Trade Winds is this author’s first novel. Set in 1732, the story begins in Scotland, moves to Gothenburg, Sweden, and then to the Far East.
Killian Kinross, a Scotsman estranged from his family, makes a living by gambling. When he wins a ship he hopes to make an honest living by trade, and sails to Sweden where he meets Jess van Sandt, still mourning the recent death of her father. Jess is convinced she has been cheated out of her inheritance by her ruthless stepfather, but cannot prove her claim. Her stepfather threatens to send her to the isolation of their country house deep in the forests, and Kinross is the man he selects to drive her there. Clutching at straws, Jess suggests a marriage of convenience, and Kinross agrees, swearing that they will discover her father’s will and prove her right to inherit his business.
Kinross is offered a chance of sailing to China. He cannot resist its promise of huge rewards and leaves Jess to face her stepfather’s anger over her marriage. When Kinross sails, he doesn’t know that Jess has taken action and landed them both in a great deal of trouble.
The story starts slowly but from a third of way through the tension builds to a surprising ending. The author’s personal knowledge allows rich detail in the description of the locations, which gives a solid base to the novel. Clichés abound and the stepfather is little more than a stereotype, but Jess’s mother is totally believable in her fixation on her two younger children. I enjoyed the story and recommend it to those who like novels set in far‑flung, exotic places.