Avon, Sep 2004, 5.99, 384 pp.
In 1800, Sir Gideon falsely accused Lord Geoffrey Sauvage and his twelve year old son Christian of stealing. Geoffrey and Christian are convicted and placed on the Retribution, heading to the South Seas. Geoffrey provides strength to his son and two other boys Amyas and Daffyd as they set sail as convicts. However, because of Geoffrey's skills in making money for his clients honed as an aristocrat, he makes a fortune for himself and his three charges.
Fifteen years later, Christian arrives in England to claim the Earldom from his cousin Hammond, whose future in-laws are irate. Christian points out the so-called accidents that have eliminated the last five earls and plans not to be number six. Hammond sends for Julianne Lowell, sister of Christian's best childhood friend now dead, to identify whether he is the real thing. As Julianne and Christian fall in love, she is not sure though he looks somewhat like the person she knew in childhood. Whether he is or is not does not matter to someone who plans to add the upstart to the list of dead earls.
This is an enjoyable Regency romantic suspense that will remind readers of the movies The Return of Martin Guerre and Somersby as Julianne is not certain if the man she loves is an imposter or the real Christian. The story line action-packed, but the characters make the tale with many containing negative feelings towards others. Fans will enjoy this delightful tale in which the earldom is apparently the most dangerous position in England in spite of the Napoleonic War.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner