It's a tale of England, of that dark, heavy line between gentry and "low class" and the beginnings of erasing it. He's the son of a viscount. She's an adopted daughter of a woman who works in the kitchen. She just happens to be very bright and pretty.
They fall in love and vow to marry when they are children. But naturally, a lot is going to stand in their way. His father. The law. A fiance. False accusations. Many miles...
It's a tale of childhood sweethearts striving to be together at all costs, and I liked the heroine, who bravely realizes that turning the other cheek on wrongdoings is enabling, even supporting, it.
But I began to notice some odd things before I reach the halfway point, things a good editor should have questioned/pointed out. The viscount says there are no children around for miles to interact with his son, yet the book says later that the son's intended, Agatha, is only a mile away. The viscount tells Harry he's off to Oxford and in a few weeks, he'll be expected at her house for a party to begin their official courtship, yet three years later, he says the same thing. Was it weeks or years? The vicar is fresh out of school himself two years before he becomes involved with a lady who bears his daughter, and when the daughter is three, the book says he's fresh out of school again.
Toward the middle of the story, the characters begin to lose something... When he finds out the woman he loves is in jail, Harry actually stops to debate whether or not to do his homework. What??? Really? Thus, the characters at times felt...without depth, off, and inconsistent. Agatha is at first rather shy, likable, then suddenly she's a blackmailing, ugly wench, no reason given for this change. What we were TOLD they felt, we weren't necessarily SHOWN. I also had a very hard time "falling in love" with Harry. I felt he was shallow and one-dimensional. He can't be with Agatha because she is ugly (plain). That really put me off. He actually thinks that. And then he claims he must marry the "ugly" girl to survive. HUGE dilemma there. Marry or be nothing. And did I mention he actually thought he'd need to down a lot of brandies to bed her? How much of a turd can you be?
I got a suggestion for you, Harry. How about you put that Oxford education to good use and GET A JOB?
TBH, I didn't want Harry and Eliza to hook up again. I felt she'd be better off without him.
I really enjoyed the ship part though, as the ladies head to Botany Bay. That was interesting. I was once again riveted by the story, but then everything just happened so easily whilst they were shipwrecked. The baby just happens to never cry. They just happen to find the perfect cave and a waterfall and food, and you get the picture.
And at 60%, a very unsavory twist was thrown in that really put me off. And that's all I'm saying. I think this story had tremendous potential and the heroine was terrific, but the supporting cast, so to speak, and some of the things thrown in, no, no, no.