Close to the Wind

Written by Zana Bell
Review by Lynn Guest

When Georgiana da Silva overhears her fiancé discussing a plot to murder her beloved brother Charlie, who is hoping to find gold in New Zealand, she flees her aunt’s home in Victorian England, vowing to reach Charlie before his killer does. Dressed as a boy, she inveigles her way on board a ship sailing for New Zealand, intending to work as a cabin boy. The captain is the dashing Harry Trent. A fugitive from the law, he too has an important task waiting in New Zealand, one on which his future and indeed his life may depend.

A series of misadventures throw Georgiana and Harry together on the various legs of their journey. Pursued by unknown enemies, unable to trust or confide in one another, they dare not surrender to the strong attraction growing between them.

Bell has plotted a very successful romantic adventure. If life on the ship might not satisfy Patrick O’Brian fans, the picture of New Zealand’s 19th-century gold rush towns is more convincing. Georgiana is a lively, likeable heroine who is given a social insecurity that adds a touch of depth to the character. Bell skilfully uses her unusual circus/acting background to advance the twists and turns of the corkscrew plot involving the opium trade, a gold rush, lost heirs, murder and other bits of skulduggery. Will they be caught? Will they fall in love? The suspense is maintained right up to the last pages. In Harry, we have a handsome gentleman adventurer, fearless and honourable – an ideal romantic hero. Witty dialogue is another plus. All together, a most enjoyable light read.