Of the seven daughters born to Samuel Bradley, gentleman of the Chesapeake, Catherine Page was a rebel who tried the patience of Duncan MacDougall who worked for her father. But even he could not foresee that the bored 18 year old, wanting to spend her birthday money for some new frippery, would stow away on the small sloop Duncan sailed across the Bay to Annapolis to pick up her father’s Madeira.
Once there, she managed to get into further trouble when she rescued a British gentleman from a local mob of men who wanted to hang him as a spy. MacDougall was none too pleased to be sailing early just to get the man and his servant to safety, especially when, as a result, they ran right into a British warship. Taken aboard the English frigate, Page learns that the British gentleman she rescued is Jocelyn Trevor, Viscount Hazard of London.
Lord Hazard claimed to be in America to visit his sister though Page questions that. (He was an officer on Wellington’s staff, and it seemed odd that he’d be allowed to leave the Spanish front for family business.) In fact, he is the spy the men in Annapolis accused him of being, though Page doesn’t know it. But since Page and MacDougall end up on a British warship because of him, Hazard vows he will see her safely back to her father.
This story reminded me of the statement of Bilbo in Lord of the Rings when he says to his nephew, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Having stepped out of her door, Page is swept away to one adventure after another as she gets caught up in the War of 1812 and the life of one particularly demanding British lord.
Speas allows us to see the conflicting emotions of those on both sides of the War of 1812 as Hazard is shamed by the British atrocities at Hampton, and Page experiences gracious treatment at the hands of the British officers when aboard their ships. Though there were several reasons America declared war on Britain, Speas deals specifically with the impressment of merchant sailors, who considered themselves Americans, into the Royal Navy. We also get to witness America’s clever privateers at work with the character Mason. I love that Speas incorporates her extensive research of the history into this endearing and charming love story. It’s a bit lighter than her others but still very enjoyable!
I have featured the older cover because I love it and believe it represents more accurately the story and the characters but here's the newer one should you want to see it: