I think the key to good historical fiction is to create a good story and let the history and setting enhance the plot instead. This story does a great job. The story of a young lady who came to live with her grandfather and winds up in the middle of a family smuggling ring with a cousin who is also a spy. The threat of invasion from Napoleon has everyone on edge but the main character, Christina, maintains an unusual calm and strength. That was one of the main reasons I liked this story. Christina is the kind of lady I’d want on my side during a fight. She is strong and smart and even though she falls madly in love, she isn’t a wimpy weak girl who NEEDS a man to save her. The author did a great job of creating an authentic world for the reader without bogging the story down in a lot of exposition. It’s a little predictable, but if you like historical romance (I do) you are used to happy endings. This was a nice break from my usual fantasy.
Only a deathbed promise to her dying father could force Christina Tretton to travel to Tretteign Grange, the ‘Dark House’, and meet her estranged family for the first time. Having to fast-talk her way out of an encounter with smugglers on the way is only the beginning. Waiting for her is flighty aunt Verity, her two very different cousins – the stoic Ross and fawning Richard – and her formidable grandfather, who changes his Will every few days.
Taking the neglectful servants in hand, Christina is soon managing the house, proving herself invaluable in her grandfather’s eyes. This backfires when he decides he wants her as his heir, and only on the condition that she marries Ross or Richard. Outraged, she swears she will marry neither, but her cousins have different ideas. Should she marry the cousin she is drawn to, even if he appears to have no true feelings for her?
Hanging over them is the constant threat of invasion, as Dark House looks over the sea to France, and Napoleon. When cousin Ross disappears, it is up to Christina to stand in his stead and take on the running of the estate – amongst some of his more disreputable duties. For as soldiers work to fortify the coast, Christina finds herself in the twisted intrigues of smugglers and spies.
Watch the Wall, My Darling first published in 1966, is another great historical romance from the master of the genre – Jane Aiken Hodge.
**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.**