My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
WOW! Has it really been 2 yrs and 4, rather big, installments since I started my journey of Banished Saga? Tenacious Love is #4, which I just finished and all I can say that I’m so glad this series is continuing on beyond the first couple who started it all, Clarissa and Gabriel.
As the name of the series suggests, it indeed, is a saga of the McLeod/Sullivan family which sort of reminds me of Downton Abbey. Don’t get me wrong; even though DA is set almost at the same time as Banished Saga, the storyline, setting and the characters aren’t the same. What in Banished Saga reminds me of Downton Abbey is that this too shows the growth and continuation of one family into future generation. You start from one family then you get to learn more and more of this family, their relatives, friends and well-wishers, who also become a part of this journey just as much as you are. You see new faces, romance, marriage, children etc. And it’s an ongoing process.
Banished Saga started with the couple, Clarissa and Gabriel, on the onset of the suffragist movement in Boston of 1901. That was the first book, Banished Love. Clarissa herself was a budding suffragist who has suffered more in her life than ever she should’ve. Though her father was a blacksmith, and Irish, she comes from a well-off, educated background. Her romance with Gabriel, a “lowly and poor carpenter”, was no bed of roses. In all, they both suffered to conquer the hardship put in front of them by their enemies. After 2 long years when they finally marry, life has changed drastically for both. But their love for each-other kept them going till they were reunited.
Along the way, we’re introduced some new faces like Clarissa’s cousin Savannah and Lucas. Her brother Colin who has been a part of her journey since the beginning, though, Patrick, the older brother, hasn’t been seen much as he left his family suddenly a long ago. He’s been out of contact so the family didn’t even know if he was dead or alive. We also meet some vicious and nasty characters like Gabriel’s Aunt Masterson and Clarissa’s step-mother, Mrs. Smythe. Both made their lives miserable any way they could until Clarissa and Gabriel fled Boston and had to be reunited in Missoula 2 long years later.
I was so glad to be rid of both harpies during book 3, Undaunted Love, because I had urges of strangling them when I read their misconducts and biting, demeaning remarks on Clarissa-Gabriel’s relationship. I won’t even comment on that both of them did to Clarissa in order to strengthen their social standing. Now, Savannah too has suffered just as much, if not more, than Clarissa. While Clarissa was abused by one of her so-called suitors, Savannah’s was her rich husband. She lived hell for a time, gave birth to a girl, only to be told that her child has died. It took her long time to discover how not only cruel but also disgusting her husband was when she finds her daughter alive, but discarded by him just because he expected a boy!
We also meet Gabriel’s brother Richard, read his story with his long lost love Florence. Their younger brother Jeremy returned from the war a haunted man, who then finds peace in Savannah, still running from her horrid husband. With the help of Clarissa and her suffragist friend, an older woman named Sophronia or Sophia Chickering, Savannah finds much needed help and solace. And so, we met many more faces on this 2+ years journey, with the focus first on Gabriel-Clarissa’s romance, then moving on to Jeremy-Savannah. Richard-Florence were much more lucky in the sense that they didn’t find themselves in any big trouble once they were reunited, thanks to Clarissa. They’re still living in Boston and seen on and off. But I’m super glad to know they have a big family and extremely happy.
The whole Saga has its twists and turns and many characters that would surely keep you hooked. You can check out my reviews for the prequel which tells you the story of the McLeod brothers’ tragic childhood, also books 1, 2, 3 and 3.5 to get an idea. However, I’d NOT recommend this latest installment without the reading of previous ones. They’re very closely connected, one book starting where the other left off. For now, I’ll just get right onto the latest, Tenacious Love.
What I noticed right off the bat was the fact that the Saga jumped 10yrs. Then I gradually noticed that it seems to be moving away from the original couples, creating new relationships and connections of the second generation of McLeods. It did take me a while to get used to with this notion because... just because it was unexpected to say the least. On the last installment I left off Clarissa and Gabriel with their first born, who just came into the world....... then I find them the parents of 4 children, one recently deceased, a reason for their latest conflict. :o It was a bit of shock no doubt to find how much time has passed since then! But once I got myself settled into the story, I started getting into the grove.
Honestly, by now, they seem like my friends so it was more like seeing old friends again after a while, being updated on their life in the past 10 yrs. Long ago, Savannah got herself into a big scandal, got freed from the abusive husband, lost her child to a fever. But thankfully she had Jeremy to support her. And after her first husband… died, she and Jeremy moved to Montana to start anew with the help of Gabriel and Clarissa, who were married by then. Both couples started making new friends in here, including the old bookstore keeper (later turned into a library) Mr. A.J. A.J. instantly marked Clarissa, when she took a job there, as the granddaughter he’d never had. The affection between them was very palpable. The worldly advises the old man would impart for the two has helped Clarissa and Gabriel in their relationship tremendously.
