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Having spent her early years on a 19th century whaling ship, Abigail Sherman can't quite get her land legs when her father packs her off to New Bedford, Mass., to learn some proper manners. Everything she knowssalacious sea chanteys, the wide-open view from the top of the riggings, the relaxed pace of life in New Zealand, where she and her father settledis of little use in stiff New England. Poor Abigail is constantly putting a foot wrong. When a letter bearing the sad, perplexing tidings of her father's murder arrives, she bamboozles her way aboard one whaler and then into a marriage of convenience with the glowering young captain of another. Her small legacy is the brig she grew up on and a puzzling rhyme that may lead to a fortune, but before she can return to New Zealand to collect, Abigail must faceand conquergrumbling sailors, a murderous mystery man, and her own attractive, hot-headed husband. Excellent characters in full sail amid tangy salt air and creaky timbers offer prime entertainment. Though New Zealander Druett ( Exotic Intruders ) uses one too many romantic cliche, she engagingly captures the atmosphere of whalers and their world. Doubleday Book Club alternate. (October)

New Zealand, a whaling ship, a spirited young woman, and a fast-paced plot are the successful mix in this first novel. Abigail Sherman was born, raised, and at home on her father's whaling ship. Following her mother's death, she is sent to the dour household of a Massachusetts cousin. News of her father's murder propels her to escape and marry a young whaling captain in a desperate bid to return to New Zealand, claim the brig her father had deeded her, and seek the answer to the riddle he left for her. Lots of adventure, a colorful cast of characters, and enough whaling details to provide a first-rate vicarious experience. Doubleday Book Club Alternate. Joan Hinkemeyer, Englewood P.L., Col.

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