Love’s First Flames is a novella prequel to the Banished Saga.
When a fire irrevocably changes the lives of the three McLeod brothers, Gabriel, Richard and Jeremy learn to depend on each other in their harsh new reality.
To thrive in prosperous, dynamic Boston of the late 1800’s, the McLeod brothers forge a bond created from loss, loyalty and shared hardship. Led by elder brother Gabriel, the three brothers battle wits against class conscious, exploitive relatives, working together to maintain a sense of family.
To their dream of a better future, Gabriel worries that Richard’s interest in fellow orphan Florence Butler will only lead to heartache. Will Richard be able to secure Florence’s love? Will the brothers maintain their loyalty to each other? Or will they be torn apart?
***** Review *****
I liked this short prequel, and I also didn’t like it.
What I liked:
- The McLeod brothers all together again (at a younger age)
- A couple of loving influences for the McLeod brothers during their dark days with the Mastersons
- Richard meets the sweet Florence Butler and kind of courts her
- Florence has a motherly-type figure in her boss
- Gabriel and Richard stand up for what their parents have taught them
- Gabriel stays strong and provides for his brothers like a good man
I didn’t like, as we’re not supposed to, Aunt Masterson.
At first, she’s just a woman. A very nice-looking woman.
Gabriel shrugged his shoulders as a thin woman stepped out, wearing a shimmering blue dress that almost appeared black. She pulled a slate-colored wool coat more firmly around her as she exited the carriage. She wore black gloves and a black hat with a veil pinned back.
Her harsh features were drawn into a moue of disgust as she glanced around the street, and she raised a square of white linen to her nose as she dodged horse droppings and approached Mrs. McClowski’s door.
Aunt Masterson is evil. She collects the McLeods and takes them into her house, but it is surely not for want. It is simply to keep up appearances. What would it look like to the genteel society if she didn’t take in her sister’s own children?
“My sister had the misfortune to marry a worthless man, and these are her children. A cautionary tale.”
The longer the boys stay, the more abuse they must take at the hands of their family. The cousins are snooty brats. They are seen as burdens and even lesser than the servants. In fact, Aunt Masterson refers to them – directly – as cretins. She slowly loses it over the course of the novella with each passing antic.
She is evil in its purest form. It is so hard to think that people actually applauded and supported Aunt Masterson in her words, actions, deeds and schemes. How much more does the woman have to prove that she’s the devil incarnate? It’s like society – ahem, snobby ladies in particular, I’m talking to you – is completely blinded. She could be standing on a pedastool, revealing her next hateful scheme and they all applaud her for it.
One of my favorite parts of Love’s First Flames was actually Richard, the middle brother, when he stood up to Aunt Masterson with the very fiber of who he was:
“Our da said respect was earned,” Ricahrd said, inserting himeself between Gabriel and his cousinss even though he was at least three inches shorter than any of them. “Not given just because you wear some fancy suit that makes you look uglier than a wart on a baboon’s bottom.”
Followed by a much more simpler response from Gabriel:
She pinned him with her most severe glare. “You will learn to respect me, Gabriel.”
“Respect is earned, Aunt, and you’ve done nothing to earn it.”
I also loved how smoothly Richard’s courtship of Florence began, but sometime between the end of the prequel and Banished Love, something goes terribly, terribly wrong. I thought that might be covered in the prequel so as not to leave any gaps in the storyline, but I suppose that’s something that is going to be left alone.
***** About the Author *****
Ramona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.
She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.
An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.
Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart.
Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family.
Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.