1810 - Gibraltar, Southern Spain
With the Peninsular War in full force and French forces having reached southern Spain,
Minerva Glendenning has little time to mourn the death of her ex-fiancé. At first, she thinks the cryptic message he left her to solve is merely one of the intellectual puzzles that she and Harry enjoyed playing. When her letters are tampered with, she realizes the riddle is not only important but dangerous as well.
Disguised as a dilettante interested in antiquities, Sir Richard Faulconer comes to Gibraltar to find who is providing substandard equipment to the army and to track down missing plans for fortifications in Portugal. If the plans fall into French hands, it would seriously compromise Viscount Wellington’s protection of Portugal and the war in Spain.
When Minerva and Sir Richard meet, they are naturally suspicious of each other. But as their paths continue to cross, wariness soon turns to attraction, which leads dangerously close to love. When the identity of a French spy is discovered, Minerva is suspected as the traitor and could be hung. Will solving Harry's riddle uncover the truth, or will it be too late?
1813 – Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland
Effie Innes has known little kindness in her life. Illegitimate and poor, she struggles to provide for her cantankerous grandmother while avoiding the cruel prejudices of village folk. Davy Mackie and his family are some of her only friends, and Effie fiercely cherishes her friendship with them.
Effie reaches for a better life, teaching herself to read and write. Eventually, her skills lead to a job as a scribe to an aging professor. Through the professor, she meets Lieutenant Calum Moncrithe, a naval physician, who is in Scotland for a short time before joining his ship to fight in the new war with the United States. Despite being far above her social station, Effie and Calum forge a strong friendship.
But Effie’s persecution and the pressures of the war increase, leading to disaster. Worse, the secrets of Effie’s past unravel, leaving her unsure of where she fits in. Does she stay with the professor and those of his class, or does she belong with the fishing folk and Davy’s family?
Trapped between worlds and competing affections from Davy and Calum, will Effie have the courage to reach out for what she wants? Or will war make the decision for her?
Perfect for fans of Julie Klassen and Carla Kelly, this coming-of-age story meticulously captures village life and social strata in coastal Lowland Scotland during the Napoleonic Wars.
1810 - Brittany, France