In the years that passed, Savannah and Clarissa and their family became the family of this old, lonely man who has never had his own children, wife deceased a long time. They also had Amelia, widow of a friend Gabriel lost in a mining accident, and her two children. She has a friend for a few years when she met Sebastian, manager of a sawmill nearby, she knew she couldn’t mourn her first husband all her life. That she was finally willing to move on. Even though Richard and Florence were still in Boston, where Richard took over Clarissa’s father’s blacksmith after his passing, her stepsister little Melinda, abused by her own mother the vicious Smythe, was living a miserable life. When Colin and Clarissa found her all alone and fearful of people, they knew something had to be done, and soon. Even though Clarissa couldn’t take her, Savannah wanted to adopt her. Today, she’s a 13yrs. old bubbly girl who is full of joy.
When Melinda was thrown into an orphanage by Smythe because she refused to waste time on her OWN DAUGHTER (seesh!), Savannah steps in to rescue her. A bond was formed between them that instant. It was also how Gabriel’s uncle Aidan, a successful rich businessman now and reunited with his beloved nephews, finds his one true love Delia as the form of the manager of the orphanage... and the surprise of his life, a daughter Zylphia, whom he’d never met before then. They also split some 18yrs. ago, a time painful for both of them. Aidan thought he lost is surviving family (brother Ian, his wife and sons—parents to Gabriel-Richard-Jeremy). They fought, he left breaking her heart. After finding out her pregnancy, Delia had to go under a ruse of a widow to live some sort of a respectable life. She never married, her world being her daughter and her work with the orphanage. But she also never forgave Aidan, who had to work hard, this time, to regain the trust and respect, not to mention the love of a family he meant to make his own. Who should’ve been his own had they not split all those years ago. In the new installment, as I was getting to learn of all these families and how they’ve been in the past years, I found that lots have changed. Some just got better, while some weren’t.
Clarissa and Gabriel had a rift going on because of a recent accident that took the life of their eldest son, Rory, aged 8. It must be painful for any parents to lose a child, not to mention that young but there were some underlying issues that made it even harder for this couple to cope with. I won’t go into the details but I was relieved when they finally decided to talk and straighten things out, mourning the loss of their child together after a year. Jeremy and Savannah were never blessed with their own children. It was not too surprising since Savannah’s first childbirth had gone bad and the doctor already told her she may never have any more. But after multiple miscarriages, Jeremy puts his foot down about it. To him, her health was more important than a child that was never meant to be. This maybe a bitter truth but they decide to find solace in their big family and Melinda, their daughter in every other way possible.
We also find a glimpse of Amelia and Sebastian, living a bit away from the gathering where he got a new job all those years ago. They’ve been happy and very blessed with a big family; 2 of Amelia’s previous children and 5 of their own. They seem to have been quite busy! ;)
Now what surprised me was Colin. I wasn’t ever certain if he was older or younger than Clarissa (whatever it is, they had to be close in age). How old does it make him now? He’s still single; still breaking hearts left and right. I knew McLeod men were good-looking; all tall, well-built with dark hair and blue or green eyes. I was never sure of Colin though, who is a Sullivan. All I know he shares Clarissa’s coloring, auburn hair and blue eyes but built like a blacksmith since that’s what he is. He’d always been the easy-going brother who never seemed to take things too seriously. However, in here, we find that Colin has matured. We also discover that he seems to have a soft spot for Clarissa/Savannah’s nanny, Arminta. Arminta is somewhat physically challenged, but she’d proved to be a superb housekeeper plus nanny so far, with a magical hand in cooking and baking. And even though she’d been here for the past 10yrs. she still hasn’t fit in. Her physical problems and the background from Delia’s orphanage still made her feel like an outsider. The scene where Colin tries to make her realize that she’s a family, and the way he comforts her (nothing physical mind you!) was so sweet. I really hope these two ends up together as I always enjoy his flirtations with the ever serious Arminta. :D
Along the course of the story, Clarissa reunites with Patrick in a sudden turn of events. This also improves the whole dynamics of the family when Patrick decides to return to his family once again. He meets them in Montana, getting to know his brother and sister, cousin and their extended families, knowing he’s not alone in the world anymore. Any apprehension about not being welcomed was long gone. However, with him, he brought in a trouble in the form of one of Masterson’s sons, the bane of the McLeod brothers existence, Henry. This POS not only riles up the brothers, creating trouble, he also does a lot to make Patrick’s life miserable by preying on a girl he was interested in.
Fiona and Patrick used to work together with Henry as their boss. No one knew that everything this POS did was to track down the McLeod brothers; that he knew Patrick was related to Clarissa. Even though he apparently succeeds in creating trouble, the bond of a big, tight-knit family proves to be too much for this a$$. Henry finally limps away from Montana with his tail between his legs. Unfortunately by then, he’d already taken his revenge by blackmailing Fiona and abusing her daily, something Patrick didn’t know until it was too late. Now their fate hangs in the balance too, not knowing what’s coming next.
