In Karsten’s (Snags and Sawyers: 2000 Miles Down the Arkansas River, 2012, etc.) historical romance, a case of mistaken identity strands a Scottish lass in Colonial Philadelphia.
Impetuous Caroline “Callie” Beaton flees her grandfather’s house in a huff one night, tired of the dull suitors he parades before her. Wandering the docks of Leith, she’s shocked to be bundled into the hold of a ship, mistaken for a young woman who signed a contract of indentured servitude to gain passage to America. Before she knows it, she’s at sea, stranded without anything to prove her true identity; she has no choice but to bide her time until they reach the Colonies, where she can hopefully find a way to contact her family across the Atlantic. Aboard the ship, she befriends other indentured women: blithe, gossipy Peg, and Mary Rawles, whose husband dies during the voyage, leaving her with two small children and a debt to work off. Callie is also drawn to another passenger, handsome Davy McRae, a self-described businessman whose trade remains mysterious. But while she’s attracted to him, getting back home is far more important, and, once in Philadelphia, Callie suffers through her indenture being sold to the Ashers, a wealthy family with a tangled history. The eldest son, Ethan, seems a trustworthy gentleman, and Callie’s overjoyed when he sneaks her paper and ink to write a letter home. Though Ethan promises to send it, there’s no quick reply, and gently bred Callie finds herself working from dawn till dusk, with no thanks from her masters. When the patriarch of the family is murdered, however, she’s the prime suspect and must flee suspicion with none other than Davy McRae. Is their burgeoning romance a distraction from Callie’s homeward mission? Who can she trust in this foreign land? Karsten ably handles the setting, conjuring the sights and sounds of 1754 Philadelphia and the never-ending chores. Callie is likable, if rather too trusting of men, while love interest Davy has a complicated history of his own. Karsten doesn’t break new ground here, but she’s penned an engaging story with some clever plot twists.
A quick, pleasant read.