This year, I’ve chosen The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall as one of my Cornish Reading Challenge reads!
Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …
Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.
Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.
Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …
I’m not usually one for romance novels – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever browsed in the “romance” section of a bookshop! But The Thief’s Daughter is more than a romance novel. It’s a sweeping historical fiction, set in the depths of Cornwall in the 1700s, and it is truly enchanting.
I particularly liked Jenna, who, despite her status, her family, and, of course, her sex, manages to remain strong and independent, and speak her mind. It can be hard for authors to create Strong Female Characters
™ in historical fiction, for women were severely oppressed simply for being women, but Cornwall manages to bring Jenna to life, making her strong and realistic. Cornwall has an excellent writing style, drawing you in and keeping you lost in her world. And I learned about the custom of wife selling – which is every bit as vile and sexist as you think!
It would be remiss of me to fail to point out the similarities to Poldark, and how much Jenna reminded me of Demelza. Her unfortunate start in life, the abuse she suffered at the hands of a man, the dressing up as a boy. Jenna, also like Demelza, goes to work for Jack as a housekeeper, but their relationship soon becomes more than a professional one. It’s the typical rags to riches (or rather, to moderate means) story, but Cornwall manages to weave the story perfectly, and make it original. For this is no rip-off of a popular story; The Thief’s Daughter stands strong on its own merits, and it is a tale to lose yourself in.