Book Review – Breaking Ties


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Rose Payne’s world is left in tatters after a disastrous betrothal, making her an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Using every cent she has, Rose sails for the New World and a fresh start, vowing to never again fall for a wealthy man.

Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, Chief Manteo is bewitched by the fiery-haired ship’s clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one that forces her, honor bound, to serve as a slave to his tribe – a plan he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in Breaking Ties.


I was so excited to get this one on my Kindle! The Roanoke Colony Mystery has always fascinated me and when I saw there was an historical romance book involving it, I was very pleased to purchase it.

Breaking Ties, by Jo Grafford, is written in the first person. For a novel involving mystery and shipboard politics and an inscrutable hero, this is not a bad perspective – it just doesn’t happen to be my favorite.

Still, after a bit of a confusing start (Our Heroine has a bit of a backstory that remains a mystery for a while), I fell right into the ocean and was tense and seasick by turns (In a good way) as Rose, Our Heroine, took on her clerking duties aboard ship.

What? A woman is working in business in the 1580’s? Why yes, yes she is. As unlikely as it might seem to us, Grafford made it work through the good offices of Eleanor Dare (mother of the famous Virginia Dare, who was the first English baby born in the New World) and the bamboozlement of the colony leaders who hired R. Payne on as clerk. She has a head of flaming red hair, outstanding aim when throwing a knife, and a very weak stomach. She attracts attention from some of the men aboard ship.

Including the attention of the Native American (Indian) diplomat: Manteo. Our Hero.

Here is the biggest draw for me. Jo Grafford portrays Manteo as highly intelligent, crafty, and passionate. His regard for Rose is obvious from the start, his pursuit of her daring but not indecent, which was appropriate for the times. I wanted more Manteo pretty much from the get-go.

The book is more than just a romance, however. Grafford posits reasons for the disaster of the Roanoke Colony and brings up the Spanish issue, spies, and the desire for gain that many in England had in terms of New World ventures. Secrets come out about Rose’s brother, about the captain of their ship, and even about Manteo himself.

The hardships of shipboard life are well presented without, pardon the expression, going overboard with them. The needs of the colony once they reach their new home are shared but, again, without too many grisly details. Still, the tension is constant.

About the romance, I have to be cautious. This is a story with a romance, but it really doesn’t feel like “an historical romance” since the love relationship is a side-issue to the story, not part of the main event. Not really. Though we do see how Manteo’s feelings for Rose might certainly influence some of his decisions, they are not necessarily the only reason for his assistance with the colony.

There are some lovely moments like this one:

He scowled. “I did not stop to ponder the matter when you fell overboard.”

“And ye regret it now,” I said bitterly.

The scowl deepened.

A wave of exhaustion shook me. Manteo muttered an oath and caught me when my knees buckled. He lowered me to the ground. Settling against a tree, he drew Tomas and me against his chest. I sank into the warmth and strength of him. The even cadence of his heartbeat performed instant sorcery on my tired limbs. I tried to keep my eyes open and failed. Perhaps I dreamt his next words.

“Nay. I do not regret it.”

I very much wanted to continue the conversation, but already I was drifting into sleep. I turned my face against his chest. He whispered something into my hair, drawing me closer. ‘Twas the last thing I remembered.

Now, I have said I like this book, and so I do. But, there were anachronisms within it that completely threw me out of the story. I found that highly distracting. One of the most glaring is this one:

“A nanny, an apothecary’s assistant, and a clerk you may be, but Shakespeare himself could not write a script with any more layers of intrigue.”

“Alas, there is no curtain and no stage,” I murmured. “And we are the players.”

Shakespeare, though alive in the 1580’s, did not start producing plays until the 1590’s, so he would hardly have been known as a playwright by all and sundry in the time this novel takes place.  Grafford also mentions devices that weren’t invented until the next century, expressions that are not known to have been used in England until the next century or so, and so on.

Overall, though, a gripping read that I recommend to anyone who is interested in the intrigues involved in colony-planting in the New World.

Author Bio:


Click here to go to Jo Grafford’s website.

Jo Grafford is from St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author at Astraea Press, Jo writes historical fiction to spotlight unsung heroes and unsolved mysteries. She published her first poem in junior high, edited her high school newspaper while typesetting for a local news journal, and has been writing ever since.  She holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, a junior college finance instructor, and a high school business teacher. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter.  The mother of three children and the wife of a soldier, she serves as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.

You can find Jo Grafford here:



Twitter @jografford

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

One comment

  1. WyndyDee · November 13, 2013

    Reblogged this on Wyndy Dee.

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