In Kathleen Y'Barbo's novel Millie's Treasure, which follows Flora's Wish in the series of The Secret Lives of Will Tucker, Will Tucker is once again out of jail and pulling his finacé scam on wealthy young women, swindling them out of their jewels; this time, his eyes are set on Mildred Cope, the bluestocking daughter of a southern gentleman. Millie's father is not the most pleasant of men - in fact, she is planning on marrying her Sir William Trueck for the sole purpose of escaping her father, who has forbidden her studies in cryptology and other scientific research. Pinkerton agent Kyle Russell has been momentarily pulled off of the Will Tucker case to search for lost Confederate gold, and while experimenting with his latest invention encounters the lovely Millie. Though off to a mildly rocky start, they forge a bond over their love of science, and Millie has a puzzle she needs Kyle's help to solve. Despite what Kyle's heart tells him, he cannot be sure of the lovely southern belle - is Millie connected to the missing treasure? And has she joined forces with the notorious Will Tucker to find it?
This is not your typical historical novel; though the setting is well researched regarding time and place, it actually borders on fantasy, based on legend rather than historical fact. The tales surrounding Jean Lafitte and his treasure are fascinating; I had no idea that there were connections (tenuous though they may be) between Lafitte and the stories of hidden Confederate gold. Even if it is not necessarily how history went, it is fun to hear them and wonder how close they are to the truth. The steam punk aspect - the inclusion of inventions that have not yet been patented and quite possibly not completely invented - also adds to the fantastic feel of the novel. Really, how romantic would it be to have the gentleman of
your dreams appear in your window, ready to whisk you off on a
romantic flight beneath the stars?
While it is a light-hearted novel, Millie's Treasure does touch on a couple serious issues - Millie's father, wracked by grief and guilt, has pulled away from his only surviving child, feeling guilt for her mother's and sisters' deaths every time he looks at her, afraid to show his love. Millie must fight to find a way to be herself in a society and under the authority of those who disapprove of her interests and desires. It is a fun, clean, read, full of romance and adventure. 4 out of 5 stars