Sat
Sep 10 2016 10:00am

99 Problems and Falling in Love is One of Them in Susanne Lord’s Discovery of Desire

Discover of Desire by Susanne Lord

In Regency times a passage to India, for impoverished, gently-born women, was a guarantee of sorts. If you wanted a husband, India was full of Englishmen looking for wives. Did the guarantee include affection and happiness? Susanne Lords Discovery of Desire explores the gap that existed between safety and surety and an uncertain leap of faith that might—or might not—result in love.

Imagine getting off a ship after 99 days at sea, how confused and tired you’d be. Wilhelmina (Mina) Adams and her younger sister Emma, part of a group of “venture girls,” search fervently for their putative fiancés, hoping for honorable gentlemen: “Please, God, let both Thomas Grant and Colin Rivers be gentle, decent men.” The Supreme Being has other plans in mind. Mina is distracted by a man who stands out from the crowd of men meeting the ship.

A tall man in the group, the tallest man, drew Mina’s eye again and again. He wasn’t a gentleman—he wore a rather coarse coat—and his wide-legged stance was a markedly different posture than a gentleman’s. But his form was decidedly male. Very male shoulders and very male arms that swelled in ways she’d never seen—until she realized those solid bulges straining his sleeves were muscles.

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Emma notices him too and comments that “he looks quick to laugh.” Poor, sweet sisters—what are the odds that their paths will ever intersect with the handsome merry stranger?

As it happens, the tall stranger, Seth Mayhew, is a colleague of Mina’s intended, Mr. Grant, as she calls him. Thomas Grant, very graciously, encourages Mina to take her time to decide whether or not they would be happy together. Emma, unfortunately, seems to be abandoned by her fiancé, Colin Rivers (a story for another time).

Almost immediately, Mina is pulled into the mystery of Seth Mayhew’s missing sister Georgiana. Georgie is a talented botanical artist while her brother is a surveyor for the famed East India Company: a surveyor with a knack for staying alive whilst discovering exquisitely beautiful rare plants. In the midst of a formal reception (which he gate-crashes), Seth compares Mina to an orchid. It’s more than a little awkward.

“A slipper orchid, with petals dark as chocolate, and glossy like your hair, and a little slipper labellum that was coral like your lips. She was hiding in the moss of an old, gnarled tree—where’s Tom?”

He stopped to haul Thomas over to stand in front of her and peeked around him. “Tom here being the dead wood—and when I came upon that flower, it was like finding a jewel.”

“Are you finished, Mr. Mayhew?” Thomas asked.

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Mina is the oldest of six sisters. She is intelligent, capable and more than a little persistent. She lends her considerable talents to forcing the gentlemen of the East India Company to help Seth in his inquiries. Mina, through her friendship with the venture girls who traveled with her to Bombay, pushes the ladies to encourage their swains to talk with Mayhew. She provides them with a poster of Georgiana. Mina and Seth learn, to their mutual surprise, that they have much in common. They come from the same area of England, they love plays…and they definitely come to appreciate the other.  Seth is delighted with clever Mina’s help, particularly since his rather sorry plan consisted of talking to one of Thomas’s colleagues.

“Involving the wives might’ve been a bit of Lysistrata without-the-war, but the venture girls are better. Tom’s Mr. Fallon was all the plan we had. Do you think we might give the ladies a few more of my posters?”

Inevitably proximity affects them. It becomes increasingly difficult to remain mere friends.

“Miss W. Adams,” he murmured. He angled lower, dipping beneath the brow of her hat, his lips hovering at her brow. He nuzzled her hair and breathed deep, and that slow smile bloomed across her temple. “Why are you on my side?”

That is the question that Discovery of Desire answers. What compels Seth and Mina to be there for each other—in every way? It’s a journey worth taking, particularly with the vivid backdrop of the “bazaars of Bombay,” the “slums of London,” and ultimately England’s green and pleasant “patchwork fields.”

***

Learn more about or order a copy of Discovery of Desire by Susanne Lord, available now:

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Janet Webb aka @janetnorcal has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. When I rediscovered the world of romance, my spirit guide was All About Romance's Desert Island Keepers—I started with the “A” authors and never looked back.

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