Abiding Love

Abiding Love (Banished Saga Book 8)  - Ramona Flightner

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My dear Savannah,

In the past 8 installments of Banished Saga, I’ve come to know you so well; felt we’ve become friends as much as I found myself feeling the same for every other member of the McLeod/Sullivan family introduced in this series. I have to admit that initially I found you to be snotty and rather irritating and I liked Clarissa better. :) I wasn’t sure of your match with Jeremy, but despite it all, you’ve found love in one another. And over the course of these 4+ yrs you’ve proved me wrong over and over again.

I knew you’ve found love, but the serenity of life eluded you even when you were with Jeremy. I knew you craved a child so badly that I prayed your wish would come true. Even when it didn’t happen that way, I’d hoped you’d find peace with Jeremy and Melinda in your life. In this installment, I was so excited for you that I can’t even explain. Hoped that finally, after all that you’ve been through, you’d have your wish fulfilled. You’ll finally find peace within yourself and be at peace with life itself.

But alas, that was not to be.

I don’t know if you’re finally at peace now that you’re somewhere no living being can reach you. I just hope you’re doing well as Melinda accompanies you there too.

Abiding Love is the 8th installment of Ramona Flightner’s Banished Saga series. It’s one of my favorite family-centered series, which is also quite aptly titled as we find our favorite characters going through ups and downs like any normal couple will weathering incidents bound to test their love for each-other. This is also one of the more unique attributes of this Saga; that the story of a couple isn’t finished with the HEA. As we find new things to appreciate in this series, the Saga continues as it should showcasing their lives with all its glory, as well as its difficulties.

The Banished Saga, when it began, was onset 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. 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. Later in the series, Jeremy and Savannah found love, while Richard and Florence, who had an ongoing rift between them, mend it and decided to marry.

The story started to veer away from the original couples when it jumped 10 years in book 4, Tenacious Love. The spotlight had shifted on to 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 and settled in Montana. 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’ve been a fan and had loved every single moment of it because it always felt like I’m a friend, and not just a spectator of their lives.

The next few installments introduced some new characters like two of Zylphia’s suffragist friends, Parthena and Rowena. We found Rowena to be romantically involved with Lucas but that association comes to an end because of her money hungry father, who also despised her suffragist activities. She’s quite forced to marry Morgan Wheeler, a successful business, on her father’s dictates. Though she’d known him since they were young, it seemed there was this odd, almost ambivalent attraction between her and Morgan which is also what saves their marriage in the end. Parthena’s immediate younger sister, Genevieve, is also threatened by their father with a marriage worse than her own, so Lucas comes to the rescue. If you’ve read the first few installments of the series, you’d know what happened to Savannah, Lucas’s sister. He’d always felt guilty for not doing enough to save her from a nightmarish marriage, and so, even with the shimmering enmity between him and Parthena-Morgan, he agrees to help Genevieve. Thankfully, along the way, he figures out that his association with Parthena was a mistake to begin with. They travel to Montana to live with the extended family but decide to settle in Butte.

In another part of Butte, Patrick, Clarissa’s long lost brother, who was absent for a long time, then returned to them, was settling down with his own family; his wife Fiona and her daughter Rose. Fiona has her own sad story that was the cause of marital discord among her and Patrick. However, he was patient enough to work with it her ‘issues’ because he loved Fiona that much and accepted Rose as his own. In book 7, Resilient Love, we finally find them making peace over it. After an incident that almost took Patrick from her, Fiona comes to term with the fact that without him her life would shatter in a way she can’t recover from. I was really happy for them because this was a long time coming.

Zylphia had been married a few years by then to a man she called her friend, Theodore Goff. Their marriage hasn’t been a bed of roses either, with some major ups and downs, you can blame a war for that, also Zylphia’s own headstrong nature. She being the social butterfly and an active suffragist and he quite fiercely reserved. Yet Teddy loved her as fiercely as one can his wife. Zylphia had been confused about her feelings towards Teddy, though she’d come to accept that she loved him since he went away to war and almost lost his life. In book 7, we found them still fighting for the marital harmony that forever seems to be eluding them for one reason or the other. It’s not like they don’t want to be together, but Zylphia can be really stubborn sometimes, to the point that she loses focus of what’s more important in her life. Her suffragist activities almost ended her marriage once, it was almost going to happen again. Only their love for one-another saves it for them.

In this new installment, Ramona tried her best to mention every couple and the status of their lives. If you haven’t read the previous installments, let me tell you that there’s a lot going on that can’t be summarized in a review. There are always new twists and turns that come out of nowhere, seemingly to challenge the families featured in this series anew. I generally like to mention a little from everything so anyone new to it reading my review knows what’s going on. But even I can’t cram it all in so I’ll encourage you to read from book 1 to enjoy the most out of this series.

In Abiding Love, we meet all the families as they deal with new ups and downs, challenges coming their way. But there were good news too. Teddy and Zylphia’s relationship was on the mend, as were Morgan and Parthena’s, with the news of a new baby for them no less! Zylphia’s parents, Aidan and Delia, were as supportive as ever of every single one of their relatives as well as their own daughter. We found Lucas and Genevieve doing mighty well with the new addition to their own little family; a daughter named Lizzy. Patrick and Fiona found themselves as well and I was so happy to finally hear that their family will expand too. In Montana, Clarissa and Gabriel’s family was thriving, as was Jeremy’s. Or so I thought.

