Lord of the Sea
I just had the kind of month that just wasn’t good for reading. You probably know how it is – kids this, work that, family obligations here and something else going on there. So it took me awhile to really get into Lord of the Sea. Once I got into it, though, I really got into it. This one is definitely worth seeking out.
Lord of the Sea is actually part of a series of books, and I’d read none of them – though I’ve read all Harmon’s de Montforte series. While I suspect I might have enjoyed the book even more had I been familiar with all the characters, I didn’t find my newbie status to be a significant setback. I did, however, take some time to figure out who the heroine was. Partly that was because she was young, and traveling with another beautiful young woman who was also single. Rhiannon Evans (the heroine) is only eighteen, traveling to Barbados with her widowed friend Alannah, and both of them are connected to characters in other books. They meet up with Captain Connor Merrick, an American privateer who liberates their ship and saves them from a storm. He then proceeds to take them to Barbados where his sister (who is married to Alannah’s brother) lives.
Connor is immediately attracted to the beautiful Rhiannon, but he has no intention of settling down. He has enough baggage to make him interesting and not entirely marriageable. He lives life by the seat of his pants, partly because he’s trying to live up to his father’s legend. His father in fact captained the same ship during the Revolutionary War; it’s now the War of 1812. In addition to Connor’s desire to live up to his dad’s greatness, he also has the private pain of being severely dyslexic in a time when being dyslexic meant everyone thought you were just stupid. So he doesn’t really seem like the marrying type.
He becomes the marrying type when he and Rhiannon are caught in a very compromising position on a beach in Barbados. Rhiannon is game (as she is every bit as attracted to Connor as he is to her), but she’s not exactly aware of what she’s getting into. She knows Connor is a daredevil, but she hasn’t had much time to think about what that really means. She also walks headlong into the complicated family politics, which are pretty awkward when half the family is American and the other half is British. Their host – Alannah’s brother – is a British admiral. Rhiannon has to figure out some complicated family politics quickly, and grow up in a hurry. Connor has some significant growing up to do as well, which he manages to do after some dramatic and tragic events for which he is largely responsible.
Part of the reason it took me awhile to get into the book in the first place is that the character development is gradual and most of the growth comes toward the end. At first, Rhiannon comes across as young – too young – and naive. Connor, meanwhile, is a little foolish and a little selfish, and spends too much time telling Rhiannon she needs to ”live a little”. (Really, too much. It becomes repetitive in the extreme).
That said, when these two grow up, they do it in a big way. Harmon has a knack for writing very human characters (heroes, in particular) who mess up in spectacular fashion and then redeem themselves in equally spectacular fashion. It’s much harder to do than it looks. Most authors take the shortcut of writing a hero who is basically a garden-variety jerk, but later manages some half-hearted apology so he can kiss and make up with the heroine. Harmon, on the other hand, shows how Connor’s great flaw – his recklessness – can also at the right time be his virtue and his redemption. Brave, reckless, and stupid sometimes have pretty thin dividing lines.
Deft character development aside, Lord of the Sea has some other things going for it, most notably the setting, which is simply to die for. Try to think of the last War of 1812 book you read, that dealt with the complicated politics of that time. I don’t know about you, but in my case I’m pretty sure it was the Sunfire romance Danielle, which I read almost thirty years ago. If you like unusual settings, then you shouldn’t miss this one.
And Harmon does her research; this is no wallpaper historical. And if you enjoy – really enjoy – shipboard romances, you won’t want to miss it. Connor’s ship, Kestrel, is as much a character in the book as any of the humans. This is an author who knows and loves her ships.
Lord of the Sea is precisely the sort of book self-publishing was made for. It’s quirky in the best way, with characters who take a bit of time to develop and don’t just race from Point A to Point B, and an unusual, well-developed setting. If you haven’t read Harmon’s books, you should. And this one is a great place to start.