Mary Jo Putney is quite the name in period romance (I knew who she was years before I ever read romances), but I confess her books never truly wowed me - they were all very solid, very well-written but somehow without that magic spark - they lacked that extra something that made me really really care.
Well, that dry spell is over because I am now reading Shattered Rainbows and it's passionate hardcore love I have never even come close to feeling for a MJP book.
More than half of it is set right before, during, and after Waterloo, and is unspoken, unacted-on romance between an English officer and the wife of another officer at whose house he is billeted at and IT IS MAKING ME DIE.
Michael is the quietly competent Colonel who had fought in the Peninsular Wars, had sold out since, but comes back to rejoin the army once Napoleon escapes. He doesn't have a deathwish or anything, but he has a deep sense of honor, a strong feeling of needing expiate for his past (an affair with a wife of a close friend years ago that ended badly), and a feeling of comradeship with his men as well as a certain attraction to how alive he feels in battle. And he has a huge weakness for beautiful women who he has a tendency to put on an angelic pedestal, which he knows of as a weakness and fights.
Catherine is the gorgeous, superemely competent (yes, both hero and heroine are super-competent, I love!) wife of an officer who follows the drum with their almost-teenage daughter. She was a daughter of an officer, married another officer at 16, and army life is all she knows. She is superb at arranging lodgings, nursing, making order out of chaos etc. She and her husband have a marriage in name only - he loves to sleep with anything in skirts and she is fine with it as she finds notion of bodily intimacy utterly repellent. But they are not unhappy together as the arrangement is satisfactory to both.
And then Michael is billeted with Catherine and her household in the days leading to Waterloo.
And !!!!!! I have no words how much I ship them and how much I love their relationship, where neither makes a move or speaks of their attraction (he fights it because he knows his tendency to have rationality desert him in the face of beauty and because he will never do anything with a married woman; and she fights it because she is loyal to her odd marriage, and she thinks he deserves a woman who would want a real relationship, physical side included.) But their love for each other is palpable desite being unspoken and unacted on and just - they are so freaking perfect together and they long for each other so much, and are both such amazing people, and there are all these descriptions of army life and the battle and her saving his life after he is wounded and just - guuuuuuuuuh!!! I DIE!
The second half of the book that I haven't gotten to yet apparently involves some plot where she asks him to pretend to be her husband while concealing from him that her actual husband had since died (don't ask, I promise it makes sense) and I can just imagine the angst and longing and all that, but for now I am wallowing in Waterloo goodness.
Putney has finally made a believer out of me!