At well over 600 pages, this book is much longer than your average romance novel and it is packed with location changes and secondary characters, mysteries and misunderstandings. Part of the action takes place near Richmond Virginia and I was stunned at the research that must have gone into the book when I realized that the throw-away locations of roads that they took and inns at which they stopped were *accurate*!
The best part of the book was the hero, Ruark. He was a fabulous character who made the best of everything that life threw at him. The character of Shanna was more problematic for me (hence only 4 stars). Frankly, she was a selfish, self-pitying, manipulative, lying brat at the beginning of the book and she took almost 600 pages to realize that Ruark's love was more precious than her pride and her fancy dresses. Of course, she was *drop-dead* beautiful, but how on earth did she ever get a fantastic guy like Ruark to fall in love with her? She *slowly* matures during the course of the book, but she is so immature and selfish during the initial part of the story than I could not ever really like her. (A minority opinion, perhaps, since many other reviewers *loved* the character of Shanna.) Alot of her behavior is excused by other characters because she was "spoiled" (yeah, no kidding) or "very young" (actually she was 21 or 22 years old, not really all that young). Her only other good characteristics (besides her stunning beauty) were her plucky spirit and her intermittent concern for the villagers on her father's island (she also rides very well.) In her favor, she is a strong character--consistent and rarely boring, even when she is most annoying.
Despite my reservations about Shanna, this is a very good book.
The plot is very far-fetched but none the less vastly entertaining, covering lots of ground before Shanna and Ruark can finally admit their love to each other and everyone else. The dialogue is rather stilted, but perhaps that is a nod to the Georgian period setting.
I enjoyed this book but preferred "The Windflower" by Laura London or "The Hidden Heart" by Laura Kinsale (both excellent sea adventure/pirate books!)