Blamed for her uncle's death, fifteen-year-old Annie is on the run. Knowing the perils she will face on the streets of eighteenth century London, she disguises herself as a boy. Her life on the streets is cut short when she becomes Captain Hawke’s cabin boy.
Not only must Annie work alongside the Realm’s motley crew of outcasts and gentlemen, she must also keep her superstitious shipmates from discovering she is a girl.
Annie vows she will never leave the Realm, where dreams are chased, shattered lives can mend, and secrets are stowed like keepsakes in an old desk drawer. But when her past catches up with her, can she return to the Realm? More importantly, will she have a choice?
First, I must disclose that I received a copy of Secrets of the Realm by Bev Stout from the author herself in exchange for an honest review. I added it to my to-read short list and was curious about the title, but wasn't expecting to love it.
Bev Stout has a winner on her hands with this novel. It's a historical "adventure" written for a young adult audience, but as an adult reader of all genres, this one still captured me completely. I laughed, cried, and wanted more - the characters felt like long lost friends and the writing was descriptive.
I fell in love with the heroine. Annie is absolutely captivating and you can't help but find her charming. She's brave, tenacious, and absolutely lovable. She's strong and fragile all rolled into one. In the midst of rescuing herself from an abusive situation, she finds adventure and heartbreak, and discovers friendships and a place of acceptance - a place of her own. The supporting characters will also pull you in.
I highly recommend this for any young reader who enjoys a taste of history and loves to live vicariously through the pages of a book. There are no inappropriate scenes or language, and the romance is mild (more of an unrequited crush or deep friendship). It touches more on the heroine and the individuals she encounters and enchants amidst her search for freedom. It's a very quick and easy book to read. The author could easily write for adults - this novel in particular could become an adult historical - there was ample opportunity to expand upon certain scenes or throw in some more mature content. That being said, I found it perfect for a safe and entertaining read for it's intended audience.
Thanks to the author for the chance to read and review! It's a wonderful story.
Edit: Updated cover image 02-02-14