To Seduce A Stranger - Susanna Craig
To Seduce A Stranger is a beautifully written Regency romance of two people with difficult pasts who find sanctuary in each other.
There are some pretty deep themes in the book, including slavery and abolitionism and how those in English high and low society thought and interacted with both former slaves and those who had been their masters in the West Indies.
A side character in the book, Mari is a freed former slave who has decided to make her own way in England. It is in interaction with Mari that we see the true measure of the heroine Charlotte's character; when Charlotte (who has had by no means an easy life), thinks:
It would be wrong to compare their past struggles, for nothing could compare to what Mari had endured.
It is in that moment that we realize Charlotte's true greatness of character; even deprived of all the wealth and comforts to which she was accustomed (and entitled, as a dowager duchess!) she never thinks poor me, never treats anyone with anything less than courtesy and respect.
Edward, rightful Earl of Beckley, has endured suffering of his own since he ran away from home as a child in a desperate attempt to protect his mother from his father's cruelty. What he saw in the West Indies left him with a deep distaste for violence and cruelty, and his protective instincts kick in when a frightened woman begs him for help in a busy coaching inn. Charlotte is clearly hiding something, but then so is he. Perhaps in the deserted, semi-ruined manor of Ravenswood, his childhood home, they can both find themselves again.
I absolutely loved this book. Susanna Craig has three degrees in literature and a career as an English professor, and it really shows in the amazing historical accuracy and detail, and in the quality of her writing. I think I just found another author for my must-read shelf...
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.