Cynthia Wright is one of my most favorite historical romance writers, so when I saw she was writing a new series with a connection to the Raveneaus I was excited and have been eagerly anticipating its debut ever since. The main thing that sets this author's novels apart is her careful attention to historical detail and the enormous amount of research she does to be able to write in such a manner. Besides being an avid romance reader, I am also a history buff. I enjoy reading her novels that much more because of the meticulously crafted and vividly detailed settings, characters, and dialogue that she creates. It adds a whole other layer of realism and depth to her tales. Every time I read one I learn something new that fascinates me and I want to research further. These are most definately not your grandma's dime store novels.
But don't misunderstand me. Smuggler's Moon is not a dry history book like you had to read for your freshman world history class. It is a beautiful romance full of adventure, intrigue, humor, and a very healthy dose of steam.
The narrator of this story is fantastic. I don't know how one woman can slip so effortlessly between difference character's voices and dialects, but she does. Sometimes when a female attempts to affect a male tone it comes off sounding...well, rather odd. She does it with ease. And she doesn't just read the story, she PERFORMS it. Bravo to both author and narrator for weaving such an intricate tale.
The story opens in Bath as a retired bookseller's family is enjoying life on their newly inherited country estate. After years of pinching pennies and taking care of her eccentric family, Julia Faircloth is finally enjoying life. The only shadow over her days is her father's growing addiction to gambling. Stumbling upon his latest marker, Julia storms off to visit the odious man that would seem to be next in line to prey on her father's condition.
Instead of finding a slimy card sharp well past his prime, Julia stumbles in the front door of Sebastian Trevarre's home to be greeted by a dangerous yet devastatingly handsome young lord. She wants (and needs) to think of him as the revolting Lord Satan, the evil man who would take yet another slice of her father's quickly dwindling fortune, but to her dismay he brings about rather the opposite reaction from her traitorous body instead.
Lord Sebastian, recently an officer in the Royal Navy, returned home to find his brother had lost most of the family fortune at the gaming tables in Bath. In hopes of recovering some of the losses, he frequents the clubs to find those who took advantage of his brother. When the beautiful yet bossy Julia stormed into his house demanding release from the marker clutched in her delicate hand he refused because after all, no one had afforded his brother that courtesy. If he has any hope of recovering his property and retiring to the estate to breed horses, he needs every pound he can get--regardless of the cost to others.
As circumstances change, Julia's mother sees Lord Sebastian as the key to solving their financial problems and betroths the youngest Faircloth daughter to the rogue. More and more Julia is convinced that Sebastian is indeed very much Lord Satan, she is determined to save her naïve sister from a fate worse than death (having to consummate a marriage with that beast of a man). The only answer is to switches places and sacrifice herself to him instead.
As the story progresses and the deception is revealed, you can just imagine Sebastian's fury. They tricked him! But maybe marrying the fiesty, meddling Julia instead of her quiet, obedient sister is what he really longed for in the first place. If he can just keep the keen young woman that was now living with him at his Cornwall estate from figuring out his secret plans to recover his fortunate through reckless and illegal means, things just might be ok.
The secondary characters in this book are just as wonderful as the hero and heroine. You'll not come across many families more eccentric than Julia's and Sebastian has an estate full of useless servants that provide perpetual comic relief. I also fell in love with Sebastian's friend and neighbor, Tristan, a hero himself and likely to be featured later in the series.
Of course, the best part for me was the appearance of Andre and Devon Raveneau (the couple from SILVER STORM) in this novel. Andre Raveneau is dangerously delicious and my all-time favorite romance heros. This extra glimpse into his life as he is comfortably settled with his true love Devon is just icing on the cake. And to make things more interesting, there's a deep connection between Sebastian and his childhood idol Raveneau. Add in a mysterious eye ring and a dash of intrigue and you have another great read that will keep readers up late at night turning pages.
1798 Cornwall is almost a character itself given the depth of the author's descriptions. A reader feels completely immersed in the days where smuggling was a necessary means of survival for entire towns and finishes the book feeling as if they've traveled there without ever leaving the couch. I can't recommend this new novel---as well as all of the others written by Cynthia Wright--enough. It is definitely a 5-star read that will stay on the keeper shelf!