Second Summer of War

Written by Cheryl Cooper
Review by Rebecca Henderson Palmer

In her sequel to Come Looking for Me, Cooper returns to the War of 1812 and the story of Princess Emily, fictional granddaughter of King George III. Princess Emily reluctantly leaves her seafaring friends as her uncle escorts her to the safety of the English countryside, while her former captor awaits a traitor’s trial. Meanwhile, Francis Austen and Emily’s amour, ship doctor Leander Braden, must navigate heavy storms, privateers, and enemy ships to return to testify at the trial and somehow reconnect with the princess. Headstrong and longing to return to the sea, Emily soon learns she is expected to marry the eldest son of her hosts, a selfish fop with substantial gambling debts. A prisoner again, Emily must accept her fate or escape to find friends who may not survive the crossing.

The book relies heavily on backstory, which is hard if the reader has not read the prequel, and with its many character and ship names, it can be tricky to follow. I particularly enjoyed the role played by Francis Austen, real-life brother to novelist Jane. Imagining the adventures of this naval Austen added a great dimension to the story. The dream sequences are repetitive, but strong supporting characters will keep you rooting for the sailors as they battle extreme conditions on the sea.

The story of the rebel princess fighting against a marriage of convenience is nothing new, but the naval backdrop makes all the difference. The comprehensive descriptions of the ships, guns, sailors, and medicine of the time make you feel like you are standing on a frigate with the characters. Cooper’s tale is at its best not when it recounts the trials of Princess Emily, but rather when it depicts the life and tribulations faced by those enlisted in the British Navy during the War of 1812.