At this point, my main worry for the past few installments was over Colin’s relationship with Araminta, an orphan girl Clarissa brought with her when she moved to Montana all those years ago to settle down with Gabriel. She had been a nanny cum house help to Clarissa, though over the years she’d become more of a family member than anything else. Clarissa and Gabriel had always treated her like a younger sister. Colin, who also moved to Montana in support of Clarissa and Gabriel’s marriage (there’s loooong and difficult history behind it that’s featured in the first 3 installments of the series), had been affectionate towards Araminta. In the beginning she was a bit too young for a Romantic association and Colin stayed away. But even when she grew up to be a fabulous young woman, don’t know why Colin never approached her. It was very much known knowledge that there was something going on between them but neither really worked on it. The misunderstanding between them went to the point that Araminta finally accepted a beau. THAT’s when Colin felt it was now or never; that he needed to step up his game or lose the woman he loves.

There was quite a bit of drama regarding Colin and Araminta’s relationship. What we missed out on the previous installments, I’d say, we were compensated for all that and more. Even though Bart wasn’t a favorite character, I ended up feeling sorry for him but not so sorry to find him in cahoots with one of the McLeod’s greatest enemies.  I think Bart here is as much of a victim of manipulation as anyone else had been under the influence of that particular piece of trash. I just hope he finds his way to break out of this whole thing though I don’t know if he ever will.

Colin and Araminta’s relationship was one of my favorite bits of the story, the other one was Rowena’s own HEA. She had been such a wallflower that it was easy to forget her. In their trio of friends, she was the reserved one and wanted to be left alone to her devices. It was more to do with the fact that her self-confidence took a beating not only because her father the nasty a$$hole always called her ugly but also because everyone else found Zylphia with her dark hair and striking blue eyes or Parthena with her blonde and blue eyed looks more appealing. The brown eyed, auburn haired girl felt she wasn’t good-looking enough to attract a man. Not that this made their friendship suffer but Rowena had sort of come to terms with her spinsterhood. Life should’ve gone on for her, had she not been found by Perry Hawke. Perry is Lucas’s good buddy and a popular contemporary singer. But his own past of poverty and whatever it took him to survive the darkness of it all made him a pariah too. I mean they all craved his attention. They all wanted him to perform for them. Women wanted to have affairs with him but that was all. He was not good enough for anything else and it was something that had eaten him from inside because Perry wanted to shine. He wanted someone to love him for who he was. He’d thought Rowena was far too high in the social ladder for him to pursue, but when it’s love, anything’s possible. Though not without struggle, Rowena and Perry finally finds their own HEA. While reading about him, I thought Perry would make an excellent hero for a single novel of his own instead of being a supporting character.

But my most favorite part of the story was when all the families, except for Clarissa’s family in Montana, gather at a sea-side vacation home rented by Aidan for the summer. I was in heaven having them all together, at the same time wishing Clarissa-Gabriel could join them too. Would I knew I’d have my wishes somewhat fulfilled but in such a drastic manner that I’d end up hoping I never wished that to begin with.

It all began when Savannah found out she’s pregnant. After having a few miscarriages doctors had deemed her too frail to go down that road again. So even though she ardently wanted her own children, she and Jeremy had decided it was for the best that they let go of that dream. They’d already adopted Melinda, who is also Clarissa’s half-sister (though later found that she’s her niece - another convoluted story I’m not going into but another reason why you should read the series). She needed a home and Jeremy-Savannah gave her one. A loving one at that. Clarissa would’ve taken her in anyway but Savannah had already lost a little girl from her first marriage and she needed this stability. Melinda filled in the gaps of their lives and they’d been happy. Even when trouble reared its nasty head, they’d been strong as a family. I’d hoped that was all they needed to be together as a family. But oh lord, that was not to be...

Savannah, Jeremy and Melinda traveled to Boston so she could have better doctors looking after her; for a better chance of survival of her and her baby. They were already under a huge pressure, worried and scared. They didn’t need this too! When they all gathered by that sea-side house for family vacation, no one knew what was waiting for them... A damning illness was already spreading around Boston of 1918 at the same time.

I’ve known that Banished Saga is almost at an end for a while now. There’s maybe another book in this series before it closes its chapters. Even knowing that, Abiding Love felt like farewell to me, mostly because of how tragedies overshadowed everything in this story. It was so overwhelming for me that I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Yes, I grieved the passing of two of my beloved characters; something I NEVER saw coming. It caught me so horribly off-guard that for 2 straight days I had the urge to cry. Simply grieve their passing. My letter to Savannah is something that came to me right after I finished the book. I wasn’t sure if to include it in my review because it’s something I’ve never done in a review before. But, in the end, the letter simply won’t leave my mind. I feel like I’ve lost a friend... sh!t, I’m getting teary-eyed as I even write this review.

I don’t know if whatever I wrote in this review even makes any sense because I wasn’t really thinking clearly. Also because, initially, I thought there’s no way I can do a review of this book. It seemed like a challenge to let it all out, but at the same time I didn’t want it to be a rant filled review. I’m sure Ramona did what she thought was the best for her plotline, though I’ll always wonder why Savannah needed to go as well. :'( I felt the same kind of sadness when her little daughter died a few installments back. She was like a ray of light for Savannah’s battered soul, then taken away too soon, lost to another illness. Now this?

Jeremy is now all alone. And he now has a little baby to look after, a little reminder of Savannah; their son Breandon. I don’t know how the Saga will end leaving him lonely and miserable. That’s simply NOT done. I can only hope the next installment, if it’s the final one, gives me something to look forward to because there’s no one in this world needs an HEA more than him. Though September 2019 seems quite a bit far away, I’ll continue to hope and pray for him. 4.5 stars.

Review copy received, thanks Ramona! :)