In Through the Smoke by Brenda Novak, Truman Stanhope, the Earl of Druridge, is searching for answers about the fire that scorched his house and took the life of his wife and her unborn child (of another man!). His search leads him to Rachel, who he is sure knows more than she's telling about the fire.
Rachel is very conscious of her place in society and how things are perceived. She does not want to do anything to hurt her young brother or her mother. But when Lord Stanhope offers a Doctor's services for her dying mother in return for the answers to a few of his questions, Rachel can not say no. Unknown to her, with this action, Rachel sets in motion a chain of events that will have the community ostracizing her, her business failing, and Rachel desiring a man she has no business desiring.
Lord Stanhope is not easily put off, and he is determined in his pursuit of answers...even when it seems everyone already assumes he is the guilty party. Despite the gossip, he and Rachel feel more and more for each other as they see more of each other. Rachel is everything his late wife was not. Lord Stanhope is a man Rachel thought she could only ever dream about.
As the search for answers becomes more dangerous for both of them, and Lord Stanhope may have to resort to outside help, is their growing love for each other destined to never be realized?
Brenda does a fabulous job of writing about life as a young woman in England in the 1840's. The 2013 woman in me wants to scream at the injustice of life as a woman then, but another part of me is proud of the strong, independent woman that Rachel is for that era. Through the Smoke will take you right to small town England where you can smell the coal dust. Brenda brings the characters to life, especially Rachel. Both Rachel and Lord Stanhope come across as very genuine people, and despite the centuries of difference between then and now, the feelings the characters experience are ones that are timeless.
Through the Smoke will have you wondering how things could possible end up. Brenda describes the class differences and expectations vividly, sometimes you will feel like you are right there in the pages with Rachel, Lord Stanhope and the mysteries surrounding them. You can actually feel the disdain that Lord Stanhope's head housekeeper feels for Rachel.
I really found myself hoping that there could be a way for the Earl and the commoner to be together!
I don't read many historical romances, but with Through the Smoke Brenda kept me enchanted (and through very good writing annoyed about the oppression of women), and wondering if Lord Stanhope would ever find out the truth before it was too late. I am very happy I took the chance on this historical romance! I would recommend Through the Smoke to anyone who enjoys historical romance with suspense, great characters, and just enough heat between them!