I haven’t read many stories about those who were transported for crime to a penal colony so I was especially interested in giving this story a try.
The story opens with Lady Thea plotting to extricate herself from the obligation of marrying to please her family. She has read Mary Wollenscraft so desires to make something of herself as an independent woman. Unfortunately, she is given no choice, but to conform to the norm for girls her age. But that doesn’t mean she can’t think of a way to make herself unmarriageable material.
James Hunter has not only survived, but thrived during his time in Australia where he served his time as a convict for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he is back in England, a rich man, and ready to claim what is owed to him. He made the deal with the Earl to take the fall for his son in exchange for some money, but also for his daughter as his bride. James wants to be a part of the upper level of society in Australia, but he needs a noble wife to give him that bit of extra for standing. It will be a marriage of convenience, but he can afford to be kind to a girl who had nothing to do with the past circumstances.
Thea is appalled by the deal her father made and even while she readies to accept her fate she is also scheming to find a way out of it. But after spending time with James, she is now not so certain of what she really wants.
The plot of this was kept moving right along and had a lighter tone considering the subject matter. This was not surprising since this is a shorter piece and had to get to the point fast. I like the basic premise of this story, but I just couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to do. I wanted to see the part dealing with the brother and father’s weakness addressed, but it was pushed aside and not addressed directly. Later when something happens to the brother, I didn’t feel anything other than speculation about what that would mean for James because her brother’s issues are merely a plot device- or so it seemed. The big reason though is that I wasn’t really fond of Thea. There were a couple of scenes where she was just so blindingly selfish or willfully naive (which is hard to believe because she was educated and read the forward thinkers of her day. She tried to use a stable boy to make herself tarnished goods. The poor guy was just going about his business and she hauled off and kissed him. She lied to the headgroom that the boy came on to her. She knew the consequences for what she did. He would possibly lose his place and he would certainly be punished, but that was okay if it got her out of marriage. That wasn’t quite how things panned out because at the last minute when the guy is set to get a whipping she finally comes clean, but she didn’t think about him when she set up that scheme. I found the attraction between Thea and James a good thing though I had trouble with how fast she went from determined spinster to a wanton who wanted to experience the physical stuff. Because of his origins, James would be the one man she could marry and still retain some of that independence to pursue her goals. That being said, there wasn’t much of an emotional connection for me with Thea until the end when she grew up and smartened up. Now the end was really good I thought and particularly that scene on the pier. It made me want to know more of their story.
In the end, I was glad to have read the story and would recommend it to those who enjoy steamy historical romance, but require a shorter length story.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing my review copy of the book.