My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Escape to Love, a lovely novella and book 6 in Ramona Flightner’s Banished Saga series, was quite the treat. A surprising treat to be sure! I’ve been a fan of this series since I started reading it back in 2014 and the Saga has only gotten better with each installment.
The Banished Saga, when it began, was set on the offset of suffragist movement of Boston 1901. Along the way we met many characters, including our favorite, the first couple of the series, Clarissa and Gabriel in Banished Love. Their story was ongoing in books 2 and 3, Reclaimed Love and Undaunted Love. They still make appearances in the latest installments. We also met Clarissa and Gabriel’s family. Clarissa’s own brothers Colin and Patrick, who wasn’t introduced until much later. Her cousin Savannah and best friend Florence, both avid suffragettes and worked with Clarissa throughout. Gabriel’s younger brothers Richard and Jeremy were also introduced, as was their long lost uncle Aidan.
The story started to veer away from the original couples when it jumped 10 years in book 4, Tenacious Love. The spotlight had shifted onto the second generations of McLeod/Sullivans. New characters and couples their contemporary were introduced. By then Clarissa-Gabriel, Savannah-Jeremy, Richard-Florence were married with children. Aidan had his long lost love Delia back in his life, bonus with a daughter, Zylphia whom he didn’t know existed (he was a sailor and had not been around Boston for years). Each had come through a long, arduous journey to find their own standing in life and the men or women they loved. I had loved every single moment of it because it always felt like I’m a friend, and not just a spectator of their lives.
In book 4, Zylphia, all grown, had transformed into a beautiful young lady. She was also a suffragette. A staunch supporter of women’s freedom to vote, a development that didn’t surprise me at all seeing who were her cousins. She found love in Theodore Goff, aka Teddy. It seemed like they too, wouldn’t have an easy life either because things weren’t all smooth sailing in their relationship, as we find in book 5, Unrelenting Love.
There were new developments as well. One of Zylphia’s friends, Parthena, a budding suffragist against her family’s wishes, gets entangled with Savannah’s younger brother Lucas. Lucas had also been a part of this series for long, since he was a young man. Now in his mid 30s, he’d garnered a much deserved successful career in music. He’s a maestro pianist and people simply adore him. Everyone in his family supported him in his endeavor, except for his mother, who was extremely conservative and thrived on being a blight on others’ lives. There was nothing important in her life other than her social status. She had already tried to sacrifice her own daughter to that status. Savannah escaped with her life intact in the nick of time (it’s a story you will find in book 3 and you wouldn’t wanna miss it). And now, Lucas was another disappointment to her, which she never failed to vocalize IF ever Lucas visited his parents. Their father, Martin, however was polite and had always been by his children’s side.
Lucas and Parthena’s budding relationship didn’t go very far as Parthena’s mean father married her off (sold her to be precise) to another man; someone with money and influence, Morgan Wheeler. Even though Parthena hated the man and didn’t wanna be married, she didn’t want to marry Lucas either. I understood some of her dilemma. She had 3 younger sisters and knew one of them would be sacrificed if she doesn’t marry Morgan as her father was desperate for money. But I also felt that she wasn’t as ‘in love’ with Lucas as he was with her. Besides, it didn’t take Morgan much to convince her of his own affection after a confession of harboring a secret tendré for her for a long time. It kinda proved my point of her not having any strong feelings for Lucas. Needless to say, I wasn’t much fond of her, but I’d give it that she loved her sisters.
Anyhoo, regardless, I didn’t like knowing that Lucas and Parthena were physically involved during their brief relationship. It went a notch higher when new developments came into the light. It seemed Morgan’s money couldn’t make Parthena’s dumb father happy and now he’d chosen his next daughter, Genevieve, to marry an old lecher... for more money. Parthena was desperate to save her sister and turned to Lucas for help, IMO because she knew for certain he’d help in any way he can.
