These days, romance on the high seas is more than the same old pirate fantasy, as Susan Wiggs and Debbie Macomber demonstrate. Their new tales, set more than a century apart, sparkle with wit, crackling dialogue, and heroines who discover the courage to reach out for life's adventures.

Charmed, I'm sure Reared amid a family of beauties in 1850s Boston, Isadora Dudley Peabody breaks out of her bookish, wallflower existence to take an adventurous voyage to Rio on the Silver Swan, captained by Ryan Calhoun. Susan Wiggs's The Charm School eloquently captures the growth of Isadora from ugly-duckling to passionate woman. As Ryan watches Isadora blossom, he finds himself drawn more and more to her spirit and fire while harboring a secret, dangerous objective. The elemental dangers of the high seas, the adventurous steps Isadora takes first timidly, then with bold gusto and the honorable quest Ryan keeps in his heart make The Charm School a beguiling read.

Moon over troubled water Fast forward to today, and adventure turns sinister in Moon over Water by Debbie Macomber (Mira, $6.99, 1551665336). Lorraine Dancy travels to Mexico in search of the father she long thought was dead. She finds him but barely has a chance to say hello before she's set-up for the theft of a valuable Mayan artifact. Lorraine escapes with Jack Keller, a renegade commando with definite ideas about a woman's place in the hold of his boat while he's out getting provisions, for example. But Lorraine will have no part of staying behind the scenes, and the scene of her piloting their boat out of the harbor towing a flotilla of boats still attached to the dock is laugh-out-loud funny.

If you love women who hold their own in any adventure, whether it's on the African Queen a la Hepburn and Bogart or romancing a stone, you're going to love this tale.

Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and Nevis, Minnesota. She is online at SHuseby@aol.com.

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