Having seen one too many young men disappear into the mist on British ships, Tabitha Eckles has resigned herself to a solitary life. As a respected midwife, she’s the one woman in her town who can walk unaccompanied in the middle of the night without having rumours whispered about her. Unfortunately, her comfortable and quiet life is interrupted during one of these long, midnight walks. Returning from a birthing that went terribly wrong, Tabitha finds herself alone on the beach in the company of a mysterious English man, whom Tabitha suspects may be involved in the press-gangings that have been becoming ever more present in their peaceful costal town. But it’s not long before Tabitha discovers the identity of this mysterious yet charming young man – he’s Domonick Cherrett, an English gentleman who has fallen from grace and is now indentured servant and butler to Tabitha’s mayor. Knowing that an indentured servant would never be allowed to wander the beach at night, Tabitha remains suspicious a she pursues a friendship with Dominick, who has reasons of his own for wanting to become involved with the town midwife. Soon these two unlikely friends become embroiled in more mysteries than they expected – and an unexpected romance begins to bud between the spinster midwife and indentured English nobleman. Matters are complicated further when Tabitha’s long-lost fiancé returns from the sea and Dominick finds himself struggling over whether he could go home to his family with Tabitha or if he should leave her to her simple life in America – or whether he actually wishes to return to England at all. Can Tabitha and Dominick put aside their preconceived ideas about love and rank and – more importantly – learn to trust each other?
It’s always wonderful when you start reading a novel with the hope of being entertained and distracted from your busy life, only to be blown away by the discovery of a new favourite author. Laurie Alice Eakes’s novel had that exact affect on me, and I can’t verbalise how pleasing it is to uncover a gem of a story like this one. I came to this book with no idea what to expect, knowing very little about midwifes or the post-revolutionary war years in the United States. It was fascinating to learn about this period in American history, and although I never felt overwhelmed by the neatly intertwined historical detail, I do feel as if I’ve been enlightened somehow and will definitely be looking out for more books set in this time period.
It was particularly amusing to read a novel in which the Brits are the “bad guys”, being British myself. Yet despite the reservations that Tabitha and her friends had about the British, she had excellent chemistry with Dominick Cherrett, the typically ridiculously handsome and wittily charming British hero, whom even I fell in love with despite my reservations on minor royals thanks to studying at the University of St. Andrews. Their relationship is initially based on mutual distrust and suspicion, as the two of them try to deny their feelings for each other due to their very different backgrounds. The indentured noble who falls for the spinster midwife was a refreshing and original twist on the traditional plot of the prince falling for the servant girl.
The spiritual lives of the characters play a fairly large part in the book, as Dominick comes to terms with the corruption he found in the traditional English Church, and Tabitha learns to trust God despite the many grievances she and her family have suffered over the years. While I was particularly interested in Dominick’s struggles – which instead of being with God, were with the Church – I will admit that I felt that the focus on their spiritual struggles sometimes took away from the main plot. I occasionally found myself skim-reading the sections where Tabitha and Dominick talked about their thoughts on God, particularly towards the end of the story when it could have come close to detracting from the climax of the action. This may be a matter of personal preference, but I felt that the spiritual aspect needed to be more integrated so that it didn’t feel as if it was interrupting the plot. However, this is a minor issue that didn’t impinge on my enjoyment of the novel.
Laurie Alice Eakes is definitely an author to keep your eye on in the genre of historical fiction, and I’m looking forward to reading more from the Midwives series. She truly knows how to set the atmosphere of the period and create an excellent chemistry between her characters. Dominick and Tabitha are by far one of the most unique couples I’ve encountered in my reading of historical romances, and they were surrounded by a wonderful cast of minor characters, particularly the servants with whom Dominick worked. I hope that Laurie chooses to revisit these characters at some point, but if not, I’m sure that her next group of characters will be just as engaging. 9/10
Review title sent courtesy of Revell.
If my review has made you want to get hold of this book and read it for yourself, pop over to The Christian Manifesto and enter yourself for the chance of one of three copies!