When Captain Stewart, master mariner and ship owner, married Diana Mitchell, she brought a ship to the union. She was from a family of ship owners that used Diana to give sixteen-year-old apprentices-future officers-practical experience of life at sea before going into the main fleet. They paid for the privilege and didn't get their money back if they found the life not to their liking and went ashore. Diana died in childbirth, taking her son with her. But there was a daughter, Emma. Diana's last wish was that Emma would inherit the ship. Her husband grudgingly concurred and brought the vessel to Norwood Creek as part of a pre-sea school. He has little time for Emma, and he constantly reminds her that he wanted a son to carry on the line. He recruits a fisherman's daughter to be her personal maid and a university graduate with a troubled past to be her tutor. Maid and tutor become her family. Between them, they turn her into a young woman of wide-ranging ability and awesome intelligence. Loved by them and by Ms. Headley, the housekeeper, Emma is kept on an even keel. Since Diana is her ship, she takes to learning all there is to know about her. The ship's company of 150 cadets worship Emma because she shares in all the hardships, of going aloft in all weathers in bare feet. They call her Ms. Emma. With equal fervor, they love the idea that their ship goes to sea several times a semester to practice all they have learned. In September 1938, a new recruit to the staff of instructors, a Great War veteran, unsettles the whole school. Murder is not on his mind, but eventually steers that way. Two new cadets of unusual character will feature in Emma's fight for survival.
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