Review by Sheila R. Lamb
Originally published in 1961, Jan Cox Speas’ popular romance My Love, My Enemy will be re-released in February, 2011 as part of Casablanca Classics by Sourcebooks.
During the War of 1812, precocious Page Bradley steals away on her family’s sloop for a clandestine shopping trip. She’s determined to buy herself a birthday present, while her father’s servant, MacDougall keeps his eye out for British ships as they make the short sailing trip up the Chesapeake Bay, from the Bradley plantation to Annapolis.
Page, carefree and careless, meets a handsome gentleman – by running into his horse while crossing the street (she didn’t look both ways). Soon after her blunder, she finds the same gentleman surrounded by a mob determine to hang him for being a British spy. Impulsively, she rescues the would-be spy; persuading the mob to let him, and his manservant Farley, go. Jocelyn “Joss” Trevor, Lord Hazard is grateful for the odd rescue and pledges to see Page and MacDougall safely home. Unfortunately, his plan falls short when the sloop runs afoul of a British ship, the Falcon, and the quartet are taken into British custody.
Between ships, sloops, and various countries, the attraction between Page and Hazard grows. True to his time period, Hazard follows a gentleman’s code of conduct and Page would expect nothing less. Dialogue between them is witty and precise.
“‘This is a dark dreary place and I have had quite enough of it,’ ” states Page to Lord Hazard as she is forced to remain in the warship’s cabin.
“‘You will do as you are told,’ ” replies Hazard.
The battle of wills begins as Page finds she is torn between loyalty to her country during wartime and her growing love for an Englishman. Tensions mount when she discovers a truth that he would have preferred stayed hidden.
As Page travels to Bermuda, France, Spain, and England, the reader is drawn into the historical events that surround her. Naval warfare between the British and the Americans is exquisitely described, vividly setting the scene of cannon fire and grapeshot on the quarterdeck of a 19th century ship. Page has a civilian’s view of the burning of Washington. Speas also spares no expense illustrating Lord Hazards’ dealing with Bonaparte, Wellington and the Peninsular Wars.
My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas is destined to invite a new generation of readers to a classic historical romance.