Sunday 10 March 2013

Sunday Spotlight: Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

Fifteen-year-old Isabelle has given up on life. Walking into the sea, she is ready to drown herself - until she changes her mind, too late. But instead of drowning, she's pulled from the waves by smugglers. While the crew aren't all happy that a couple of their men have jeopardized them by rescuing her, she quickly becomes useful to them and starts to get a thrill from helping to evade the Preventives. Can she be happy in her new life, or will her dark secret catch up with her?

This is a hugely enjoyable historical adventure with a brilliant narrator, a fantastic love interest and a really strong setting. Jensen captures the time period of the early eighteenth century very well and it's a thrilling read with lots of action-packed sequences. In addition, there's great character development, particularly as Isabelle matures and learns more about the world away from her privileged background, even starting to question what she's always been taught is the natural order of things and to feel sympathetic towards the poor people she meets. Speaking of the poor people, Rudyard Kipling's A Smuggler's Song at the start of the book sets the scene perfectly for the relationship between the Gentlemen, the people of the communities they deal with, and the Preventives, and Jensen's portrayal of all of her characters is compelling.

It's not perfect - I thought Isabelle's background was revealed a little too slowly, perhaps. It's also one of the very few books I've read recently which I thought was a tiny bit short, if anything - I'm far more likely to complain that a book feels padded out, but I wished this one was longer.

Despite those slight criticisms, this is really easy to recommend - the last few years have seen a huge amount of excellent historical fiction for teens and children and this ranks highly amongst them. Jensen is an author who I've always meant to read but never quite got round to before this book - I'll definitely be seeking out some of her earlier works!

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