The Smuggler’s Wife (The Smuggler’s Daughters)

Written by Evie Grace
Review by Simon Rickman

Deal, England, 1815. Grace Lenniker’s head has been turned, in two directions – ouch! At seventeen, this smuggler’s daughter faces one of love’s eternal dilemmas, whether to choose the loveable rogue over the steadfast plodder. As it goes, she takes the rogue route, becoming wife to ex-gang leader ‘Black Dog’ Isiah, ‘reformed’ smuggler, hostelry owner and arch-enemy of her own ex-smuggling family, but still she holds a wistful little torch for the one she shunned. Rest assured, the author could write a ripping yarn of it either way. This take brings intrigue, hard-drinking, brawling and back-stabbing, alongside the taxman’s relentless contraband searches. Intimidation rules, blood spills, lies flourish, love and kindness are trampled. Amid concerns about Isiah’s veracity, Grace displays admirable loyalty to her increasingly poor decision, her worrisome relationship contrasted against those of her two sisters who have done well, particularly elder sister Louisa’s marriage to another ex-smuggler who “turned his coat”, the now King’s Revenue officer and Commander of HMS Legacy, Jason Witherall. This leads to several conflicts of interest and persons as major night-time seaside skirmishes test the smugglers’ abilities to land their loot while avoiding capture, the courts and the gibbet.

If ever there was an award for ‘Best Character Names and Archaic Words’ Evie Grace would be a top contender, with her gang members’ monikers, “Awful Doins”, “Lawless” and “Cut-throat”, and genuine contemporary words used in context, such as shrockled, stinkibus, megrims and havey-cavey. Moreover, well-written evocative descriptions of coast, marsh and countryside faithfully exhibit their respective features and seasonal weathers; further, household interiors are realistically authentic. Just one anachronism: in 1815 would someone really have shouted (on page 293) “We need back-up!”? Otherwise an excellent read indeed.