Saturday, May 17, 2008

Smuggler's Bride by Darlene Marshall

Book Description:
Julia Cooper has a secret that could cost her life. She's really Lady Julia Anne Sanders Delerue, and she's investigating who's using Delerue-Sanders Shipping to smuggle contraband into frontier Florida. But when her disguise as a cleaning woman at her uncle's tavern gets her kidnapped and taken deep into the pine woods, she has to think fast to stay alive--while asking herself who would kidnap a cleaning woman?

Rand Washburn has a secret that could cost Julia Cooper her life. When two pea-brains dump an Englishwoman at his farm while he's recovering from yellow fever, he has to figure out how to get rid of her before she finds out he's sitting on top of the biggest smuggling operation ever seen in Florida.

Julia's following in the footsteps of her parents, who put an end to the career of a notorious brigand in
PIRATE'S PRICE. She ignores Washburn's warnings and follows him on a midnight foray, literally stumbling into a riverside gathering of thieves and smugglers. If she ever wants to make it home to England in one piece, she's going to have to think fast to keep Washburn and his cronies from burying her deep in the back woods, even if it means marrying that handsome scoundrel at gunpoint. Julia and Rand are trapped in a dance of lies and deception even as their passion deepens and betrayal lurks in the shadows. But what kind of future is there for an aristocrat's daughter and a backwoods smuggler? Can Rand ever convince Julia that she's destined to be the smuggler's bride, or is he going to have to make sure she's not able to tell anyone--ever--about what he's up to along the Florida coast?

My Thoughts:
I didn't think I would, but I loved this book! I had read the author's first book, Pirate's Price and wasn't all that cought up with it. All three of her books have been recommended on Diana Gabaldon's (I gather they are friends from the Compuserve writers boards) "Methadone List", so I thought I'd give them a try. There are allusions to the story of Pirate's Price in this book, but it's not necessary to read that book to enjoy this one.

Smuggler's Bride was a delightful read, and short for a romance novel too - only about 235 pages. Rand Washburn is quite dashing in a backwoods Cracker sort of way, though it is evident he has some sort of secret and that he's most likely really high born as is Julia, who does his cooking and mending for him. He thinks she's just some tavern girl. They're forced into a marriage of convenience and the development of their relationship is fun to read about and their eventual love (though they aren't aware that they are in love.) I don't want to spoil it, but the scene in which Julia finds out who Rand really is - he sounds just devastatingly handsome - yumm! Tall, great Adonis-like build (that seems to be romance authors favorite God of choice description for their heroes) and blonde, he is a dreamy anti-hero, since for the majority of the book we're under the impression he's an illegal smuggler. Much of the book deals with how the two are falling for each other, yet each thinks that the other is a desperate smuggler out for money. They're torn with their feelings, though it doesn't stop them from having great sex! LOL! It was kind of poignant when they both realize who the other is - they liked each other when they thought they were nobodies, living a blissful little existence in the piney-woods on the Panhandle. I couldn't put this book down, it was so fun to read - plus, I love forced marriage storylines.

Ms. Marshall also includes a lot of historical detail in this book about the Florida panhandle and what life was like there in the early 1840's when Florida was still a US Territory and what later becomes the US Coast Guard and what their uniforms look like, among other things. She obviously enjoyed the research. She wraps the story up with a minimum of angst and you're satisfied with the ending. Loose threads taken care of and all very tight and well done. This book has a lot of likable characters and a dreamy hero - though I would like to see what happens with one of the side characters, James Crane, he was interesting material, I'd like to read his story eventually, he deserves a love interest.

This wasn't a great literary achievement, but as far as romance novels go, I give it a 4 out of 5. I highly recommend it - you'll probably read it all in one afternooon!


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