Set in the Georgian period, the story centres around wealthy 15-year-old Isabelle, who finds her circumstances dramatically changed and, in despair, tries to drown herself. She’s rescued by a gang of smugglers and forced to join them. Isabelle accepts her new fate reluctantly but soon gets caught up in the excitement of outwitting the king’s men. So begins a rip-roaring and romantic adventure, full of mystery and intrigue. It’s beautifully described, yet the author never wastes a single word and uses some terrific turns of phrase, e.g., the fair young man blew in from the deck.
This is Will, a fellow crew member, whose background is similar to Isabelle’s, which puzzles and fascinates her. Will remains tight-lipped and berates her for her fixed ideas about those less fortunate than herself. Although she is clearly spoiled, Isabelle’s journey to becoming a better person is endearing and culminates in a difficult choice.
The author has plainly done her research; for example, the rough seamen speak in the vernacular, and we are told about the clothes they wear and life on board ship. More effective, however, are the historical details we get through Isabelle’s own experiences, such as her indignation at having to dress not only as a man but as a working man and wearing stockings below the knee rather than above the knee. I would have liked to know earlier in the book precisely when the story is set, but it’s not until the mention of the South Sea Bubble about halfway through that I was able to place it in the 1720s. However, this may not matter to young adult readers.
The issues in the book are mostly resolved, although some are left open-ended which made me wonder if the author is planning a sequel. I would certainly read it. Highly recommended for thoughtful girls aged 13 plus.