I cannot enthuse enough about this most remarkable novella that has truly found a place within my heart. It is emotive, beautiful and poignant with such meaning and clarity as to its main message; being that true love is not about ones status, rank or money. I was left speechless as to the most wonderful, dramatic ending that was as perfect as the last page of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or with any historical romance where the fate of the hero and heroine of the tale is discovered. If you are a reader who enjoys fiction that speaks to the heart, that is so stirring as to move you to tears in places and is as gut-wrenching so as to loose yourself within the narrative, then I am permitted to go into raptures over Francine Howarth's stunning tale.
Lady Emerald Penhaven of all but nineteen years old has had the misfortune of both her parents' deaths, with the estate under the due care of herself and her reckless brother Ned. Refusing a man's hand in marriage at the time was considered a most unwise step to take for any young lady, displaying an independence of character and untamed spirit. With her irresponsible brother's gambling and drinking overwhelming them both, the worst happens as the Penhaven estate is shrouded in debt. The only means of recovery of their dire situation is for Emerald to marry the Earl of Moorby, who as a gambling man himself professes to thus clear all of the debts that Lord Penhaven has created (or so he says whilst in a drunken stupor). As Moorby forces his un-gentlemanly intentions upon her and almost rapes her, he then flees leaving the siblings in a catastrophic state. Whilst her future seems uncertain and her once loving brother alters into someone unrecognizable to her, she meets a poor Buccaneer who steels her heart in an instant. Love at first sight is so true in this novella, as she longs for a man whose name she does not know and yet remains very much a part of her soul. Their next meeting is when he reveals himself as a naval Captain, whom she is still unable to give her heart freely to given that she is now betrothed to another wealthy suitor, a Lord Welldon. With a stranger suddenly helping to rescue her brother by providing work as a partner in trade, (dealing in buying and selling of legal cargo), Emerald and her brothers fate is sealed swiftly along with the Penhaven estate as a wedding gift. But who is this stranger that has suddenly taken it upon himself to help them both? What of her betrothed Lord Welldon?
I sat on the edge of my seat in suspense whilst reading quickly so as to find out the answer to this compelling saga, which built in electric tension with each page and every chapter. The ending was so fantastic that I could not help but smile, as it reminded me of a Jane Austen novel resembling that of Mansfield Park in which the conclusion is so perfect (on the part of heroines, as Fanny Price and Edmund, both characters who had been in love from the beginning end up together). I was just astonished as to how the author managed to write such an engrossing, deeply thought-provoking and complex tale into only a short novella. It certainly had me hooked so that once I had begun reading I was unable to stop. Emerald's situation with Lord Moorby reminded me of a novel by Amanda Foreman called The Duchess which is about the life of Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire, who was forced into a situation beyond her control thus her happiness was forfeit. This novella complete with extracts and first chapters from other works by the author, is a delight and a treasure and which I urge you to read.