Reviewed by Debs Carr
It's 1909 and Emma Le Goff is slowly learning to cope with the mysterious deaths of her family. Her father, a French fisherman was lost at sea and then weeks later, her mother and brother fall to their deaths. The gossip in the Devon village where she lives is that her mother has committed suicide, but Emma knows that her mother would never have taken her little brother’s life or left Emma alone at fifteen with no one to look after her. When Emma returns to the tied cottage where she’s always lived, Seth, son of the ruthless landlord, Reuben Jago, has the diffficult task of telling Emma that his father has found a new tenant. Devastated, Emma has no choice but to take up an offer of a place to stay from the new tenant, Matthew Caunter. Matthew is her father's replacement on Reuben Jago's fishing fleet. She knows that gossip is rife about her and Matthew and that it’s improper for her to sleep under the same roof as him, but she has no where else to go. Seth is in love with Emma and although he is ashamed of his father and brother's behaviour towards her, he does what he can to help her. However, he can only go so far against his bullying father’ wishes. Seth doesn’t want to take any notice of the spiteful gossip surrounding Emma and Matthew, but can’t help being jealous of the older man who Emma seems to be so comfortable with and as circumstances worsen it seems to Seth and Emma that maybe they’re not meant to be together.
I loved Emma’s strength and feistiness. She's proud of her heritage and stands up to gossips and is determined to discover exactly what happened to her mother and brother and if possible, her father. She loves Seth, but can’t forget that he’s part of the Jago family and struggles to make a way for herself as her circumstances change beyond all recognition. Seth, is honest, handsome and in love with Emma, but his family’s dreadful reputation and their actions towards her and others conspire to keep him from her. He has also experienced heartbreak and harbours suspicions that he’s determined to settle whatever the cost.
Linda Mitchelmore’s characters are beautifully depicted. Emma and Seth, young, innocent and good, secretly longing to be together against many odds. Matthew with his mysterious past; the kindly doctor who helps Emma; Reuben Jago’s tough housekeeper, Mrs Drew, and vicious gossip, Mrs Phipps, each one adds to the enjoyment of this wonderful debut.