My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
This book. THIS BOOK!!!!!! Where do I start?
Lover for Ransom by Debra Glass was another of my impulse reads that I just picked up and dived into because the blurb was interesting. New-to-author, so didn’t know what to expect... and I simply gobbled it up! Truly!
Debra Glass’s writing style is marvelous, as well as the historical aspects that she blends together so well in the story. Set in right after the Civil War, Lover for Ransom is an Erotic Historical with an absolutely hot and intense hero and a strong, half-blind heroine.
Cathleen had been raised and lived in an orphanage until she was lucky enough to have support for and finish her studies. She was almost blind since young, something that should’ve completely held her down. Yet, Cathleen not only finished her education but also, gradually, found shelter in the idealism of suffragism. Thru her interest, she also met some good people and with their help, she found a doctor who agreed to perform corrective eye surgeries as a test case. Cathleen’s visions are now better than before, though she still needs her black glasses since her eyes still can’t endure strong lights of any kind.
Cathleen considered herself lucky and was happy to help and live her life out as a teacher to the blind or almost blind children, as well as claiming a more unconventional career thru her suffragist activities. She has a dream where she sees women standing equally with men, with the right to vote. She would’ve fought for her dreams too, until one day she was hired by a gentleman to teach and train his recently blinded sister.
Cathleen is a Yankee born and bred but she rides out to the South to Tennessee to Byrne’s End, where her soon-to-be student lives. She wanted to come here because she felt for the girl, who is now in her teens. She’d contracted a fever and had gone blind in the aftereffects of it. No one better than Cathleen knows the panic and fear sudden blindness can cause, especially for someone who wasn’t born with it or hadn’t gone blind at a very young age. She was also interested in finding out if she can educate the women of South in the ideas of equality that was inspired by some leading suffragists of her time, by starting from around Bryne’s End. She thought she had it planned out but what Cathleen didn’t even imagine that the gentlemen who hired her would completely turn her world upside down.
Not only blind but Cathleen has been told that she’s also plain to look at. Yet when Ransom Byrne comes to pick her up, one look at him and she thought her heart would burst out of her chest. Ransom is nt only insanely tall and goodlooking with his dark hair and silvery eyes, but also a man who is totally confident in his skin. And why wouldn’t he, as Cathleen finds out soon when some woman starts flirting with him right there at the train station, her presence forgotten. The feeling of jealousy shouldn’t have been there, but Cathleen was more than surprised to find that she’s jealous of that woman who must be as pretty as she herself is decidedly not. It was also palpable that Ransom Byrne is probably the resident ladies’ man.
Cathleen is taken to Byrne’s End, a fine horse-breeding farm and meets the people there. Mrs. Byrne, Ransom’s mother, who still suffers from the nerve wrecking experiences of war and takes refuge in her ‘tonic’ that’s more often than not laced with alcohol. She also meets the black servants, though she doesn’t like it that they haven’t been freed like her own state. Mr. Byrne had been absent for a while when the need arose to hide his prime horseflesh from the marauding soldiers. Then Cathleen meets Jenny, her student-to-be, in a state of anger and depression that she understood only so well. Jenny puts up quite a fight and wouldn’t let anyone help her, let alone some stranger. It was clearly distressing for the members of her family but Cathleen knew what to do. It doesn’t take her to soon befriend Jenny since no one really understood Jenny’s needs like her. Even Jenny saw that after a few days when she willingly becomes the student Cathleen hoped to find when she arrived here.
Yet, the person who continues to dominate Cathleen’s thoughts and dreams the most had to be the young Mr. Byrne.
Ransom is a civil war veteran; an ex-solider who returned some months ago, very ill with the same fever that killed his grandfather and blinded Jenny. Yes, they contracted it from him. The guilt of it wouldn’t let Ransom be, alongside the guilt of what he’d done in the war. The constant confusion, the utter self-loathing that Ransom is bombarded with each day is something you can’t but sympathize with. He thinks after what he’d done to his family he doesn’t deserve any happiness and wants to move away as soon as Jenny is doing better. But now, to his surprise, he finds that one prim and proper, squinty-eyed governess is totally taking over his thoughts, even without trying anything to capture his interest.
