Publication Date: January 12, 2021
About the Author: Arlem Hawks began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the Western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. With her travels came an interest in history, especially the history of her English heritage. When she isn’t writing, Arlem is baking her characters’ favorite foods, sewing Regency dresses, learning how to play the tin whistle, and water coloring. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two children. Having previously published four historical romance novellas, Georgana’s Secret is her debut novel.
Lieutenant Dominic Peyton dreams of being a ship’s captain someday, but with no guarantee that he would get a ship to command, it’s safer to remain a lieutenant and still be in work and able to support his mother. When he gains a new post under Captain Woodall, Dominic makes the acquaintance of a shrinking cabin boy named George who seems favored by the captain and tormented by the other lads on ship. Ever one to pity an underdog, Dominic takes it upon himself to teach George the arts of self-defense and the finer points of being a sailor.
Georgana Woodall has been hiding on her father’s ship for years. Disguised as a cabin boy, she can barely stand the rough and rude sailors who despise her for her weakness and for the captain’s favoritism. Still, anything is better than being trapped on land in an untenable situation with abusive relatives. If she can manage to keep her secret from everyone aboard, she might have enough reputation left to make a come-out as a debutante some day and escape this nautical nightmare.
The new Lieutenant Peyton is an observant fellow, and Georgana can sense the danger in letting him befriend “cabin boy George.” But there is something irresistible in his kindness and his charisma. If only he were not so in love with his mistress the sea, there might be a chance for Georgana to love…and be loved in return.
When reading the premise of this story, I was unsure if I would like it, but the cover enticed me, the characters convinced me, and in the end I found it wholly captivating. The story was a perfect blend of history and romance. The horrors of a sea battle in the Napoleonic era were vividly drawn as cannonballs crashed into decks and splinters found their mark in sailors’ flesh. Georgana, although dressed as a cabin boy, was no he-woman who bests all the other lads and proves that girls can be the same as boys. Instead, she had to contend with being physically weaker than the others surrounding her, and it is only when she finds her courage that she finds her way. Dominic, a natural leader, but also a compassionate man, brings out the best in the terrified girl. Not knowing when he will finally guess Georgana’s secret is part of the grand tension of the plot, and finding out what he does when he finally knows it is part of the fun.
The publisher notes say that fans of Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian will enjoy the novel, and for once, I think the notes might be right! As a fan of both Austen and O’Brian, I loved this novel and look forward to reading more from debut novelist Arlem Hawks.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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