Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
When it comes to women, Captain Marcus Easterday has little luck. He’s been jilted twice in the past, and when he looks at both instances with a rational eye, neither woman was suited to him. Nor is he looking for a possible wife the day he walks into Cantarell Shipping to explore the possibility of exporting textiles to the American colonies and the West Indies. The appearance of a woman from the inner office in this section of London, who asks what she can do for him, stuns him.
The odds are stacked against Olivia Cantarell simply because she’s a woman, but she is determined to take over her father’s business now that he’s deceased. After all, she’s worked half her life with him and knows every facet of the shipping business. But, as Captain Easterday points out, the docks and wharves are dangerous places for a genteel woman. Nor is she permitted to enter alehouses, ordinaries, or even Lloyd’s Coffee House where shipping business is regularly conducted. For that, she requires a competent clerk, but hers tendered his resignation because he could not abide working for a woman. When Easterday offers her a loan of his clerk’s assistant, she agrees.
Aunt Rachel fails to comprehend why her niece insists on going to the office. From her perspective, Olivia needs to marry a potential suitor, which Olivia is reluctant to do since once she does, her husband will own everything, including the shipping business and her. Whatever would she do with herself if she didn’t have her work? To appease her aunt, Olivia agrees to attend an assembly – prime husband-hunting ground, from her aunt’s perspective – but for the purpose of making business contacts. She not only meets Easterday again but also makes the acquaintance of Ambrose Hawkins, an importer who flatters her with attention. Rather than fall head over heels for him, she has a hard time deciding what she thinks of him. As her father once said, “he looks and talks like a gentleman, but has the heart of a pirate.” (63) Nor does Ambrose’s idea of a wife jive with hers.
When two Cantarell shipments turn up missing, Olivia turns to Easterday for help. His investigation leads to the real possibility that this theft was an inside job. In attempting to locate the culprit, he discovers the man also received a sizeable bribe from Ambrose. What information could Hawkins want and how does this knowledge impact Olivia?
Further complicating Olivia’s life is the fact that two strangers keep watch on her office. One of her errand boys is abducted and questioned, and her second clerk is forced into hiding. Hawkins becomes overzealous in his pursuit of Olivia, and then Easterday is forced to make an unusual bargain with her to protect her reputation. When word reaches him Olivia is in grave danger, he questions the wisdom of that bargain and how best to ensure that she comes to no harm.
The cover of this book with its ship, chart, and nautical instruments, all of which suggest this is a story set on the high seas, may mislead some readers. Instead, this sweet historical romance takes place in 1740, and offers readers insight into eighteenth-century shipping industry and occasional glimpses into seamier sections of the city. Buckley vividly recreates a period in time in which a woman’s role was greatly restrained and Olivia is a delightful heroine with pluck and determination to succeed in spite of the odds against her. Marcus is an unassuming hero who is not afraid to bargain with a woman and is willing to admit that first impressions aren’t necessarily correct ones. Captain Easterday’s Bargain is entertaining and adventurous, with some secondary characters who almost steal the limelight from the triangle of Olivia, Marcus, and Ambrose.
Review Copyrighted ©2019 Cindy Vallar
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