This is a reissue of a Brenda Joyce book first published in 1989, but unlike many reissues Violet Fire doesn't feel dated.
This book revisits the Bragg family, this time featuring Rathe Bragg, youngest son of Derek and Miranda and
a rich rake. Rathe's life consistse of playing cards, seducing women and traveling the world. When a suffragette bursts into a party he is attending to make a speech, he's amused rather than appalled like everyone else at the party, but he thinks little of it. When he meets the same woman two years later, however, he finds that he has fallen under her spell, and he wants her for his mistress.
Grace O'Rourke is the daughter of two radical people
who believes firmly in the rights of negroes and of women. When she takes up a new post as a governess in a Southern town, she discovers very quickly that the local white people have not taken on board the ideas of human rights held by those from the
North. She and her schoolteacher friend, Allen, find themselves under attack, and Grace's work is made exceptionally difficult. When she realizes that Rathe is also pursuing her, she finds herself both attracted to him and repelled by his presumed political views.
Grace and Rathe's relationship here is alternate arguing and making up, yet somehow it doesn't get annoying or wearing
- perhaps because both characters are so feisty. The initial attraction to Grace appears to be entirely
based on her appearance, but Rathe soon discovers that she's intelligent and passionate about justice, and also that he has to keep her from running into dangerous situations, rescuing her with regularity. Rathe's rather aimless life seems to be given a boost by Grace's actions.
Some of the Bragg books have been a disappointment, but Violet Fire is enjoyable if rather thin on plot. The setting in the
1870's South is interesting, as are the reminders of situations that former slaves had to cope with. The central love story
is more of a lust story initially, but Joyce writes of two people realizing that they need and complement
each other in a convincing way. Rathe is occasionally rather unheroic in his actions, trying to seduce a lady and not really taking care to protect her good name, but it
is an overall pleasant read.