Fair warning: This book has no heroine. Rather, it has two heroes. So if that kind of thing bothers you, you'll probably not want to read this book. You may not even want to read this post.
I admit that I've never understood the whole men-on-sailing-ships-who-aren't-pirates genre. Merchant sailors, Navy men, I just never saw the appeal. I still don't think I'm about to rush off and read Patrick O'Brien's entire oeuvre, but I think I have a better understanding of the appeal of the danger and adventure present in those novels.
John Cavendish has just been granted command of his first ship and Alfie Donwell is part of his crew. It isn't long before Alfie sets his sights on John and begins his pursuit. Unfortunately, their ship has been set up to fail in its mission, thus providing an excuse for war with the Ottoman Empire.
Seriously, I can only remember bits and pieces of the plot and the political maneuverings and descriptions of battle, but now, every time I read an historical romance set on a ship, I half expect John and/or Alfie to walk into the scene. And I keep inserting scenes from this book into other books I'm reading and wondering why no one's talking about the hero having been captured and held and having to watch his crewmen die in front of him. For me, it's one of those books that breaks down into a series of moments — beautifully-written snapshots of the stages in the developing relationship between John and Alfie. It's full of really, really bleak and (as far as I know) realistic depictions of life on board a military ship in the 18th century. Those moments, though, are balanced by some of the most wrenching and tender emotional scenes between two lovers that I've ever read.
And this isn't a fantasy novel where everyone is accepting of love between two men. If John and Alfie want a future together — which of course they do because it's a romance novel — it's going to be difficult and downright dangerous. Maybe that's why the love story worked so well for me: The path to their HEA is neither smooth nor easy, but, in the end, they both decide the rewards are worth the risks. With that kind of commitment, I was left feeling that, whatever the challenges to their relationship in the future, these two would face them head on and side by side.