Though no date is given, since England is at war with France and President Jefferson’s Embargo Act is referenced, I believe the story is set during 1807-08 at the dawn of the Regency era. It begins on a British naval vessel (a 3-masted sailing ship) on its way to Australia, transporting a famous prisoner—American privateer, Justin Phillips—as well as civilian passengers, including shy, 17-year old Christina Marks, in mourning for her father’s death and going to live with her uncle.
From the first time they meet, Justin and Christina share a love for books and ideas but are terribly different personalities. Were it not for the unusual circumstances in which the shy, unselfish girl speaks through a small window to a prisoner she can’t see, they never would have formed the bond they did. Though Justin, a successful privateer and man of the world, thought the timid young woman who brought him books, food and conversation was probably a plain girl (all he could see were her feet), she was nevertheless “a most sympathetic and sweet young lady.” And when, in the course of his crew’s rescuing him, he first sees her, her beauty leaves him speechless.
Horsman has brilliantly crafted a heroine who will win your heart from the first page. She is winsome, loving and incredibly unselfish. Christina has led a very sheltered life as the daughter of a vicar and is totally unprepared for a hardened man like Justin. To him, her kindness is a soothing balm. But his rough ways and harsh judgments are often too much for Christina. Despite that, the two fall quickly and desperately in love.
This is a love story of misunderstandings and second, even third chances as Justin struggles to accept the purity of Christina’s love, a love he has sought since childhood.
There is love on the high seas, a monsoon, a shipwreck, a tropical island and life in colonial America—and a wonderful crew of men and even a sweet, loyal St. Bernard dog, “Beau,” whose thoughts we occasionally hear.
Horsman’s historical romances are wonderful, well-written tales of passion and love that are on my keeper shelf. And this one is a story to read and re-read. I highly recommend it!
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