Rachel McTavish knows something about the fire that destroyed Blackmoor Hall and Truman Stanhope's unfaithful wife, but she isn't about to divulge anything, particularly not the Stanhope, the Earl of Druridge. telling. She goes quietly about the village of Cresswell in Northern England, caring for her ill mother and running their bookshop. It's been a hardscrabble life for the McTavishes. Rachel's brother Tom died in the mine; her father succumbed to the lung disease that so often affected coal miners. The earl is an enemy, and Rachel identifies with the miners, but when her mother's condition deteriorates, she is forced to strike a bargain: her knowledge for a doctor's help.
Truman Stanhope has no recollection of events the night of the fire save being pulled out of the flames by his cousin Wythe. A man of considerable means, the earl stands to lose everything if he cannot prove himself innocent of his wife's death. Perhaps Rachel can help clear the mystery, but a prank gone horribly wrong compromises Rachel and puts her life in danger. Only Truman has the power and means to save her, but will accepting his help compromise her heart?
Brenda Novak, a fellow writer and California author is an automatic buy for me. I love her gripping romantic suspense novels and the delightful Whiskey Creek series. Now, this New York Times best-selling author returns to her first love: historical romance. Through the Smoke is reminiscent of the classic Jane Eyre. It has love, passion, unbridled ambition and greed, and mystery in an 1840s English setting.
Novak's pacing is superb. I couldn't put the book down.