My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
After three years and 5 installments later, I’m so glad that the Banished Saga by Ramona Flightner is continuing on quite strong. Though the Saga is told from many characters who were introduced throughout, it all started with the original couple, Gabriel and Clarissa and their journey for a love that seemed impossible to fulfill at first.
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.
Clarissa and Gabriel met on the onset of the suffragist movement in Boston of 1901 in the first book, Banished Love. Clarissa, a budding suffragist at that time, has suffered more in her life than she ever should’ve. She had a well-educated background so her romance with a “lowly and poor carpenter” Gabriel had all the thorns provided by the judgmental society. They both suffered and conquered hardship and after 2 long years when they finally marry, life has changed drastically for both. But their love for each-other kept them going.
Along the way, we’re introduced some new faces like Clarissa’s cousins 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. 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.
Savannah, whose story can be read throughout Undaunted Love, too has suffered just as much, if not more, than Clarissa but she had also found love in Jeremy, Gabriel’s youngest brother. They also moved to Montana from Boston to start anew. The only couple to remain in Boston was Richard, the middle McLeod brother and his wife, Florence. They thrived well with time. Clarissa’s elderly suffragist friend, who helped both her and Savannah to find their way, Sophronia or Sophia Chickering, is still around.
In the 3 years timeline of these installments, we met many more faces but 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. The whole Saga has its twists and turns 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. There are 2 free subscribers only short stories worth reading for additional enjoyment.
I’d always recommend that you read the series from the start to get the complete enjoyment, even though from book 4, Tenacious Love, things have shifted quite bit from the original storyline. It jumps 10 yrs. at the least and we find a lot has changed in between. Gabriel and Clarissa, who had a good marriage so far, again facing some trouble that life brought them. Savannah and Jeremy having their own heartaches... their adopted daughter, Melissa, who is also Clarissa’s much younger stepsister, has grown to be a jolly young girl. Colin is still single but may have a sweetheart.
In Boston, Florence and Richard are happy with a big family of 5 rambunctious boys. We also find Aiden, Gabriel’s uncle, who was reunited with his long lost love Delia and their only daughter, Zylphia, now have a life together. Aiden, a successful businessman, had married Delia. Zylphia has got the striking dark haired, blued eyed McLeod goodlooks and a successful painter. However, she’s had some difficulties meshing in with the upper crust of the Boston society in which she was thrust into when she took the McLeod name at the age of 18. She’s also self conscious about everything because of her poor background and lack of training like those Boston socialites. Inspite of it all, Zylphia has managed to do good for herself. She has 2 other friends who are introduced as secondary characters—Parthena and Rowena. We also meet some prospective suitors for the girls. The prominent two of them would be Theodore Goff and Morgan Wheeler.
Theodore, or Teddy in short, wasn’t a suitor at first. He was more of a recluse who loved experimenting in his little lab and everything that spells finance. He’s a great financial adviser and helped many Boston elites find their groove where money was concerned. Zylphia didn’t know much of that though, and didn’t really find the tall, lanky guy attractive in the beginning. Even though she was fond of him and enjoyed his companionship, she wasn’t about to confess to anything else. Plus, being a budding suffragist herself who was active in every cause under the tutelage of Sophie, marriage was a word Zylphia refused even to consider a possibility. And I can’t blame her. She wanted to succeed and evolve, not get stunted by the law that requires her to become a chattel to her husband. The very thing she was fighting against. But in her fear, she refused to really look at Teddy to realize that his every regard for her was genuine and the fact that he supports her causes. Her decision was rash, her treatment of him was so rude that Teddy leaves Boston and joins WWI. He had his own baggage, thanks to his cold and snotty family who always enjoyed undermining him. That mixed with Zylphia’s words (which specifically hinted she found him to be too nerdy, for the lack of better words) and subsequent rejection of his marriage proposal... it was not a good place for him to be. They’ve already been physically intimate once but that was the end of it.........or so we thought.
Soon though, Zylphia starts having doubts in her hasty judgment, which became full blown panic when she finally realized that she had loved Teddy from the beginning but was too blinded by everything else to acknowledge it. When, finally, news reached Teddy to be MIA, the ramifications of what she may have lost started settling on Zylphia.
In Unrelenting Love, the Saga is even more focused on the second generation of McLeod/Sullivens and their friends. I was sad to see that our friends in Montana weren’t featured at all but only by mention through letters. I ALWAYS enjoy a visit with that gang (Clarissa-Gabriel, Savannah-Jeremy etc.). This installment mainly features Zylphia’s seemingly doomed relationship and Teddy’s fate. It’s been about 2 years since Zylphia and Teddy’s meeting, a while since he’s been MIA in the war. To keep herself from worrying over it, Zylphia is now strongly involved in the movement for women’s voting right. It’s proving to be a challenge but Sophia, Florence, Zylphia, Parthena and Rowena, with hundreds of like-minded sisters, are willing to take that challenge. They know that back in Montana, Clarissa and Savannah are also hard at work on the same cause.
Zylphia expresses a wish to visit the war torn countries in order to search for Teddy, which is vehemently denied by Aiden for good reasons. Fortunately, one of Teddy’s cousins soon writes to her saying he’s been found and now recuperating in England at his grandparent’s place. Zylphia is overwhelmed but happy. Teddy’s own letters makes it even better. Through it all, it was quite apparent that he was badly injured and things aren’t as it seemed.