Of course Ransom is a womanizer. And he’s a difficult person to like at first when he resented everything about war except for the fact that it brought plenty of widows willing to spread their legs for him. He’s absolutely gorgeous and superb in bed, which said widows knew very well. He certainly never lacked female companionship as we find out in the next few chapters of the book. I didn’t like it at all, as I don’t like to read about the H and the OWs, but here, funnily enough, he was already pretty much struck by the ‘plain mouse’ of a governess, so much so that it begins taking over his regular sexual pursuits. He’d go slake his lust on some widow, yet would find that it’s Cathleen that he’s been thinking about all along. The infernal woman wouldn’t get out of his mind even when he tried his best. It’s another thing I didn’t like initially, him trying to rationalize his attraction to Cathleen as something unnatural because she’s not as attractive as his regular conquests. Why would he be so attracted to a woman when he had these beautiful creatures at his beck and call? It must be either that he’s not having enough sex (since he wasn’t in anyway celibate) or the fact that Cathleen, being Jenny’s teacher, is off limits, hence the lure of the forbidden. But Ransom would soon find out that it wasn’t just sex that his body craved; it’s something much more intense and alive which, while his mind tried to reject, his body recognized.
As she settles in comfortably, Cathleen begins toying with the idea of presenting her ideas of suffragism to the women here, to let them know how they’re being oppressed and why they need to stand up and fight for their rights to vote. It was also a vain attempt to tamp down her very unwelcome, yet unforgettable, attraction to Ransom Byrne. She knows she can’t do anything about it. He returns home most days with female perfume all over him, which tells her plenty enough. Besides she’s hardly the type of girl he’d ever think about twice. With all that plaguing her mind, Cathleen does the unthinkable. She decides that she’s going to try her luck and see if these women were ready to be educated in the ideas of equality... Unfortunately, they weren’t. When she tries to give a speech at the town square of sort, Cathleen finds that she’s in danger of being attacked by the men who didn’t like her speech at all!
Ransom had some idea about Cathleen’s very radical way of thinking, one of the things about her that he admired, not to mention the fact that she’d been a tremendous help with Jenny. Everybody in their house was grateful for the way Jenny was improving each day. Ransom was certainly the most grateful one since he never thought his beautiful sister would take an interest in life ever again, let alone to laugh, even considering dances. She’d also accept her devoted beau, Andy, who has been trying to pay a court all through her depressive days, whom she’d ignored so far. Ransom didn’t know what panic was until he rides out to find exactly what sort of trouble Cathleen is courting when he spies her on the town square. He’s angry as hell, and forcibly takes her on his horse when the situation becomes dire. The unsettling sensation of that panic, mingled with anger, drove him to an extent that Ransom simply rides out to his little cottage at the back of their majestic house, where he’s been living since Cathleen’s arrival. He then takes her to his knees to teach her a lesson, and unleashes something that neither he nor Cathleen even imagined could exist between them.
When out of anger Ransom begins spanking her, something shifts inside of Cathleen. I’m not saying Ransom wanted to hurt her or anything, he didn’t even know where this urge to spank her came over him... and it starts from there. The prim and seemingly uptight governess transforms to someone neither could recognize. The attraction she’s harbored all along, and the sensation of that spanking does something and Cathleen simply starts kissing him; a kiss that burns Ransom to his very core. It was innocent yet no less passionate, letting him know that under that façade, there lies a woman of deep passion.
Prior to this, one solitary night, they had this frank conversation about love and sex. Not as frank as you’d think but considering the time-frame, it was IMO, where Cathleen told Ransom that she has no interest in marrying, only to become a chattel to her husband. But she’d be willing to take a lover if the opportunity is presented itself. This surprised Ransom, intrigues him even more. But underneath, Cathleen was dying for Ransom to acknowledge having something, anything for her. She was so besotted but so scared, knowing he’d never feel anything for a ‘plain wren’ like her.
This recent incident, and the subsequent revelation, opens up a new door for them both where Cathleen simply didn’t want to hold back and Ransom was willing to accommodate her wishes and desires. What seemed like something odd and sudden, and definitely an one-time thing, turns out to be something they both craved so much that Cathleen was willing to risk her reputation, and job, to sneak away at night to be with Ransom. But then, guilt and conscience would rear their heads... Ransom didn’t want to get entangled with Cathleen in a way to endanger her reputation, so he refuses to go all the way. Even when his ministrations, given most willingly and ardently, would make them both insensible with need, he’d hold back and ask her to leave once she’s satisfied.