Note that Morgan and Lucas have come to blow more than once in book 5 for Parthena and I couldn’t blame either of them. Parthena, with her bright hair and personality, was all vivacious; someone who loved to be in the spotlight and both men wanted her equally. Genevieve, on the other hand, was a total opposite of her. She was deemed plain and plump, with brown hair. She was more of an introvert because of the beating her self-confidence has taken from her parents, especially her cruel father. She was also a musician, much like her sister. Much like Lucas himself. While Parthena played the piano, which is how she met Lucas, Genevieve played the violin. Of course, their father never approved of such ‘outlandish activities’ from the ladies of an upstanding family like theirs, and their mother agreed, much like she did on everything their father said like the obedient wife she was. *eyeroll*
At the end of book 5, it seemed like Lucas was coming to terms with the fact that Parthena wasn’t in love with him. It was more and more apparent and though it hurt, Lucas was trying to rebuild his life without her in it. So when she convinced Morgan to talk to Lucas about helping Genevieve, I wasn’t happy. I wanted her out of Lucas’s life for good, but that wasn’t gonna happen. I knew where it was going and I wasn’t sure I’d like knowing Lucas getting involved with both sisters, no matter what their circumstances were. It’s a trope I find often used in contemporary romances and I avoid those as much as I can. Here, I decided to carry on because I had every confidence in Ramona’s writing.
Lucas promised Parthena and Morgan that he’d help Genevieve because that’s the kind of guy he was; a good guy, honest to boots and would never ignore a damsel-in-distress. More than that, the whole situation reminded him of what Savannah had gone through in the hands of her first husband, and that he couldn’t help her when she needed it the most. When the story ended, Genevieve and Lucas were strangers going off into the proverbial unknown to save her from an unwanted marriage. Lucas had also promised that he’d marry Genevieve as soon as he can, which is how he can thwart any attempts made by her father to marry her off to anyone else.
I mentioned all that for a bit of intro to the series for anyone new to it, also because this is where Escape to Love begins. Lucas was taking Genevieve to Butte though he didn’t have any clear idea about what to do. He had had no time to plan anything because they had to leave Boston in extreme haste. On the way, we find Lucas and Genevieve forming a very unexpected bond. Though it was rather fragile in the beginning, it was absolutely astonishing for them nonetheless. She wasn’t easy with strangers but Lucas was also very easy to fall for. She hated knowing he was once involved with her sister and it did bug her a lot. She was nothing like her sister, will she ever be able to catch Lucas’s attention? Or will there be a constant comparison, where she’d definitely fall short? Many things were weighing down on Genevieve. She didn’t know if she’ll ever find happiness in this marriage.
Lucas was the same. Though, knowing Genevieve had gradually made him see what a treasure she was, he wasn’t sure he can love again. Can he take a chance on Genevieve? Would she love him back, or would she also break his heart? Would she ever see him anything other than a famous musician, much like everybody else; much like how Parthena had seen him? It was apparent that they both needed to find these answers to be able to figure out where their marriage stood.
As they reach Butte where Patrick was residing with his wife Fiona, Lucas and Genevieve pay them a visit. Our favorite residents of Missoula— Clarissa-Gabriel, Savannah-Jeremy, their children accompanying Colin and Arminta (Clarissa’s children’s nanny)—also travel to Butte to spend the Christmas together. It was definitely a treat to see them all together, catching up on their lives. I loved it! Just as much as I loved seeing how Lucas and Genevieve’s relationship unfolded. Previously as mentioned before, I had my doubts, yet I loved how they came together, both in need of love and an assurance of having the feeling returned. Their understanding of each-other was marvelous, which is why they clicked. Lucas had already figured out that Parthena was a mistake and he didn’t want to look back. He made certain Genevieve knew that too!
All in all, Escape to Love was indeed an escape I needed for the past couple of months. I really enjoyed it. Ramona sure did pack a lot of emotions in such a short space! I can’t wait to find out what’s up next in this Saga. I can see that there are plenty of story left to unravel, most especially I'm anticipating something between Colin and Arminta. ;) Highly recommended; only remember that this series is very intertwined so best start from book 1 for full enjoyment. I won’t suggest reading this novella as a standalone. 4.5 stars.
Review copy received from the author. Thanks Ramona! x