Publisher: Black and White Publishing
Publication date: 28th July 2016
What a delight! The pure richness of words wrapped by the cover of On Starlit Seas allowed me to be swept away on a magical, epic voyage that simply took my breath away. From Cacoa beans in Mexico, to Fry’s Chocolate manufactory in Bristol, and the filthy London back streets knocking on society’s finest door, On Starlit Seas is delicious story featuring smuggling, blackmail and adventure, where the path of two people with differing destinies seemed fated to cross.
Widowed Maria Graham, a Naval Captain’s wife and English lady of respectable birth and intellect, sought passage home during a turbulent time of in South America’s history. Being used to travelling to exotic places with her husband before his passing she continued to do so alone. She has found acclaim as an author after documenting her experiences, much to the interest of her publisher who eagerly anticipated her newest manuscripts from his offices in the chillier climes of London.
A rarity in the 1800’s, a woman author (she’s not fictional) would inevitably lead to mockery by her male peers, but Maria Graham was not the sort of lady you would meet every day. In fact she was a breath of fresh air – lead by her determination to observe the world and everything in it.
After discovering there were no passenger or Naval ships available to provide a suitable escort for Maria, as they were commissioned to carry out more important tasks, her quest to find a suitable means home became an interesting proposition. She had to deliver her new manuscripts to her publisher and collect supplies for her new position as governess to a young princess and although she might be accustomed to dealing with rugged escorts on her many journeys, trudging along on horseback through difficult terrain, nothing would prepare her for Captain Henderson, a gentlemanly rogue if ever there was one!
From the moment they met at the port, no matter what he seemed to do, he caused repeated insult or offence. Frustratingly, her position means she cannot admit to being intrigued by his rugged exterior and the mysteries of his inherited cargo, not to mention his unusual boat and the crew that complimented it! The surprising nature of their affinity leads to endearing moments throughout.
The Captain took a step away from polite society when his was a boy of twelve to join his father’s business, and despite his best efforts his rough edges show. He’s used to his own company and another class of lady altogether and his unintentional confusion surrounding these matters is met with some distain from Maria Graham as she graces the deck of the Bittersweet.
Although fiercely independent, she is grateful for the advantages her status has afforded her. If only she could put aside the inhibitions reining her in for just a moment, and if only he can stop being so innocently devilish, and presumptuous, then things could be very different on the perilous journey ahead where they will meet some very unsavoury characters indeed. Their difficulties also lead to the heart of society which shows its disapproval at the slightest whiff of impropriety, and neither wishes to rock that particular boat (excuse the pun).
The many flavours of the characters are further enhanced by the places they encounter. I was especially intrigued by the regular consumption of chocolate throughout, which is sipped from a cup rather than eaten in a block. Its innovations and practices lead Fry’s Chocolate to be woven into the intricacies of a grand plot, as are the hints of improvements to conditions for the plantation workers with the hint of a ‘fair trade’ cacoa bean.
On Starlit Seas is a magnificent and captivating read, blended to perfection.
(I’m most grateful to have received a copy of an exquisitely packaged book from the publisher for review.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Celebrated writer and historian Maria Graham must make the treacherous voyage from Brazil to London to deliver her latest book to her publisher. Having come to terms with the loss of her beloved husband, Maria now has renewed hope for the future and is determined to live her life as she pleases, free from the smothering constraints of Georgian society.
For a woman travelling alone it s a journey fraught with danger, and as civil war rages around her, the only ship prepared to take Maria belongs to roguish smuggler Captain James Henderson. Onboard, all is well until Maria makes two shocking discoveries the first a deadly secret, the second an irresistible attraction to the enigmatic captain.
With Henderson on a journey of his own and determined to finally put his life of crime behind him, he and Maria grow ever closer. But can Henderson escape his illicit past or will the scandalous secret he s hiding ruin them both?
On Starlit Seas is a breathtaking and compelling story of passion, secrets and escape.
“A story as rich and velvety as the chocolate at its heart… A joy to read.”
MARY CHAMBERLAIN (author of The Dressmaker of Dachau)
“This is a novel to take one seamlessly from exotic places to shadowy underworlds and polite drawing rooms, in order to revel in an emotionally charged and socially challenged Victorian romance, coupled with the cliff-hanging jeopardy of Brazilian and London low-life… Five stars with extra phosphorescence!”
JOANNA HICKSON (author of The Tudor Bride)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Sara Sheridan was born in Edinburgh and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. She works in a wide range of media and genres. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She has also received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She sits on the committee for the Society of Authors in Scotland (where she lives) and on the board of ’26’ the campaign for the importance of words. She’s taken part in 3 ’26 Treasures’ exhibitions at the V&A, London, The National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
She occasionally blogs on the Guardian site about her writing life and puts her hand up to being a ‘twitter evangelist’. From time to time she appears on radio, most recently reporting for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Sara is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. A self-confessed ‘word nerd’ her favourite book is ‘Water Music’ by TC Boyle.
Sara Sheridan writes the popular Mirabelle Bevan Murder Mysteries set in 1950s as well as historical novels set in 1820-1845. Fascinated particularly by female history she is a cultural commentator who appears regularly on television and radio. In 2014 she was named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 Most Influential Scottish Women, past and present.