My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’m so excited to finally read "Undaunted Love", book 3 and 3.5 of Ramona Flightner’s impressive historical The Banished Saga series. It had been such a joy for me to follow along with Clarissa and Gabriel in their journey. Now Ramona gradually leads us through the lives of other members of the McLeod/Sullivan/Russell family.
The Banished Saga started with Banished Love, book 1, which told us the story of a budding suffragette living at the turn of the century Boston, Clarissa. Even though she came from a well-off family, she falls in love with the handsome Gabriel, a master carpenter. Since they weren’t of the same social standing, they weather a lot of storm in their quest to be together. Greedy, judgmental society begins to make its presence known by taunting these two to keep them separated, namely Clarissa’s horrid step-mother Mrs. Smythe and Gabriel’s repulsive aunt Masterson. Being rich, Masterson counted herself as the upholder of the so-called good, aristocratic society though she’d never treated her orphaned nephews, Gabriel and his two younger brothers Richard and Jeremy, anything more than servants when they came to live with her very young. And Smythe was just her blind follower, a rank-licker with social aspirations. She couldn’t stand Clarissa’s ‘radical POVs’ about women’s freedom. Either way, she could never stand any of her step-children so the point was moot. It’s because of these two, Gabriel was forced to leave Boston at the end of book 1 when they started spreading vile rumors, ruining his good name and any chance of finding work there. It breaks Clarissa’s heart, mostly because though her brother Colin supported her, her father Sean was pretty much in the clutches of his second wife. Gabriel leaves Boston on the way to the unknown, hoping to reunite once again, when he settles down somewhere and can send for Clarissa.
Clarissa had a suitor of sort some years ago who jilted her at the altar. Cameron is also from a rich family and thinks he’s entitled to anything without answering to anyone. Typical spoiled, rich brat. In the middle of the story, he returns to haunt Clarissa again, stating that he wants her back. Even though Clarissa despised him and no one in her family could stand the shadow of him, Smythe had other, more nefarious plan. She had every intention to force Clarissa to marry Cameron as we find out in book 2.
In Reclaimed Love, Clarissa and Gabriel stay separated for a long time but they try to soothe the hurt and the longing by sending wonderful letters to each-other. Smythe is still making Clarissa’s life miserable by lying to her father, trying to keep her locked up at the house in the name of ‘teaching her social deportment’. Clarissa is well educated and used to be a school teacher, which thanks to Smythe she had to give up when her relationship with Gabriel came into light. She makes friends with an elderly woman named Sophia Chickering, a veteran suffragette who becomes fond of Clarissa in matter of days, supporting her in her endeavors. In the meantime, Gabriel was trying to settle. First he tries his luck in the mining town of Butte. He makes good friends with some miners, Liam, Ronan, also Liam’s wife, Amelia. Unfortunately, when tragedy strikes at the mine, leaving Liam and many of their friends dead and Ronan badly injured, Gabriel had to rethink his options. While he tries to take care of Amelia and her two infant children as a friend would, vile rumors also spread about the nature of their relationship, which in turn, force them to leave Butte. Gabriel insists on taking Ronan, who had become disabled and was drowning in depression, with them.
At that time, thanks to Smythe’s planning, Cameron forces himself on Clarissa, shattering her dreams of being with Gabriel. That disguising piece of crap’s plan was to break her spirit, though that never came to pass. Clarissa leaves her father’s house to live with her Aunt Matilda’s home. But she’s of no comfort. Matilda is also like Smythe and never thought Clarissa was a good influence on her own daughter Savannah, who by then had married a wealthy New Yorker, Jonas Montgomery and was awaiting her first child. Clarissa never liked this Jonas character, who returned it tenfold. That guy was not only pompous, but also looked down upon Clarissa because of immigrant background (Sean being Irish) and her interest in suffragism. But no matter how many times Clarissa tried to make Savannah see the man underneath before her marriage, she failed.
After Cameron’s attack, Clarissa was pretty desperate to move away from Boston and go to Gabriel, who by then had settled in Missoula. Colin, her brother, accompanies her on the journey. His support of her was unwavering throughout. When, after so many ups and downs they FINALLY meet, I couldn’t have been happier for these two. They deserved to be together, to have a chance of fulfilling their love. Yet, the nightmare she suffered at Cameron’s hand wouldn’t cease haunting Clarissa, which in turn, begins hurting Gabriel, who wanted nothing but to make her his in all sense. It takes her some times to come around, without having to fear that Gabriel wouldn’t want her if he learns the truth. But she should’ve known better because you’d know that The McLeod brothers are gentlemen thru and thru. And when they love, they love unequivocally, unconditionally.
Upon learning the truth, Gabriel was incensed, more so when Cameron follows Clarissa’s trail into the town to make her life miserable once again. She’d already learned that whatever Smythe and Cameron planned, money was the reason behind it all. Thankfully by then, Gabriel and Clarissa had married and consummated their relationship. But Cameron doesn’t leave, vowing to take revenge...
In book 1, Clarissa helped find the McLeod brothers their long lost uncle Aidan whom they thought dead all these years. Turns out, that freakin’ Masterson lied to Aidan about his nephews so that he never comes to visit them, while doing the same to the brothers so that they think they had no one to turn to. I mean, seriously, you have no idea how many times I wanted to strangle Masterson and Smythe throughout the story. In the course book 2, Jeremy, the youngest McLeod brother returns a haunted man from the war. It’s been a long time since the brothers had seen each-other. Though Richard is happy to him back, poor Gabriel is unable to meet him since he’d already left Boston. Richard had a very short story, not enough to call it a secondary romance, with a teacher friend of Clarissa’s, Florence that we learn of in book 1. They had some difficulties and years ago, their relationship fell apart due to some misunderstandings. This time, again, Clarissa is the one who helps reunite Richard and Florence. They later marry and move in together, with Jeremy living with them.
Savannah Russell Montgomery was introduced in book 1 as Clarissa’s cousin, close friend and confidante. However, in the course of the story, that changes due to Savannah’s marriage to Jonas. Savannah was rather brainwashed into thinking she has made the match of the century, bringing back the good name of the family. She was the beautiful one, with blonde hair and blue eyes, with the grace to go with it. No matter how many times Clarissa asked her to reconsider marrying Jonas, it didn’t work. It seemed Savannah was a lost cause, and when Clarissa was swept away in the whirlwind of her own life, their paths separated. But no one knew the hell Savannah was living under Jonas’ iron fist, in literal sense. Jonas is an abusive bully who beat the sh!t out of the poor girl to ‘keep her under control, to break her spirit so that she never rebels against his dictates’. What an a$$!
When Undaunted Love: Part One opens up, Savannah is in a dazed, confused stupor and we learn that she’d lost her baby girl at birth. On top of being unwanted by Jonas, now she’s left wreak; depressed and mourning her loss. Her b!tch of a mother Matilda (I mean I don’t how can a mother be so cruel to her daughter!) won’t bother and asks her to get herself back together and not ‘embarrass’ Jonas and the family this way. But her elderly aunt Betsy who is more affectionate, is so concerned, she makes a plan to take Savannah away to live with her. When she returns, now with a much clear head, something niggles Savannah’s mind... it felt that she knew that her baby wasn’t dead. Yet she had no other way of proving it. Later though, Savannah remembers the baby crying, which makes her desperate for some help, as Jonas not only refuses to listen to her but also, as was revealed, had always meant to keep her in a state of stupor with the help of his doctor so that she never makes a peep about this incident. Overall, he meant to discredit her as someone deranged by the trauma of losing her child. *SMH*
Savannah needed help desperately to find her baby. None was coming from her own family since Matilda also discredits her claims the same way Jonas did. When things look so dire, Savannah finds herself at the doorstep of the McLeod brothers. She knew Gabriel and how kind and gentle he was and hoped that, in their generosity, his brothers would also extend a helping hand. It wasn’t surprising that Jeremy jumps to the cause, with supports from Florence and Richard. Savannah soon strikes a friendship with the family, regretting the way she and her family treated them once. Soon she, Jeremy and Florence begin searching the orphanages in hopes to find the baby girl now around 6months old. Sadly, no results turned up. Eventually, Savannah begins losing hope.
After meeting the McLeod brothers, now Savannah could see why Clarissa fell in love with Gabriel. The yearning to be loved and cherished pretty soon brings her and Jeremy together. I would’ve never thought them to be paired in the story since I also thought Savannah being married... honestly, I just didn’t think she’d have a different story, that’s all. Obviously I was wrong. But then, come to think of it, there were hints in the previous books of things not being right in her marriage, but Jonas would make certain no one knew what’s going on behind the closed door. Now, Jeremy and Savannah simply can’t deny the simmering attraction and soon, become lovers. Savannah would go to visit him in his workshop that originally belonged to Gabriel, at first to talk to him, and gradually they became close. But being in love wouldn’t work in their favor, most assuredly when Jonas gets the wind of the latest development. Savannah wanted to leave that life and be with Jeremy, but that certainly wasn’t to be.
In the meantime, the a$$hole finds out that his wife has been traipsing around the alleyways of the less privileged side of the town, mingling with people he would never acknowledge on the street. The name of the McLeods simply brings out the worst in Jonas. One day, he again beats up Savannah, but fortunately, her maid runs was on her way to seek help. Jeremy and Florence rush in to save her. Savannah was quite badly injured so Jeremy takes her to Sophia Chickering’s house. Before that, due to Clarissa’s concern, Sophia once visited Savannah and already took a stock of the situation which didn’t bode well to her. After that, Savannah finds a place with Sophia, though her battle with Jonas is far from over. She even begins considering divorce at Sophia’s urgings, but when it becomes clear that everything she’d suffered at Jonas’ hands would have to become public knowledge, Savannah balks. But where does it leave her and Jeremy, was my question.
