When a resourceful bluestocking is ensnared in her half-brother’s
perverse game of revenge, she finds an unlikely form of escape, a
convict transport bound for the British Empire’s most notorious penal
colony. Her goal to remain another overlooked prisoner is thwarted by a
forbidden attraction to the ship’s brooding surgeon.
London, late September, 1824
Fog stole around Emily Starling’s prison uniform, brown serge stamped with broad arrows. She willed her trembling legs not to clatter the ankle chains and closed her eyes, feeling the rough grit of exhaustion. Rows of moored ships stretched along the wharves, masts rising toward the dawn like a primeval forest. She hadn’t seen the sky in ages, but even the muted pinks and oranges brightening the underbelly of the low cloud couldn’t lift her spirits. The driver halted the open cart in front of a waiting vessel. It wasn’t a particularly impressive ship, blue with a thick white line painted around the hull. No black ferryboat of the underworld—looked as sinister as a dependable workhorse. The other women, surrounding her like herrings in a barrel, jockeyed for a better glimpse of their home for the next five months.
She fought for a calming breath and caught the hint of wood smoke in the air. Autumn had always been her favorite season. Such a cozy time of year, perfect for curling by a well-stoked fire with a book. The apple trees back home in the garden must be turning crimson, ready to yield their tangy fruit. Her stomach tightened, protesting the dungeon’s final breakfast of cold marrow soup.
“Ain’t you a fine bit o’ muslin?” A hatchet-faced guard dragged her to the worn cobblestones, shattering her attempt at self-distraction. He bent to unlock the shackles and tickled her calf with an insinuating stroke.