Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: Discovery of Desire by Susanne Lord

From the Back Cover:

To the East India Company, he's the ideal explorer: unwed, uncomplaining, strong as an ox and profitable. There's nothing Seth Mayhew can’t find—until his sister disappears en route to India. The expedition is the first he fears he may fail, until he discovers a valuable, and irresistible, ally sailing on the same ship to Bombay. 

But Wilhelmina Adams is on an expedition of her own—for a husband. With six sisters, no dowry and no marriage prospects in her Derbyshire village, Bombay promises a husband and security. But assisting a dangerously distracting explorer won’t improve her prospects. 

It’s an inevitable partnership, but the winds of fate are ever changing. Adventures that begin in the bazaars of Bombay can diverge to the slums of London and patchwork fields of England. And at each port of call, Seth and Mina will have to risk everything to unearth the heart’s greatest prize.

My Thoughts:

Seth Mayhew is on a mission to find his missing sister. With a reputation of being able to hunt down the rarest botanical specimens, he has high hopes of being able to pick up Georgie's trail to bring her and her young ward home. On a steamer bound for India with dozens of "venture girls," young women with limited prospects at home who are coming to India to find husbands, he manages to steer clear of them until they disembark in Bombay. But as he meets with Tom, an associate who has promised to help him track down Georgie, he comes face-to-face with venture girl Wilhelmina Adams, and Cupid's arrow strikes hard. But there's one big problem: Mina is promised to Tom. And besides, he doesn't have time for courtship; he's got to work with Tom to find the people in the East India Company who can help him find his sister.

From a large family with no dowries for their many daughters, and with one sister already fallen into disrepute,  Mina Adams and her sister Emma have come to India in search of a better future. Both sisters have been in correspondence with gentlemen and have arrived at an understanding, but only one meets them when their ship arrives. Emma's intended is a no-show, and while Tom is there for Mina, he is nothing like the man she has come to know via his letters. And she can't leave Emma. While the rest of their fellow venture girls choose their husbands and set off for their new homes, the Adams sisters are desperately hoping Emma's fiance will arrive. But each day that passes diminishes the hope that he will come, and each day gives Mina more time to fall in love with a man who is not her fiance. Drawn to Seth's strapping masculinity, self-deprecating wit, and flirtatious charm, she vows to do all she can to help him find his sister. But as new information comes to light and time runs out, Mina and Seth will have to decide whether they want to make the riskiest venture yet: taking a chance on true love.

This is the second book in the London Explorers series, but it stands alone just fine. However, I felt a bit misled by the book description. With Seth on a mission to find his sister, and the blurb describing an adventure and multiple ports of call, I was all set for an exciting and romantic journey where Seth and Mina would work together to find his sister. I don't want to spoil the story too much, so I'll just leave it by saying that's not quite what happens. The story takes longer than I would have liked to really kick into gear, and when it does, it is the characters and their interactions that carry the bulk of the story rather than plot.

While I was disappointed that exploring didn't actually figure into the story, I still found this a charming and witty read. Seth was quite unlike any hero I've come across in romance. He's a working-class man with no ambitions for anything else except a home of his own for a family someday. He calls himself stupid, and while I would agree he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, I would say his problem is not that he's stupid, but that he's too trusting and has a hard time discerning deception and fakeness in others. (Which might make a reader wonder how he managed to become such a lauded explorer, but I chose to ignore that niggling question for the sake of the story.) And his reputation as the world's worst flirt is richly deserved. I found him totally endearing. There was much to admire in Mina as well, from her bravery in crossing an ocean, to her determination to take care of herself and her sisters, and her desire to help Seth and stand up for him.

Overall, Discovery of Desire was a light, sweet read, worth checking out for its exotic setting and unconventional hero. And I am incredibly intrigued by the mystery surrounding Emma's wayward fiance, and if the next book in the series is about them, I will definitely be reading it.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5

*This review was originally posted to Romantic Historical Reviews.

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