Cornwall 1793 - As the French Revolution threatens the stability of England, so too is discontent brewing in the heart of Celia Cavendish. Promised to the brutal Viscount Vallenforth, she must find a way to break free from the bounds of a life stifled by convention and cruelty.
Inspired by her cousin Arbella, who just a few months earlier followed her heart and eloped with the man she loved, she vows to escape her impending marriage and take her destiny back into her own hands. She enlists her neighbours, Sir James and Lady Polcarrow, who have themselves made a dangerous enemy of Celia's father, in the hope of making a new life for herself.
But can the Polcarrows' mysterious friend Arnaud, captain of the cutter L'Aigrette, protect Celia from a man who will let nothing stand in the way of his greed? And will Arnaud himself prove to be friend... or foe?
I was delighted to discover that Nicola's second novel is set in the same fictional world as her first, full of familiar faces and characters that I wanted to find out more about. If I really liked Pengelly's Daughter then I loved The Captain's Girl. The drama is taken up a notch to the point where I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened, and the temptation to read ahead was overwhelming. Packed with twists and turns, I didn't know which characters, if any, I could trust - right up until the final chapter when the truth is finally revealed. Dashing sea captains, conspiracy and intrigue, forbidden love - all of the components are there for cracking historical fiction that transports you to a world that you won't want to leave.
The setting of this novel, particularly with the backdrop of the French Revolution, tallies perfectly with the latest series of Poldark currently airing on the BBC. The Captain's Girl is clearly aimed at fans of the show, and is perfect for whiling away the week between episodes. From the rugged Cornish coast, to the backstreets of Bodmin, to sailing the open sea in the starlight, the settings are so well described that I could picture them vividly. Arnaud's cutter L'Aigrette is beautifully depicted and quickly becomes a character in herself - the fastest boat in the channel, beloved by those who have sailed her.
Captain Arnaud was every inch the gentleman, always there for Celia whether she wanted him to be or not. Celia was a woman imprisoned by her status, willing to break free from the bounds of convention and propriety and escape. She gets a whole lot more than she ever bargained for, and she and Arnaud become quite the team. Another character that I loved was Charity. Although partially sighted, she doesn't let her disability impede her in any way, and her attitude to life was inspiring.
As I said in my review of the previous book, this world and these characters still have plenty of scope for more stories, and I hope that there is at least one more novel set in this particular corner of Cornwall!