On the other hand in Montana, it seemed like Savannah and Clarissa are now heavily involved in the suffragist movement more than ever. The election for women’s voting right is coming up, and they’re busy making connections. To make men realize that women have the right to be equal to them. In their journey, Zylphia, now 28 or so, is also an inevitable part. She’s an active supporter of the cause, proving help as needed. Zylphia and her parents are still living in Boston, though they travel to Montana on and off to visit family. They also visit Richard and Florence.
Zylphia has grown to be a beautiful young woman with the striking McLeod looks. She’s also an excellent painter, but so far, has had a troubling time of fitting into the posh Boston society. Her past as the daughter of a single mother, plus living in an orphanage, has always haunted her even if their parents are now happily married and she’s sharing the McLeod name. Not to mention her father is extremely rich. She learned all the graces of a woman of the society quite late in her life, something she’s yet to master properly. All these things always make her feel vulnerable, often less sure of herself. And when she feels valuable, confused, she likes to act rash... sometimes even a bit dumb.
Tenacious Love also quite heavily focuses on the movement of 1913 women’s suffrage parade and the subsequent voting for women’s voting rights. Ramona gives excellent reference to the historical facts and figure, mixing it with the storyline in a way, making Zylphia, Clarissa, Savannah and all the brothers a big part of it. It also focuses more on Zylphia and her budding relationship with an inventor named Theodore Goff, nicknamed Teddy by his close acquaintances. It was his involvement with Zylphia made me realize that the second generations of McLeods are coming up. Though I can’t think of seeing Clarissa and Gabriel growing old, I know we need to move on if the series is to continue.
Zylphia meets Teddy at a ball where both were misfits were trying to fit it. Whereas Zylphia wanted to fit in, Teddy barely tolerated the society. Teddy is primarily British, even though he calls Boston his home now, as does his parents. He’s from a rich family too. Teddy is also seen as a recluse who, so far, had liked eschewing the society... until he met Zylphia. He believed in her, her ideologies of women’s suffrage, her brilliance as an artist. Inevitably, an attraction was blooming between the two.
I don’t know when it happened, but it did somewhere along the way as they met here and there. And I’m pretty sure it was Teddy who fell for Zylphia, that she for him. Zyphia had this notion that being married would smother her chances of blossoming into someone she wanted to be; herself. She didn’t want to be a chattel to her husband and lose all her rights to him. However, she misread Teddy totally. She wanted him, but she wasn’t sure what she wanted from this relationship. An affair was out of the question as she wasn’t the type. Teddy didn’t want it either. So when kisses happened, she begins to react oddly... and finally, when they sleep together which also brings forth a marriage proposal from Teddy, the whole situation makes Zylphia react in a really rude, unthinkable way. She ends up saying every possible negative thing to hurt him. It was just SO not well done!
I was disappointed in Zylphia, though I did get that she was scared and unsure of this step in her life. What disappointed me more were the hurtful things she said to Teddy. She’d always for some reason underestimated him and this was the result of it. This unfortunate event finally pushes Teddy to leave for England, subsequently getting himself a commission in the army and joining the war. At that time, Zylphia was away in Montana, preparing herself to canvass that area with Clarissa and Savannah to convince men to vote, which was a part of their assignment. It saved her in my eyes that she was already remorseful of what she’d done, understood that she’d probably killed a friendship with her best friend, maybe even the chance at true happiness because she wasn’t happy by any means. She tried to apologize but Teddy had returned all her letters unopened, saying there’s nothing between them anymore.
Now this news of Teddy’s departure to the war strikes her hard. Zylphia is in misery, not knowing if she’d ever see him again. The only solace she finds when Teddy, this time, replies to her ardent letter conveying his love for her with an equally ardent reply. Now Zylphia only have to wait till he gets back home safe and sound in her arms...
In the meantime, we lose the Great Tree of Wisdom, the evergreen mischief-maker Mr. A.J. to old age, which was an extremely heartbreaking scene. He was there for them all, an inevitable part of all the couples’ lives. Now they’d have to go on without him, as will we, the readers.
When their months of successful canvassing come to a fruitful end on November 3 with an all over win, Zylphia couldn’t celebrate with the rest. Because bad news from the field of war was waiting for her. Teddy has gone MIA and no one knows what has happened to him, leaving her shaken to the core........ and the story ends leaving us all tittering on the edge, contemplating on Teddy, as well as Zylphia’s fate.
I can plainly say I can’t wait for the next installment. Alongside Zylphia-Teddy, I’d really love to see what happens to Colin and Arminta. Also, Patrick and Fiona’s life and how they handle the biggest concern of their lives right now. A part of me wants it to end without any fruition, but another part of me knows they’d come though fighting no matter what. All I know that, from what I’ve read so far, it seems all the new couples have to work harder to get their HEA too, as did their predecessors. 4 stars for Tenacious Love.