Opening-Line Mini-Review: Anne Gracie’s GALLANT WAIF

Gallant_Waif“No, no, Papa. I won’t. You cannot make me.”

Anne Gracie’s 1999 Gallant Waif opens with Julia Davenport’s rejection of hero Jack Carstairs as she pleads with her father to release her from their engagement. Jack returned from the Peninsular War scarred and disabled. Julia could live with his disfigurement and inability to trip the light fantastic, but his poverty is unforgivable. And so, disowned by his father, barred from war’s arena, and spurned by his fiancée, months later Jack still broods and drinks in his neglected estate like a big, handsome male version of Miss Havisham. Until Lady Cahill, his irascible, adorably officious grandmother, befriends Kate Farleigh, her deceased god-daughter’s daughter, and deposits her in his household, ostensibly as his housekeeper. Jack and Kate were wounded by the war. She followed the drum to care for her pastor-father and soldier-brothers until they died and, to her shame, was then captured and became a French officer’s mistress. Jack and Kate share a deep shame for their war experiences and cannot separate what happened to them from what they perceive their failures and shortcomings.

Miss Bates loved every moment of Gracie’s delightful “gallant waif” and brooding gentle giant. Gallant Waif is one of the most energetic romance novels Miss Bates has ever read and it’s largely due to Kate’s irrepressible effervescence. As Miss Bates tweeted to a Twitter friend, Gallant Waif is all of the Old Skool, none of the, ahem, excuse her language, bullshit. No rape, no “forced” seduction. A few passionate kisses sexier and more interesting than the reams of sex scenes found in many romances. Gracie’s novel reminded her of old school romance with feisty heroines who bounce back from adversity like ebullient kittens, heroes who are honourable, vulnerable, strong, and worthy.

Kate Farleigh is poor, orphaned, and ostracized, but she walks into the lion’s lair that is the surly, scowling Jack’s rundown estate and brings order, peace, and beauty where there were none. She wrestles dust bunnies, brews sublime coffee, and throws coffee pots at Jack’s head. In one magnificent scene, in a rage, she smashes all his liquor. Kate is a wonderful combination of goodness and spitting temper. She coaxes and bullies Jack out of his funk. Jack is a flabbergasted, stammering, gaping marshmallow. He grunts, rails, seethes, and fumes against Kate’s ministrations. He also comes alive, gains strength in his leg and puts a song in his heart. He is vexed when Kate won’t let him care for, or protect her. Miss Bates’ pleasure in Gallant Waif lay in characters who are larger-than-life, who are good and admirable. No, they’re not nuanced, complex, or angst-ridden. There are readers who might say they’re hyperbolic. Miss Bates *shrugs*: too often, in trying to prove its “seriousness,” the romance genre, like Hamlet, loses all its mirth. If you’re looking to recover yours, read Gallant Waif. Miss Bates is eternally grateful to MBRR’s commentator, Kathy, for a copy. She’s happy to let her readers know that Gallant Waif is available digitally after years of languishing in publishing limbo and romance readers’ yearning hearts.

18 thoughts on “Opening-Line Mini-Review: Anne Gracie’s GALLANT WAIF

  1. If I remember correctly, this was a tear jerker for me, a most enjoyable one. Or maybe I’m thinking of “Tallie’s Knight” another of her old books that’s been out of print for a long time. I need to dig it out and reread it. Anyway, I love Anne Gracie, I’ve read everything she’s written, not a dud in the bunch. “The Perfect Rake” is sublimely funny and touching. “His Captive Lady” made me feel all the feelings, I know I wept buckets reading that one. But it’s the tragic situations of the characters that make you sad in her books, not the relationship between the H&h, who rarely lose faith with each other or have misunderstandings. So there’s heartbreak, but little angst, if that makes sense.


    1. Yes, that makes perfect sense: Kate and Jack have had a hard time of it, and Jack is certainly feeling low and blue and sad. He’s lost all confidence and feels he’s of no use. But Kate, no matter how sad, has a great capacity to make herself useful. She never has a moment of self-pity, no matter the harsh hand she’s been dealt. And there is suffering, but what distinguishes Gracie’s Kate and Jack is that the hope and love is always at the fore and the suffering is borne but not the focus. If THAT makes any sense … 😉

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  2. I did a little joyous jig all around the house after I read your mini-review. So very happy you liked Gallant Waif! 🙂

    “old school romance with feisty heroines who bounce back from adversity like ebullient kittens” Love this and I really want the T-shirt! 😉

    I loved Gallant Waif, especially the liquor-smashing scene but also that scene toward the end when the whispers and gossip begin, but Jack and the soldiers have her back showing everyone how cowardly the “gabble-mongers” really are.


    1. XD That would make a great t-shirt, wouldn’t it?! It was like a cool glass of bubbly, this novel! And I’m so glad I could say that it’s available to readers again. Both of those are such great scenes. I also really liked Carlos and the coffee-pot throwing! It was a novel of heroine vindication when the gossip and nasties began. Thank you so much!


  3. This is buried in the confines of my Harlequin Historical TBR (let’s not talk about how long it’s been there – oy!) This was a hyped book back in the day (2001) and I remember a lot of chatter about it on various message boards and listservs back then. I took a stroll down memory lane – yep, AAR gave it an A and the now-defunct TRR gave it 5-Hearts.


    1. It IS dated somehow. The heroine is too feisty and kinda of super-human in her goodness and cheer. The hero is largely-than-life. But it is one of the most endearing romances I’ve read in ages.


  4. Thank you, Miss Bates, for digging out my very first book and giving it a lovely walk in the sunshine. Much appreciated. And I want that t-shirt, too 🙂


    1. How delightful! I didn’t know it was your first. It’s wonderful. And I’m so glad it’s available digitally. I’ve yearned for it, and Tallie’s Knight, for years! May you write many more! 🙂


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