Lawrence weaves a spidery web of intrigue and adventure as she delves into the unsolved mystery of the true fate of the English settlers of Roanoke Island. The spying duo of Gabriel North and Robin Mowbray, after preventing an assassination attempt on the life of Queen Elizabeth, is sent to the fledgling New World colony of Roanoke, Virginia. Gabriel, the ladies’ man, is supposed to seduce the Indian peace chief of the Secota people and learn from her where mines of gold are.
But Gabriel bonds with the pearl-laden Naia and with her two small children. After disastrous confrontations between the two peoples, they sail for England. Gabriel wishes only to return. He gets his chance as colonists, including women and children, arrive, leading to more misunderstandings and violence even as the love between Gabriel and Naia intensifies.
Meanwhile, back in England, the long-anticipated Spanish Armada arrives and the war with Spain is used as an excuse to leave the settlers on their own. When ships finally come, they find Roanoke deserted and sail for home within three days. Robin strives to sort out the mystery even as he hears rumors that Gabriel might be back. When the two team up again, vengeance is on their minds.
This grim novel of historical suspense and first contact is told simply but with the flavor of its 16th-century setting. Lawrence does well with her English characters, especially the complex and vibrant Gabriel, but the Indians seemed to be living in service to the plot and not sufficiently rendered as human beings of another culture and world view.