I first read this book several years back, and was blown away by it. It reminded me very much of a Judith McNaught book, in the wide-eyed innocence of the heroine and the jaded hero just waiting for the one who can "see" him as he really is. First published in 1995, it was Ranney's first published book.
I love Laura's optimistic view, and once Alex lets down his defenses, he's just wonderful. I love them together. There was sort of an innocent, awakening type of love they shared.
I hated that he didn't have the nerve to say goodbye to her in person when he left for the war. And that Laura didn't want to let him know she was pregnant before he left, trying to lessen his burdens. In typical romance "big misunderstanding" fashion, when Alex returns, he takes the evil stepmother's word for Laura's infidelity and betrayal, never stopping to think about who was giving him the information.
For Laura's part, I thought her journey into and out of her deep grief was very well done, and fairly realistic, especially for the time. I can't imagine losing my husband and child all in one day. Some of the scenes written about Laura's grief made my heart hurt.
The extra touches, like using William Pitt himself as Alex's superior, makes it more plausible that he would go off again to a war that left him disfigured and miserable.
This book is definitely written in an early-mid 90's fashion, with descriptive prose and a grand, sweeping, epic-type feel. I adore Ranney's early works - this and the Highland Lords series are absolutely fantastic.
I will say that I enjoyed it just a little less this time, simply because my tastes have evolved slightly. I likely won't reread this again for a long time for the same reason I'm afraid to reread McNaught. I don't want my changing tastes to overshadow the memories of how much I love the book.
If you're a Ranney and a McNaught (historical) fan, you'll likely really enjoy this book. If you're more jaded, maybe not so much.