This one was so good, I read it in less than two hours...
Constance Blackchurch has lived her entire life with her Aunty Violet and cousin Daphne while her father runs his merchant business, sailing all over the globe. Constance's mother disappeared sixteen years earlier in the middle of the night, and no one has seen her since. One day, when Constance's father is home for one of his rare visits, Constance overhears a conversation not meant for her ears: her father has received word of the whereabouts of her mother. When he refuses to take Constance with him, she stows away on his ship, risking her father's wrath. On their way to Africa, Constance meets Alexandre Sans-Nom, a pearl-diver. They are drawn to each other, and as Constance's father continues to push her away, Constance learns that Alexandre may be the only one who can help her find her missing mother.
Unclaimed Heart is a romantic, adventurous, and gripping read that demands to be finished in one sitting. Constance is a courageous and bold character, but her sometimes childish behavior and mistakes make her an authentic and convincing character that is struggling with the need to be wanted by her parents, both her distant father, and missing mother. Constance's relationship with her father is interesting to read and Constance struggles to be the daughter her father wants her to be even though it goes against what she hopes to do in life, and her father grapples with accepting her as a young woman, not the child her believes her to be. The dynamics between them are handled in a realistic manner for the time period, helping illustrate how oppressing the time period can be for women.
The setting of the novel isn't exactly specific, but the landscape is expressed with vivid imagery, adding to the dreamy air of the book. The historical details when it comes to the marine aspects of the book aren’t overdone, but yet it is evident that it was carefully researched. All of these details, combined with Wilkins' easy and magnetic writing style, make for a daring and glittering novel that is a wonderful escape from reality.
Unclaimed Heart will be available from Razorbill on July 9th, 2009!