I am so excited to participate in the blog tour for Georgana’s Secret by Arlem Hawks. I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited when I was contacted about reading this book. I’ve managed to get on a fantastic ARC email list for historical romances. This novel intrigued me because…
- It’s part of the “Proper Romance” collection which Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson–one of my favorite books ever–is a part of.
- It reminds me of Persuasion with the hero being a Navy officer. I was intrigued by the setting on a ship and all I could learn about Navy life.
- I’m always game for a clean, beautiful Regency romance.
I really enjoyed this novel. The protagonists are both on difficult life journeys yet they bring hope and love into each other’s lives. The action is intense, almost shockingly violent at times, but gives a unique view of life in His Majesty’s Navy. The love story is absolutely fantastic! I loved the slow, comforting way their relationship builds and how passionately they fall for each other with lives and reputations threatened. This is a unique historical romance that widens the scope of the genre in beautiful and meaningful ways.
“A Regency romance on the high seas. Two hearts yearning to find a safe harbor, and possibly, a lasting love.
As a young girl, Georgana Woodall dreamed of beautiful dresses, fancy balls, and falling in love. However, when her mother dies, she cannot face a future under the guardianship of her abusive grandmother and instead chooses to join her father on his ship disguised as his cabin boy, “George.”
Lieutenant Dominic Peyton has no time in his life for love, not with his dedication to His Majesty’s Royal Navy claiming his full attention. While trying to adjust to a new crew, he strives to be an exemplary officer and leader. When he sees the captain’s cabin boy being harassed by the crew, he immediately puts a stop to it and takes the “boy” under his wing. After discovering a number of clues, Dominic deduces that George is really a woman. Knowing that revealing the cabin boy’s secret would put her in serious danger from the rowdy crew, Dominic keeps silent and hides his growing affection for her.
Georgana is quickly losing her heart to Dominic’s compassion and care but is convinced nothing can come of her affection. She cannot continue to live her life on the sea, and having already missed too many seasons in London, her chances of being welcomed back into polite society and finding a suitable husband are quickly slipping away.“
I appreciated the twist on a classic Regency historical setting. Usually we are in London or the English countryside. But this gives us classic Regency England with a twist. There are a lot of allusions to life in the Royal Navy during this time period in books set during this time. Jane Austen even has a navy hero protagonist in Captain Wentworth (I love Persuasion!) But I haven’t read a book that is actually set on a Navy ship for the majority of the novel. All the details about life in the navy (the good, the bad and the ugly) were fascinating: Dominic’s love of the sea, the ship, the water, the wind, cramped living conditions, spread of disease, battles with French ships, rats (YUCK!), mutiny, stops along the way, royal officer ranks, injury and death. It was fascinating to learn so much about life on the boat. I was impressed that inside this very masculine world, Hawks could create a strong, feminine heroine.
I loved the journey Georgana goes on in this novel. To begin, I wasn’t really impressed by her. She seemed too timid, too scarred from her abusive past, and so obviously not a good fit to life on a navy boat (even in disguise). I was honestly surprised everyone didn’t know she was a woman; it felt so obvious! But when she means Peyton, she starts to find her confidence. She sees herself as worthy of love and belonging and strength. She celebrates who she is and even finds joy in her circumstances. I loved that. Some of my favorite scenes are when she is free to be herself (usually with Peyton around) like at the secret beach on Antigua or dancing behind the mast. These moments showed her potential to find happiness and to not be controlled by her grandmother. Be aware, the abuse she suffered from her grandmother was severe and the memories and reminders of that abuse are intense. Yet I love that Georgana is able to move forward. She makes friends with some of her bitterest enemies, she sacrifices for those she loves, and even finds the strength to save them all. In the end, I admire Georgana and the woman she becomes.
Dominic is a fantastic protagonist and perfect compliment to Georgana. He strong and a good leader. He cares about others from his mother to his fellow officers and shipmates. I love how kind he is and how he inspires loyalty because he gives it. He begins the novel in love with the sea. But I adored how Georgana sweeps him into a more passionate and beautiful love. He cares so deeply for her and always strives to help her be the best she can be. Even though she doesn’t suspect that he knows her secret. I loved that he helps her overcome her horrible Grandmother’s abusive hold on her. He celebrates what makes her special and strong. I love their love story. It seems as unlikely a love story as many a historical romance. How can they possibly be together when she is pretending to be a cabin boy who never wants to return to the sea and he is certain he will only ever love the sea? The twists and turns are surprising and agonizing. But in the end, they are determined to find a way.
The action is intense and exciting throughout the novel. From the battles with the French ships to the attempted mutiny to their contrasting experiences in Antigua, I never know what to expect. I loved the different sides of the sea that Hawks gives her readers. We see the ocean at her worst with men fighting and dying. And we see her at her best breaking down simple sand walls and searching for mementos in the water. I felt my journey was similar to Georgana’s in how she views the sea. At first, I wasn’t enthusiastic about this setting. But as the story progresses and we are introduced to the different perspectives of the sea, I began to see why it draws Peyton in so. I could see why Georgana spends hours simply drawing waves. And I could see how it can hard to say goodbye.
The writing is quite lovely and the descriptions of life on the water are superb. I loved the descriptions of the waves and the color of the water contrasting with the smells and sights of the powder monkeys during a battle. I smiled at the detail of the collection of mementos from the sea that Peyton brought his mother. I felt the anguish and despair with Georgana when she seemed to lost everyone she loved. And I nearly cried tears of joy when she finally finds a place to call home with her true love.
Beautiful romance with the right amount of tension and passion. We know that our two star crossed lovers will find a way to be together. But the many twists and turns that come their way kept me guessing all along the way. Grateful to receive an ARC and to read this unique and enjoyable historical romance!
What are some of the most unique historical settings you’ve encountered
Arlem Hawks began making up stories before she could write. Living all over the Western United States and traveling around the world gave her a love of cultures and people and the stories they have to tell. With her travels came an interest in history, especially the history of her English heritage. When she isn’t writing, Arlem is baking her characters’ favorite foods, sewing Regency dresses, learning how to play the tin whistle, and water coloring. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two children. Having previously published four historical romance novellas, Georgana’s Secret is her debut novel.