My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Love’s First Flames by Ramona Flightner is a prequel novella to her historical romance series, Banished Saga. I’m very fond of this series, so it was a great pleasure to read Gabriel, Richard and Jeremy’s past lives; the stuff we were hinted at in the 2 earlier installments.
You can read this novella before starting the series or you can read it later, up to you but book 1, Banished Love and book 2, Reclaimed Love should be read in order because one is the continuation of the other. This series is about Gabriel, a superbly handsome carpenter who used to live in Boston at one time. Gabriel and his brothers, Richard and Jeremy are orphans. Their parents perished in a long ago fire. After that incident, they were forced to live with their aunt since they had no one else to turn to.
Now, Gabriel’s mother came from the high society but married a ‘low-born’ man, Gabriel’s gentle father. This made her a pariah even in her own family. Masterson, the aunt in question, could never stand Gabriel’s father, hence she treated the 3 orphan boys lower than her own servants while they were living with her. It wasn’t until Gabriel started apprenticing under this elderly carpenter that his life began to change for the better. They grew up in a house where they found no love or affection, except from a kind housekeeper; a far cry from what they had when their parents were alive. No wonder they wanted to move away from that house, their mean aunt and her two sons who bullied them in every step of the way, as soon as they could. The carpenter, under whom Gabriel apprenticed and became a master, had been more like a father figure to him. Until his death, Gabriel was working for him. At one point, Richard found job as a blacksmith. When they had enough money to live on their own, they moved. They weren’t rich or well-off by any means, yet it was a heaven compared to the Masterson house.
In Love’s First Flames, we get to see the tragedy of Gabriel’s parents perishing, as well as exactly how badly they were treated the years they lived with the Mastersons. It broke my heart for the boys, and made me equally mad. I never liked this Masterson b!tch, so it was no surprise that I just wanted to beat her to bloody pulp. She was so vile, a veritable hypocrite too, that the only conclusion must be she was insane! We also find Gabriel struggling to keep his brothers alive through all the trouble that Masterson and her sons put them through. The treatment was so unfair and these people were so abusive that it was unbelievable!
Richard, the handsomest of the three brothers, met this girl named Florence, whom we were introduced to in other installments. We get the flashback of their budding romance, though we don’t see exactly what happened that tore them apart, until they saw each-other again years later in Banished Love. This novella ends on a happy note, with Gabriel, Richard and Jeremy leaving the Masterson house to live on their own, hoping for a better future ahead.
You can read more about the McLeod brothers in Banished Love and Reclaimed Love. Note that both books basically feature Gabriel and Clarissa’s love-story and their struggle to be together against the evil of greed and judgmental society. Clarissa came from a prosperous family, hence Gabriel was never deemed as a suitable prospect for her hand. This creates a lot of problem and Gabriel was forced to leave Boston, thanks to Materson’s evil plans with the help of Mrs. Smythe, her blind follower, also the meddling step-mother of Clarissa. They’re reunited later and were able to get married, though danger is still dogging their steps. Richard and Florence’s romance occupy a smaller part, though, IMO, not enough to call it a secondary romance. Jeremy, freshly returned from the war and torn by its adversity, still has no idea what he’s going to do with his life.
Both Gabriel and Richard were gentlemen through and through, though Gabriel is the most serious of them all. I remember how Clarissa would get shivers from his intense blue eyes, as if he’s always trying to read her. Always seemed to be focused on her. Richard was more joie de vivre, though he hasn’t forgotten their struggle... and apparently, Florence too. Jeremy is the youngest. He was mostly absent, until his return in book 2. I’m still not sure what to think of him. But I can hardly wait for the third installment and know more about all the brothers and their ladies, especially Jeremy!
Have to say that I appreciated this little novella. In general I loved the whole setting, the plot, as well as the characters (with the exception of Masterson and Smythe) of this series. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat if you’re looking for a great read for the coming holidays! 4 stars.
“Love’s First Flames” is a free installment, which can be downloaded from most major retailers.