SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Passion’s Treasure (later republished and retitled as Just Say Yes), a standalone from March 1989 by Betina Krahn.
The book begins in the town of Culpepper, Maryland Colony, 1748. We meet Treasure Barrett, one of 10 children born to Aniss and Buck Barrett. Treasure is an intelligent, precocious child, and the townspeople are encouraged to allow those qualities free rein. As the book begins, Treasure, age 9, learns about “sport”.
Fast forward nearly 9 years. A sad pall has come over Culpepper. The town’s most prominent citizen, Squire Darcy Renville, has passed away. His estranged son, Sterling Renville, the hero of the book, arrives from England and demands that the villagers-who are all in hock to Squire Darcy in one way or another-pay back their debts or he will seize their property and make them all homeless. He will then return to his home in England. The town turns to Treasure, the town thinker, now nearly 18, and the heroine, for help.
Treasure comes up with a plan to get under Sterling’s skin and make his time in Culpepper miserable. The plan succeeds quite well. There is an unplanned side effect; he becomes interested in her, and she in him. Shocked and dismayed to discover their “thinker” is a woman like any other, the townspeople scheme to get Treasure and Sterling married.
The marriage takes place, and the wedding night is great, but the next morning isn’t, as Sterling discovers he’s been tricked into the marriage. (He erroneously blames Treasure). He wants an annulment, but since their marriage was consummated, that won’t happen. Sterling then takes Treasure away from Culpepper, taking her to England with him. On the trip and during their time in England, Treasure and Sterling’s relationship takes on its primary form: when they are making love, they are connected; when they’re not, there is a canyon between them, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
When they arrive in England, Treasure and Sterling’s marriage continues down its rocky road. However, once Sterling realizes she loves him and he her, their relationship improves. He starts working on accepting her for who she is. There is also a “B” storyline involving members of Sterling’s family, his best friend, and a business deal he is involved in which reaches the highest levels of the British government.
In the end, Treasure and Sterling return to the colonies, have five children in the next 10 years, and enjoy their Happily Ever After.
In my reading experience-which encompasses many years and thousands of books-it is very rare to see a romance novel where the heroine’s beauty is somewhat de-emphasized (although Treasure certainly checks off the romance novel heroine boxes for beauty) and her capabilities are emphasized. Treasure’s skills and knowledge as a thinker are the primary focus of the first half of the book. She is a smart, delightful character who is well-written.
I didn’t like Sterling overall, but it’s more complicated than it sounds.
During the first ⅔rd’s of the book, Sterling is an obnoxious bastard. He is arrogant, condescending, egotistical, and elitist. He views the citizens of Culpepper as “colonial bumpkins”. Sterling calls Treasure “that colonial chit” and is shocked–shocked I tell you!–to discover that she won’t just willingly lie down and spread her legs for him. Doesn’t she know who he is?!
In the last 3rd of “Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes”, Ms. Krahn informs readers of why Sterling acts the way he does. Without giving too much away, it has to do with his relationship with his father, the pressures of his life, and his personal value system. Knowing these things, however, does not excuse or justify his bad behavior. When Sterling realizes he loves Treasure and she loves him, he makes efforts to change his actions. These efforts are somewhat successful.
Multiple love scenes in the book, but none reach any particular level of heat or romanticism.
A person Treasure believes to be a friend tries to rape her; Sterling prevents the attack from taking place. Sterling is also involved in two fistfights. The violence is not graphic.
Does one-third of good behavior override two-thirds of bad behavior? That is an individual decision for those who read this book. For me, it doesn’t completely. I vacillated a bit on a rating for Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes. Sometimes, I had it as a 2-star book, other times a 4-star book. In the end, using a 1-10 scale, I would give Passion’s Treasure/Just Say Yes a 6, and using a 1-5 star scale, a solid 3 stars.