ALMOST A SCANDAL - Elizabeth Essex
Reckless Brides , Book 1
St. Martin's Paperbacks
English Channel, 1805
Richard Kent comes from a long line of seafaring men. His father and both his older brothers are captains in the Royal Navy, but he wants none of it. Indeed, he wants to become a clergyman. When he deserts his duty, running away before he even sets foot aboard the HMS Audacious, his sister Sally impetuously steps into her fifteen-year old brother's clothes and his name and joins the ship. This is to uphold family honor, you understand, not the fact that Sally loves the sea, wants to serve, and knows everything about sailing. There is one catch, Lieutenant David St. Vincent Colyear, or Col, a friend of her brothers and a man who served under her father, is one of her superior officers. Will he recognize her? And if caught, will the scandal ruin both Sally and her family?
Lieutenant Colyear feels misgivings every time he looks or thinks of Midshipman Kent. The letters from his former shipmates, Owen and Matthew Kent, the lad's brothers, were not encouraging about Kent's seaworthiness, his nature, or his ability; however, Kent proves an asset onboard. He knows how to perform all the duties required. Indeed, he even encourages the other midshipmen to overcome their fear when working at the top of the sails, and shows them how to perform their duties properly. Kent even performs special duties for the captain with adept excellence. When Col finally recognizes just who the midshipman is, it is too late. It is his duty to tell his captain, but how can he betray her family, especially her father, who helped him advance in his career? How can he remain an upstanding officer and keep this secret, this lie?
I had misgivings when reading the blurb about a disguised girl at sea. Let's face facts; a mature young woman tackles some huge obstacles when trying to hide her femininity in a world of men. Yet from the first page the setting and the ship's language are so superbly done in this girl at sea saga that they drag you into the story. Sally is perfect in her role as girl in disguise, as is Lieutenant Colyear as an officer quixotically challenged by one of his crew. Other characters also show the tough nature of sea-going men and their ships. The story is full of atmosphere and danger both onboard and off the Audacious , and teems with romantic tension. It is a very good sea story, but how Midshipman Kent returns to being Sally is another tension fraught story in ALMOST A SCANDAL. The first book in this series makes very good reading with the promise of more to come.