The Noble Smuggler

Written by Sian Ann Bessey
Review by Ray Thompson

1784. Believing the Lamhurst Gang to be responsible for lawless smuggling in Kent and his father’s death, Jonas Ainsworth, Viscount Langton, decides to go undercover to penetrate their ranks. Shot by soldiers, he is hidden and his wound tended by Elizabeth Doyle, daughter of the innkeeper who is a key figure in the organization. As he recuperates on his estate, however, a battered and bedraggled Elizabeth arrives at his door, seeking help to escape a forced marriage.

This is a historical romance, and it is full of familiar romance motifs: a noble in disguise, vicious smugglers, corrupt officials, arrogant aristocrats, an abducted heroine, kind-hearted mothers, a cruel step-father, hidden rooms, a child rescued from a shipwreck, surprising revelations about the heroine’s antecedents. What saves it from slipping into sentimental melodrama is the credible presentation of setting and character: the historical context, in other words. Though the characters divide sharply between good and evil, their behavior is shaped by the world they live in and the choices they make.

Readers may be surprised to learn that smuggling tea in this era was so widespread and the solution so practical. Recommended.