There was no mention of any OW and encounters with them, so I’d like to think Ransom didn’t visit anyone else while he was with Cathleen, even if it wasn’t sex all the way, where either they’d satisfy each-other, or he’d take care of himself after Cathleen left. He was obsessed with her but was finding it difficult to come to terms with his feelings. Most assuredly, by then, he found Cathleen beautiful in her own way; when she’d wait for him to submit to him or when she simply couldn’t hold back her guttural reactions to his touch. Ransom didn’t know what to call it, or how to deal with it, but he loved everything about her. Tension was in the air and both were a bit worried. They also maintained a distance in the daylight, trying to avoid the suspicions of the family, who seemed blissfully unaware. By then Mr. Byrne has returned and everyone, even the grouchy old Aunt Chloe, seemed to have become fond of Cathleen. Cathleen didn't want to leave and Ransom didn’t want to be the reason behind that. But how long can they go on this way?
One day, the Byrnes are invited to a ball, where Jenny was going to dance with Andy. Cathleen wasn’t supposed to be going, but then, she was being readied like one of the belle who’d grace the ball and accompanying Mr. and Mrs. Byrne and Jenny. Cathleen was pretty impressed by the changes that a beautiful gown and hairdo can wrought, but she couldn’t help mourning the fact that Ransom is out and won’t be returning home for a while. But he surprises her in the ball by taking her hand out of nowhere and swiping her off to a dance.
Unsurpringly, trouble in the form of Ransom’s current lover was present there, whom he hasn’t visited in quite a while. She’s a wealthy young widow who couldn’t help the temptation of sizing up her competition. She was already aware of Cathleen since Ransom talked about her right after she arrived, where he called her a ‘plain wren’, a fact she doesn’t forget to mention. It hurts Cathleen so much, she decides it’s time to end it. What was the point of these secret meetings when they have no future? For that matter, does she mean anything to him at all? Cathleen already knew he’s a womanizer, something he never denied and that he has no interest in settling down either. So what is she doing? Would she become one of those simpering women whose life depended on only pleasing the men around her? But then, she’d do anything to be touched by Ransom, won’t she? But the biggest question that troubled Cathleen was— did he even feel anything for her when they’ve shared so many intense moments together? Maybe this encounter with his obvious paramour was her answer.
This whole scenario, when it’s revealed that Ransom has heard the conversation too, creates a big misunderstanding. But it also gave me a rush of satisfaction to know that, even if it took him a while, Ransom had already admitted to himself that he’s willing to do anything for Cathleen, to be with her. Whatever she asks of him only if he knew if she’d marry him. He was still under the impression that she doesn’t wanna marry, while Cathleen thought she’s just another in long list of his conquests. So you can see, it was quite the mess!
Fortunately for me, the author doesn’t drag this misunderstanding on to make things bitter. Ransom is simply mad about Cathleen and he won’t hear a ‘no’ from her, especially, after that incident in the ball, when she refuses to go to his house for their daily ‘sessions’ (for the lack of better word). Let me tell you that scene, their first time, was so, SO HOT and intense that it simply took my breath away. Ransom pushed all my right buttons, as he did with Cathleen. He was just........ WOW! I think I fell in love! He likes to be bossy, yes, but never hurting Cathleen or her freedom in the process. I generally don’t care about alpha a$$holes but he was something else entirely.
Even though it’s an Erotic Historical, the story doesn’t have a lot of sex; most importantly no gratuitous sex. But whatever Ransom and Cathleen shared was so hot, intense and beautiful that I wished there were more. I loved the ending, as circumstances bring them together in a way that they simply acknowledged their mutual feelings and Ransom ends up proposing to Cathleen. It was that simple for them because ultimately, I felt that Cathleen and Ransom were simply the opposite sides of the same coin; both were disillusioned in life, both felt they didn’t belong. So when they found each-other, it was no wonder that they clicked.
My only complaint when I finished was the same... that it ended, because I wasn’t ready to let Ransom and Cathleen go. I wanted to read a few more chapters, more glimpses to their life together and definitely some hot encounters. *sigh* I simply loved this story. 5 stars and recommended! Needless to say, this won’t be my last Debra Glass book.