A CAPTAIN FOR CAROLINE GRAY, by Julie Wright, Shadow Mountain, March 2, 2021, Paperback, $15.99 (young adult/ new adult/ adult fiction)
After three contemporary Proper Romance novels (Lies Jane Austen Told Me; Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and Glass Slippers, Ever after and Me), Julie Wright has moved to the regency period with A Captain for Caroline Gray.
Caroline Gray’s third season in London society ends as badly as her first two — no marriage proposal, no suitor, not even a glimmer of an interested prospect. She suspects it’s because she is far too quick to speak her mind to men who are put off by her forthright opinions, her eager intellect backed by a formal education, and her unconventional ideas about the future. She is far more daring than demure to suit the taste of her class. Besides, Caroline thinks there will always be next season to find a husband.
However, her family’s dwindling income leaves Caroline with only one choice to secure her future: a one-way ticket to sail with the Fishing Fleet to India, where the son of a family friend waits. If the match doesn’t work, Caroline cannot return home.
Captain Thomas Scott loves the thrill of the open sea, and as commander of one of the ships of the Fishing Fleet, he ferries scores of young English girls to the shores of India to find husbands. The voyages pay well, but he struggles to understand why families would allow young women to be matched with total strangers so far away.
The trips have always been routine and uneventful — until this trip’s first night’s dinner with one Miss Caroline Gray. She engages in a lively political conversation, presenting opposing viewpoints to the conventionally opinionated gentlemen at her table. Captain Scott is secretly amused and delighted at her boldness, not to mention quite drawn to her beauty.
Both know an arranged marriage awaits Caroline at the end of their voyage, yet the attraction between them is undeniable. Caroline will have to decide if she will honor her mother’s wishes and marry a man in India whom she has never met, thus securing a future for her and her mother, or be brave enough to throw convention to the wind and commit to love a sea captain. He may be enchanted by her bold and unconventional ways, but will his love and admiration last? —Synopsis provided by Shadow Mountain
This is the second Proper Romance novel set on a ship that I’ve read this year. Georgiana’s Secret, by Arlem Hawks also features a love story set at sea, but that’s where the similarities end.
A Captain for Caroline Gray focuses in the very real desperation that women living in the 19th century must have felt when they could not make a match in England. Their options were limited — marry for financial stability and position in society or live as a pauper.
Author Julie Wright does an excellent job setting the stakes. It’s a situation where men seem to have (almost) all the power. But that’s not completely true. Wright’s exploration of the power structure among women, the nuances between station, is compelling.
Caroline is the obvious star — strong, thoughtful, intelligent — but the supporting characters really make this an enjoyable read. Given his strong opinions about the women he is transporting, Thomas is harder to warm up to. His complete lack of understanding as far as their situations makes him a bit infuriating at the beginning, but he grows on you over time.
A Captain for Caroline Gray is a fast-moving novel that isn’t completely swoon worthy, but definitely worth reading. If you’re already a fan of the Proper Romance series, you won’t be disappointed. It’s not my favorite book by Wright, but I recommend it nonetheless.