I’ve always enjoyed reading Sherwood Smith’s fantasies, in particular the Inda sequence, and I just realised there are more books in her bibliography that I misse4d, so I can see I’m going to have to spend some time catching up. Here’s one I read back in 2014.
When sixteen year old Anna’s father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson’s navy. Henry Duncannon is a penniless officer estranged from his good family, who is more or less forced into the marriage of convenience. Within half a day Henry and Anna are separated as Henry heads back to sea, leaving the marriage unconsummated and Anna under the protection of Lady Hamilton. But war is flowing through Europe in the shape of Napoleon’s armies and soon Anna is left alone – with her faithful maid – and determines to make her way using her only skill, music. She takes up singing in an opera company. It’s six turbulent years in war-torn Europe before Anna and Henry are reunited and the love story truly begins.
This is a book in two halves – the opera years and the regency romance and both have their appeal. Ms Smith says that the novel came about because she originally intended to novelise the journals of Betsey Wynne, and, indeed, there’s lots of rich detail in here and an underpinning of authenticity. The story is a slow-burn romance despite the early marriage of convenience. Anna survives post-revolutionary France, a theatre fire, touring with the opera company which at times is nore hazardous than the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly more terrifying still is Anna’s introduction to Henry’s English family and the woman who spurned him for his older brother.
Packed full of ideas, but not falling into the trap of unlikely melodrama this is an engaging read. Highly recommended.