'The Chosen Man' by J. G Harlond
Once the characters had stopped travelling and settled down into their allotted roles, I loved it. Harlond brilliantly evokes both the buzzing commercial excitement and culture of the Dutch capital - and the gentle beauty and slow rhythm of a remote Cornish baronial estate. Yet menace lurks beneath the surface even in this rural idyll. I cared deeply about all the characters and the sinister undertones of both locations were well-sustained, ensuring I came back to the book quickly to check they all survived.
Harlond is also ambitious in the theme of romance. Never mind a love-triangle, this was a love quartet. Alina's dilemma kept us on our toes right until the last page. Which one of those three distinctive male characters will the independent Alina choose? Her gentle, aristocratic, yet sickly husband? Alonso, the attractive, self-made fellow Spaniard who has always loved her? Or Ludo? Ludo the Italian pirate; Ludo the con man. The bad-boy who lives by his wits, manipulates the Dutch and turns the European balance of power on its head, while side-stepping assassination attempts like we would dodge traffic.
A satisfying ending which demands a sequel.
'The Chosen Man' on amazon