Once a Soldier
by Mary Jo Putney GENRE: Historical Romance
As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.
Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.
Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel’s enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they'd dared imagine...
She stared at him, feeling as if time had stopped. She was sharply aware of the sweeping valley and mild breeze, the sunshine warming them both, his tanned complexion.
The bleak impossibility of what he was saying. “Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding, but are you actually proposing courtship?”
“Indeed I am. A courtship of two wary but wise adults.” He hesitated before continuing, “It’s possible I am too old and jaded to ever be fit for marriage again.”
“You’re not that old,” she said firmly.
He smiled a little. “Perhaps not. But I have seen too much of the world and made too many mistakes.”
“I often feel the same,” she said. “Perhaps that is why I interest you?”
“Very likely. I have trouble imagining myself making conversation with the typical well-bred young lady back in England.”
“No more than I could converse with an English country gentleman, the sort who cherishes delicate females,” she said wryly. “Which is one of several reasons I’ve sworn never to marry.”
“‘Never’ is a very long time. We change with age. Things that seemed implausible can come to seem desirable.”
“True in theory, but I’m settling happily into eccentric spinsterhood,” she retorted. “I doubt I’d change my mind.”
“But you do concede the possibility of changing your mind.” He smiled. “I can work with that.”
She couldn’t resist smiling back. “You’re very persistent, Will. But you haven’t much time to change my mind.”
“True,” he said thoughtfully. “Are you willing to experiment? My brother’s wife is full of interesting thoughts and theories. She said that courting couples meet under such artificial circumstances and see so little of each other that it’s far too easy to choose one’s life partner very badly.”
Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 60 novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed. Visit her at maryjoputney.com.