At the same time, we get to visit Gabriel and Clarissa. As usual I loved the vibrant description of Missoula and the surroundings, but it seemed that trouble is far from over for them too. Cameron hasn’t left, always staying around to push and taunt them, while the marriage seems on the verge of another breakdown. Clarissa’s own fear and guilt about her abuse at Cameron’s hand, alongside her inability to conceive just becomes too much for her to handle. She has mentally begun to move away from Gabriel again, making him confused and very hurt. I sympathized with her, yet I couldn’t help feeling a little angry at how Gabriel was suffering because Clarissa won’t tell him what’s bothering her so much.
It was so lovely to visit Amelia and her children, Colin, Ronan and Sebastian, the mill manager, their new friend at Uncle Aidan’s home. Aidan has been in another state on business matters, but he generously offered Amelia the job of the housekeeper, so that she can live there with her children, Nicholas and little Anne. They’d all meet there almost every day, having dinner together. This jovial gathering was also clouded over by Clarissa and Gabriel’s rift, which becomes clearer when the Richard and Florence’s good news reaches them. Moreover, Cameron’s constant specter was creating more tension between them. But Clarissa and Gabriel were doing well, until a few months ago...
Help on this regard comes from a very unexpected place. I was so glad that Mr. A.J., funny old owner of the book depository where Clarissa is currently working, takes an interest in their relationship. His advice helps them sorting out their differences as Clarissa finally tells Gabriel what’s been troubling her. She’d taken a medicine to avoid unwanted pregnancy after the assault. She was scared that it might’ve done something irrevocable and she’d never be able to have children. Clarissa was worried sick of Gabriel’s reaction but as before, I’d say she should’ve known better. No one was more understanding than Gabriel and he loved his Rissa to bits. It goes without saying that he’d never blame her for anything, let something that wasn’t her fault in any way.
Romance was also in the air for Amelia and Sebastian, though they don’t have the easy way of it. Both are widowers, disillusioned in life; one by a cheating wife, another losing the man she loved to the mines. It was apparent that their HEA would have to wait for a while. But bad luck seems to be chasing them. When there’s a fire at the mill, Sebastian tries to save Cameron the a$$ but fails. He’s badly injured, leaving everybody convinced that Cameron has perished in the fire. But then, it becomes clear that money had been taken from the mill’s account, and the idiotic and self-serving owners directly accuses Sebastian. Poor guy! He’s so ill, already lost his job and now on the verge of losing his good name. The scenario, as a whole, doesn’t bode well for them. :(
Meantime in Boston, Savannah and Jeremy find it difficult to sneak away to be with each-other, mainly because now Richard, Florence and Sophia knew about their relationship. Savanna finds that not all of her family has abandoned her when her father and brother stop by to show their support on her decision separating from Jonas. They genuinely had no clue about her abuse at Jonas’ and were burdened with guilt already. It also seemed that Savannah had almost given up on finding her daughter. It was then, after Jonas’ attack on Sophia in her home to get to Savannah, that she’s given the advice to rethink her relationship with Jeremy. Is she ready to be with another man right now? A confused Savannah does the unthinkable and decides to break up with Jeremy, for now, living him in utter despair. Can’t say I was happy about it but I also thought, after everything she’d suffered, Savannah needed to find out what she really wanted from life. IMO she needed be sure that Jeremy was the right man because it was obvious tough times were ahead of them.
Jeremy is a true McLeod; kind, gentle and compassionate. Even with his own personal demons dogging his steps, and the burden of guilt with bouts of PTSD, he’d given his heart to Savannah without a second thought. And I hated to see him hurt, much like I do every time Gabriel is. Richard, though was blissfully happy in his marriage, would also be haunted by Jeremy’s grief. Yet, though he understood Savannah’s decision due to her situation, Florence was less forgiving. She decides anyone who hurts Jeremy doesn’t belong in his life.
At that time, tragedy strikes as Clarissa’s da Sean suddenly passes away; a news that breaks her heart all over again. She thought she’d never return to that place where so many heartbreaks had happened for them, but it seems Clarissa has to, to attend Sean’s funeral. And for that, she definitely would have to face her horrid stepmother again. Due to financial constrains, Gabriel stays behind and Colin accompanies her in another tough journey of her life.
It seems Clarissa’s life is one hell of a journey in itself, and to find out more about her stay in Boston, alongside Jeremy and Savannah’s fate, I’ll just dive into Part Two. I would’ve loved if Gabriel accompanied Clarissa since he’s yet to see Jeremy. I really need to see all 3 McLeod brothers together sometimes soon. They need to catch up so badly that it breaks my heart to see them apart. 4.5 stars.
PS: My review will continue in Undaunted Love: Part Two.
I received a review copy of Undaunted Love from the author in exchange of an honest review and I'd like to thank her for it.