setting up rooms for Ronan. He manages a job here, earning is much better than that of Butte. Since Missoula isn’t a mining town, the prospect of settling down seems more of a welcoming thought to him. But, Gabriel has read hints from his brothers’ missives about something was wrong with Clarissa, though none knew of exactly what. But no matter, Gabriel can’t wait to see the love of his life again, and soon.
Clarissa, on the other hand, wasn’t faring well. Before leaving Boston, she knew Cameron would be hard on her trail to track her down. Her cousin Savannah, who recently married into a snooty, so-called ‘high class’ family, warned her about her fate. Apparently, Clarissa’s equally snooty maternal grandparents, who never accepted their daughter’s lowborn husband and family, disinherited them. Then they said Clarissa and Savannah will have a dowry each, IF ONLY they marry into families of their equal status. Savannah’s mother is a rank-licker, much like Smythe, so she was the first victim of this plan. Savannah is supremely unhappy in her restrictive shell of a marriage. If you met her husband, you’ll know exactly why. That guy, unsurprisingly, has never liked Clarissa for her ‘bold ways’. And apparently, he’d see her ruined too if necessary. Which is why he encourages Cameron to do whatever it takes to subjugate Clarissa into a marriage; bribing her stepmother with a percentage just made everything easier. Cameron would get the dowry and can save his family from the fast encroaching financial ruin. Savannah knew half of the whole story at that time and felt the need to inform Clarissa. Unfortunately, Clarissa was attacked before she could even form a sturdy plan of escape.
Clarissa travels to Butte with Colin, who also wanted to start afresh. There, she learns that Gabriel has left the town with a woman. God, I was like, oh no, not that! Clarissa’s scared, shocked, thinking Gabriel has abandoned her and moved on. But Colin gives her strength. Somehow, they find out Gabriel’s new address and begin another journey to Missoula. Clarissa is all nerves and fear; not only because of the possibility of losing Gabriel, but also because they now were certain that Cameron is following them.
FINALLY, in Missoula, Gabriel and Clarissa are reunited. I mean, talk about me breathing a sigh of relief! I was beginning to think their dream would stay a dream even in this installment, there were just so much going on! Gabriel welcomes her with open arms, so happy to have her there after such a long time. But Clarissa is rather distant and stiff. Not knowing the truth, this time Gabriel is concerned. What’s wrong with the lively girl he fell in love with? The worse has to be, does she not want him anymore? But Clarissa doesn’t confide in Gabriel. Besides, when she meets Amelia, she is quite unhappy with the situation. And I couldn’t even blame her. In the course of a year, after what they suffered together, Amelia and Gabriel have forged a bond. Maybe if Amelia was the evil kind, she’d try to ensnare him into a marriage which would’ve helped her cause. But Amelia would never do it to Gabriel, so grateful she was for everything he has done for her.
But Clarissa had no clear idea, becoming jealous of the thought. She feels vulnerable too. Maybe her chance with Gabriel is lost forever. Though she believes that Gabriel has not been unfaithful to her, Clarissa doesn’t like the way Amelia familiarly touches his arms or laughs with him. How can I blame her after what she has been through? Gabriel tries to soothe away her fear, but he’s equally determined that Amelia and Ronan are a part of his life now.
Amidst it all, what concerns Gabriel the most is Clarissa’s stiffness when he’s near, that she wouldn’t let him touch her. It becomes such a big issue that it brings Gabriel down to an emotionally breaking point. He has hold onto his sanity for their dream, but he also has needs like any other vital male. He wants Clarissa, yet she won’t let him come close. She wouldn’t even tell him what’s wrong. How long can a man take this torture? Then there was the fear of Clarissa’s rejection. Oh boy, at that point, even I thought I was going to break down with him. I could feel their distress. The irony of the whole situation wasn’t lost on me. Still, I really wanted Clarissa to trust in Gabriel and tell him everything, as Colin kept urging her to do. But Clarissa wouldn’t.
This went on almost to the end of the story, making me horribly frustrated. Thankfully, at one point, Clarissa begins coming around. She gets a job which proves to be the much needed distraction. She begins to realize that Amelia is not the enemy but a great friend. She learns cooking from her, in hopes that she can at least feed Gabriel when they get married. She also finds out that once she lets Gabriel kiss and touch her, it doesn’t remind her of that awful evening. This is when Clarissa finally confides in Gabriel and relieves him of his misery. She also informs him that Cameron will be here anytime. Gabriel is so mad, he could kill that bastard! But he’ll bide his time to face that jerk. In the meantime, they must get married so that Cameron can never assert any claims on Clarissa ever again.
In the end, Cameron is kicked out of Gabriel’s house as he and Clarissa have already married and consummated their marriage. Gabriel threatens him to never to bother Clarissa again, reminding him that she’s not alone anymore. The story sort of ends there without any epilogue. I was super glad to read the author’s note that noted a coming installment, also featuring Gabriel-Clarissa. Believe it or not, I’m not yet ready to let go of these two!
Before concluding, have to mention that I liked most of the characters who were introduced in the Banished Saga. I liked that Clarissa befriended Ronan too, together she and Gabriel trying to bring him back from his deepening depression and give him a purpose in life. I wonder if Ronan will gradually become better. It was given that his legs are useless, but at the least, a bit better? He seemed so lonely in all these. I’d love to see him with a loving woman taking care of him. I also would love Colin’s story, he’s such a goofy guy, not to mention Jeremy. I was hoping for Florence and Richard’s story but they are now married, with Gabriel’s blessings. As for Amelia, she just might’ve found another admirer in a friend of Gabriel’s. She deserves loads of happiness and I hope Sebastian is the guy who brings her that. Would really love some updates on them in the future installments!
I’d also like to note that Banished Saga, as a whole, is a clean romance.
4 stars. With so many obstacles thrown in Gabriel and Clarissa’s way, it was one hell of a journey! Now I’m eagerly looking forward to book 3.