Will Falcon is a ship’s captain with a mission. He’s in search of the pirates and thieves who’ve been luring ships onto reefs, and then collecting the booty from the wrecks. Unfortunately, he’s tossed overboard during a storm and would surely drown if it weren’t for Angel, who lives with a ragtag band calling themselves the Brethren. Angel pulls Will ashore and saves his life, but The Brethren wish to kill him so that he can’t tell anyone where they live. Angel proposes a handfast marriage, making him one of the group, so that he himself will be implicated if he tells the authorities about the Brethren.
Will doesn’t buy this plan and eventually escapes, taking Angel back to Charleston, South Carolina. There he introduces Angel to his neighbor, Lady Elizabeth Graymoor, who suspects Angel could be her long lost granddaughter. Neither Will nor Angel encourages this idea, despite the fact it would make Angel acceptable to society and allow her and Will to marry. Unfortunately they have bigger problems, as someone is determined to see them both dead.
First off, there is way too much going on in this story and it lacks focus. Is this a love story between Will and Angel? Or is it a mystery about Lady Graymoor’s long lost granddaughter? A pirate story? A murder mystery about who’s luring the ships to shore and killing the sailors? About who killed Will’s father (or did he really commit suicide)? About who’s trying to kill Will and Angel? Or a study of social class and what makes a lady and what doesn’t? These are only the major questions; I haven’t even touched on the peripheral questions suggested by subplots and brief scenes. In the end, only one of these questions is really answered. Sadly, it’s not one of the interesting ones.
Then there are the lead characters, who belong together, because both them being naïve and of questionable intelligence gives them so much in common. Will wakes up to find people discussing murdering him, and instead of listening to the one person (Angel) who can protect him he fights and disagrees and makes things worse. I never understood what Angel saw in him, because he was so snooty and self-righteous. Then there’s Angel, who actually thinks she’s been raised by Disneyfied pirates, who don’t kill and steal. She’s sure that they’re really a loving law-abiding bunch (hence their attempts to slit Will’s throat). Even more unbelievably, she managed to make it to her mid-twenties as a virgin amongst this bunch. Anyone this naïve would probably have been talked onto her back by fifteen, especially when surrounded by rapists and murderers and thieves.
Sadly, there’s a really great couple in this story who are constantly in the background: Lady Graymoor, a dowager countess who’s emigrated to America in hopes of finding her granddaughter, and her butler Griffin, a Welsh soldier. These two share several sweet moments in private. There are so many issues that could have been explored here, including their shared history, the potential for scandal if discovered, and a study of the class system. Alas, they are only background characters, but their appearance brightens every scene they’re in. Lady Graymoor and Griffin keep this book from an even lower grade.
In the end, the villain is revealed in a complicated mess, no questions are answered, and the happily-ever-after is secured through unbelievable circumstances. I couldn’t get passionate enough about the book to dislike it, and I definitely couldn’t like it. So in the end I feel very ho-hum about it, except for wishing that Lady Graymoor and Griffin had got themselves a better story.