High Seas to High Society
by Sophia James
(Harl. Historical, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0373-29488-3
***
James has written a throwback novel reminiscent of Karen Robards when she was writing about pirates and revenge.† While engaging and enjoyable, it was slow at times and ultimately merely satisfactory.

Emma Seaton has burst upon the society scene in threadbare clothing and under slightly mysterious circumstances.† The only thing allowing her to be accepted is her patron, the Countess of Haversham, who is her aunt.† And Emma has a secret.† First, her name is Emerald.† And she is the daughter of the Countessís brother, who was not exactly respectable.† He made his fortune in the Caribbean as a pirate.† And at times, he was anything but rich.† He favored the company of disreputable women after Emeraldís mother died of an illness when she was relatively young.†† Now Emerald is here, in England, seeking a treasure map that is hidden in a cane that was stolen from her father in the battle that killed him.

And the person she suspects of having the cane and killing her father is none other than a Duke.† Asher Wellingham, the Duke of Carisbrook, was off on adventures when his ship was overtaken by a pirate. During the battle, one of the pirates on board (actually it was Emma) pushed him into the sea just as their ship was about to go under.† The result was that Asher and his men were captured and put in a camp for prisoners where he was not treated well.† When he escaped, he came back to exact revenge on the pirate who caused his misfortune - Emeraldís father - and he killed him.† He is not sorry he did. Now Asher is back in England, trying to resurrect his life even though he has trouble sleeping and is generally bored.† He has a sister who is young and rather silly and a brother who tried to save him, getting injured and almost blinded in the attempt.

Emma, as he knows her, is an intrigue to him and there are circumstances that keep throwing them together, even getting her a coveted invitation to his country estate.† This will give her the chance to search for the cane.† The story follows the pair.† They are attracted and leery, suspicious, and yet refuse to totally believe what they see.† There are some other issues, like another group seeking the same map, that add to the adventure and the overall mystery.

Emerald is a bit of an enigma, since she gets around society well but her background is anything but traditional for a young socialite.† It is hard at times to think that she would be accepted in the state of poverty and lack of decorum that she often presents.† Asher is another puzzle.† He is a Duke, yet he was off on adventures that ultimately cost him his peace of mind and his brother his eyesight.† He accepts Emma yet is suspicious of her.† When they consummate their relationship, there is still a lot of distrust, a type of romance that is not always my favorite.

High Seas to High Society has a lot going for it.† Asher and Emma are well matched, even if their relationship doesnít always feel accurate to the times.† There is intrigue and mystery and secrets to be revealed.† Yet, the story dragged at times and did not pull me into the romance of it completely.† Much of the adventure was portrayed in flashbacks that, again, did not engage like a story told in the here and now.† If you are looking for a story with a throwback flavor to the good old pirate romances of yore, however, you may find much to like.

--Shirley Lyons


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