In her prologue Novak tells us that writing historical gothic romance à la Jane Eyre is one of her favourite literary styles and it's given her pleasure to return to this genre. It has certainly given me pleasure as a reader.
Within the first chapters of 'Through the Smoke', the plot reveals intrigue , death, a woman compromised, villains, miners rights and dirty doings at the diggings. All finely held in tandem right until the end.
Katherine the unbalanced wife of the Earl of Druridge, Truman Stanhope, had died in a fire. Many accused him of deliberately causing it. Valuable paintings may have been stolen prior to this that could prove Truman's innocence. His investigations have so far only led to dead ends.
Perhaps Rachel, the daughter of a miner who had been asked to set the fire, holds the key!
Someone it seems is out to destroy both Rachel and Truman.
En route to seek help for her dying mother from Truman, Rachel is attacked and wakes to find herself in his lordship's bed.
From there Rachel's choices become limited. I must admit that I thought she accepted her 'fate worse than death' more easily than The situation deserved. The outrage at her predicament was not enough. But the the attraction between her and Truman was strong and in that day and age she was pretty much powerless. It seemed that her choices were limited.
I was alternately entangled, dismayed, appalled and entertained throughout the novel.
The way the villagers and miners turned on Rachel is frightening, perhaps more so, as it reveals the power of gossip, and the mindset that can encourage others to brutality, to unthinking judgement.
...with more twists and turns than a mountain track, the trials of Rachel drew me on into the wee small hours of the morning!
A NetGalley ARC