Through the Smoke

Written by Brenda Novak
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

Truman Stanhope, Earl of Druridge and owner of the colliery in Creswell, in the coal-mining region on the northeastern coast of England, readily admits that he hated his adulterous wife but insists that he was not responsible for her death in the fire that destroyed his home two years ago (1838). Rachel McTavish, whose father was a miner who died from lung disease, might be able to help Truman find the murderer, but she must first set aside her animosity toward the man she blames for all the suffering in her community.

Although it is not remarkable, in romances, for a nobleman to fall in love with a girl from a lower class, the social distance between an earl and a miner’s daughter is so vast that it should be impossible to bridge. Novak, however, succeeds at this feat. Rachel’s passion for books grants her an air of refinement unusual for her station while the shattering experiences of Truman’s life open him to new possibilities. The danger lurking in the background, the even-handed portrayal of the tensions between the miners and the management, and the depth and charm of the lead characters make this a thoroughly enjoyable historical romance.