At the start of the novel I thought the plot sounded a tad ho hum. I was so wrong! I became once more thoroughly
entranced with the doings of the Gresham brothers, sons of the Duke and Duchess of Langford. This time Lord James Gresham (the fifth son) is front and center. Ariel is on hand, as is the Duchess. Indeed many of the family make their presence felt. We move in and out of their stories with hints of what was and what is to come. Tantalizing! But the jewel of the story, the oh so delicious centrepiece, is Kawana Bensen.
James is cooling his feet awaiting a naval appointment. As Captain of a recently decommissioned ship he is looking for something more. The sea is his life, his passion! However, it's peace time and the jostling for appointments is highly political. James wants to make it by himself, not with his father's help. Unfortunately, he's not that good at playing the game.
James, in one of those moments of inanity, thinking he should start his own family, made a throwaway suggestion to Ariel (sister-in-law of reputed match making abilities) that he wouldn't be adverse to a 'proper English' wife.
That was before he met Kawana, or rather before she rather rudely confronted him with a pistol in hand. Kawana is half-English, half-Polynesian. She has pursued James' ship, the Charis, from her home island, convinced that he has stolen her inheritance. She wants revenge and the return of her treasured inheritance.
James pleads innocent and then proceeds to give Kawana his able assistance. As the search and adventure continues James realizes that this unconventional young woman is stealing his heart but how to make her his is a conundrum, particularly as Kawana keeps throwing back in his teeth, his need for a 'proper English' wife. Something she is never going to be.
We are given a wonderful viewpoint of English customs and constrained society through Kawana's eyes. There are gems of her observations and rather forthcoming opinions that cut to the chase, scattered throughout with moments of startling irony.
Meanwhile James keeps wanting to rescue Kawana, but mostly seems to mire himself further into a muddle of his own making. Much to Kawana's chagrin and Jame's confusion.
The by-play between the brothers is what one expects of a group of ragtag boys, albeit the sons of a Duke. They are all so endearing, if at times somewhat snide with each other, and yet supportive. We watch James discover his father more, his realization that his father is somewhat of an enigma, but still his father. I also love James' ready awareness of his mother as a loving force to be reckoned with. His appeal for help to both of them quietly stole the show for me. Wonderful!
Humorous, witty and pointed, I really enjoyed this Duke's son's story.