The White Sails Series, Book One
2021 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
As the first full-length novel in The White Sails Series, DISCERNING GRACE captures the spirit of an independent woman whose feminine lens blows the ordered patriarchal decks of a 19th century tall ship to smithereens.
London, 1826. Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.
Refusing this fate, Grace resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.
When Grace's big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. The captain wants her back in London but his orders, to chart the icy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, forbid it. Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam gallantly offers to take Grace off the fretting captain's hands by placing her under his protection.
Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret, while managing her feelings towards her taciturn protector, whose obstinate chivalry stifles her new-found independence. But when Grace disregards Lieutenant Fitzwilliam's warnings about the dangers of the unexplored archipelago, it costs a friend his life and she realises she is not as free as she believes.
DISCERNING GRACE is historical women's fiction that will appeal to fans of Claire Fraser from Outlander and Demelza Poldark from Poldark—in other words, fans of feisty historical female leads.
Reviews for Discerning Grace
Emma Lombard’s debut novel is full of detail that helps the reader envision the confined world of the Discerning, the ship on which she’s taken refuge. It’s clearly well researched: the daily tasks of the crew; the fear when Grace must learn to climb rigging; the food served, and the stench of the sleeping quarters all serve to create a believable backdrop to Grace’s tale. Many conflicts and reversals, big and small, keep the reader’s attention, without feeling forced or added simply to have yet another problem to be solved. Discerning Grace is a romance, too; can you put a determined young woman and an honourable lieutenant together on a ship without one? Discerning Grace is an admirable debut novel, and a beguiling blend of historical fiction and women’s fiction — Marian L. Thorpe, Historical Fantasy Author. Read full review
There is an element of romance, but this book offers so much more than that. There are the friendships Grace forms with her fellow ship mates, stories of betrayal, dark moments, and funny heart-warming moments, along the way. I highly recommend this well written and entertaining book. It will have you turning the pages with great haste. I am happy it is the first of a series, as I wanted more. I give it 5 stars — Hayley Walsh, Light-hearted Fiction Author. Read full review
Although the novel is a romance, there is much more here than simple fluff. She tackles some serious issues, including the struggles women faced (and still face today) in a patriarchal society. At the risk of sounding like a reading hipster, please allow me to say that books like this one are the reason I love indiebooks. This novel is so much more fun than anything I’ve read from a mainstream press in ages! This book reminds me of a combination of Treasure Island and Jane Austen. A definite seafaring delight! — Rev. Beckie Writes. Read full review
By stepping back from what society expects from a young woman of her class, Grace discovers a sense of freedom that she never knew existed, and although a cabin boy’s life is not one she would have necessarily chosen for herself, it does give her time to reflect, as well as gain a certain sense of peace and accomplishment—not in her wildest of imaginations would she have thought she would be capable of climbing the rigging and using a musket like the best of them! But here she was. Grace dared to stir the waters, which started a chain of events that would end in a perfect storm—both literally and emotionally — Mary Anne Yarde, The Coffee Pot Book Club. Read full review
Grace Baxter is not your usual 19th century young woman. Educated, outspoken, bold and adventurous, she is far from the compliant and dutiful daughter. Readers will be surprised as she struggles to keep her identity a secret on a ship full of men. Lt. Fitzwilliam is exactly what you’d imagine a British Naval Officer to be. Handsome, intelligent, honourable; he quickly develops a soft spot for Grace. They squabble and irritate each other but it is clear that each is smitten. The ship’s crew is full of interesting characters who round out book. You’ll so find yourself cheering them on — Jean M. Roberts, The Books Delight. Read full review
HMS Discerning Voyage (1826 to 1827)