In midst of it, Parthena, whose father is a douchebag and a failed businessman to boots, forces her to marry Morgan Wheeler; a rich businessman who was also a childhood friend of hers. But she never liked him and now more so because Morgan isn’t a cheerer of women’s enfranchisement, or the suffragist movements that she’s so involved in. In fact, she already knew if she marries him, she’ll have to stop all of it in order to make him happy. And Parthena wasn’t sure she could sacrifice such a big part of her until her father blackmails her into it.
Now I wasn’t expecting Parthena’s story but I knew she’d be featured when her very palpable dislike for Morgan was seen in the previous installment. What I DID NOT expect was that she was also seeing Lucas (Savannah’s brother) in secret. Lucas is a very accomplished piano player, Parthena is also keen in piano, which is how they met and started sleeping together. If you know Lucas’s story, you’ll know that his mother is a b!tch of the first order (not much worse that Smythe or Masterson) and made their lives hell. No one could ever make her happy and she found pleasure in blaming everyone for her own problems. Lucas’s life would’ve been stuck at his father Martin’s clothing store, had he not gotten out to pursue his dream. Martin supported his decision but Matilda still b!tches about it every chance she gets. She was one of the big reasons why Savannah fled Boston to be with Jeremy and doesn’t keep in contact much.
Anyhoo, I mentioned it cause ultimately Lucas found himself to be pretty alone. He had fans, women who pretend to like him cause of his sublime piano skills, his fame but not for who he really was. In Parthena, he thought he’d found someone who understands him. He thought they loved each-other but of course, he wasn’t as important to Parthena, a fact that hurt him quite a lot. He tried to change her mind but she was adamant to marry Morgan to save her sisters from being sold to the highest bidders by her father. Morgan had the money to stop it whereas Lucas, though wealthy, wasn’t as filthy rich. I didn’t like their involvement to begin with, unfortunately I also dislike love triangles a lot. But then comes the next shocker for me. I’ll get to that in a bit…
In her marriage, Parthena finds that she’s not too immune to Morgan’s attraction to her. She had no idea he, indeed, wanted her so much for a long time. He knew her dislike for him so he managed a way to simply acquire her. It started becoming a very confusing relationship. Parthena disliked him, or tried but couldn’t entirely. Morgan figured out soon that if he’s to have harmony in his married life, he’d have to agree to his wife’s suffragist ventures. Well, he wasn’t so easily convinced about it and continued to endure the jibes coming from Parthena, who was becoming even more exasperated in this ‘prison’ where she couldn’t do what she wanted. She started defying him by attending lectures and meetings with Sophie and Zylphia but Morgan never tried to stop her in that sense, so I guess he really cared for her. But it was difficult for him to support things that his forefathers never did. He was traditional and wasn’t sure if he could change his mind overnight so their relationship sort of stood at an impasse.
Morgan also knew about Parthena’s affair with Lucas. He figured out soon enough for obvious reasons. It made them instant enemies and they remained that way for the better part of the story. However, when Morgan began softening up about Parthena’s causes and interests, including the piano playing which was a no-no before that, a new development occurs. It seems, Morgan’s hefty sum of money wouldn’t stop Parthena’s father from selling her next sister Genevieve to a guy they all despised. When she asked for Morgan’s help, he decides it’d be better to whisk Genevieve away to somewhere their father won’t find her. Maybe in Montana? Maybe Lucas can help in the matter? I’m not sure why Morgan instantly thought of Lucas but he did. Lucas was already contemplating going there to have a respite from everything that’s been happening in his life lately.
There I was, rather shocked to find Morgan asking Lucas for help. Not only that, he suggests Lucas marry Genevieve beforehand so her father loses any legal hold on her. On Parthena’s entreaty (uh, why does Lucas even care? Definitely not his problem!), Lucas even begins considering a marriage to Genevieve, whom he has never met before. But from all I could see, she will have to compete with her more vivacious sister’s shadow for the rest of her life if she goes down that path. Um, NOT a good idea. Plus knowing he was involved with her sister... kinda eww for me. This whole business is turning out to be one big mess that I’m not sure I’ll appreciate the outcome of. Martin does warn Lucas about it at one point when he stops by to ask his father for counsel. His wise words struck home because Lucas didn’t want a marriage where he’d come to resent his wife and live a miserable life. Much like his parents’. Does he want to marry someone he barely knew and be stuck for the rest of his life? Would he be happy marrying the sister of someone he thought he loved, but since come to realize, that it wasn’t the case? What does Genevieve want?
Genevieve is still a new character, about whom we don’t really know much but that she’s reserved and considers herself unattractive. Parthena’s bold, outgoing personality didn’t help matters for her but it was still apparent that the sisters loved each-other. Lucas is obviously a far better choice than the man she will have to marry if she stays in Boston but really, I don’t know. The story ends while they’re all contemplating this matter and what their next step will be...
According to Ramona’s newsletter, the next one will be a novella on Lucas, which didn’t surprise me. I’m sure we’ll know more in that installment. And no matter my feelings of the whole thing, I am eagerly waiting to see what transpires between him and Genevieve. Or if Ramona has something else up her sleeve to surprise us even more! Plus I’m hoping for a visit with our gang in Montana and really wanna know what’s going on between Colin and Araminta. 4 stars.
I received a complimentary copy from the author, thanks Ramona! x