This book was previously published under the title The Bastard
Jeannette Boucher is waiting in her bedroom on her wedding night for her gross, old, but wealthy husband to arrive, when her brother bursts into the room with the news that Jeannette needs to run away, immediately. The reason being that her brother overheard several male wedding guests wagering on which one of them was going to father Jeannette’s first child, providing her infertile husband with an heir. The offended bride goes running out into the cold, wet night, thus beginning one of the more painful books I’ve read in awhile.
Jeannette travels to the dock with the vague notion of somehow obtaining passage back to London and relative safety. Since she ran away with no money, she hits on the bright idea of stealing a sailor’s clothing while he’s in bed with a doxy and using it as a disguise to get aboard ship. Creeping around the upstairs at a tavern, she enters the bedchamber of Lt. Crawford Traynor by accident. Traynor, thinking her a tavern wench, tries to bed her and ends up with injured privates instead.
So, it is with great trepidation that Jeannette approaches Traynor later for a position on board his ship, which is enroute to London. Her disguise as an adolescent works and she gets a job, ending up as Traynor’s personal servant after some difficulty. She soon learns that the ship’s orders have changed and now they’ll be joining the blockade instead, leaving her in disguise for weeks instead of the couple of days Jeannette had planned.
There were a few things about this book that I didn’t completely despise. The information about tall ships and sailing was somewhat interesting, and helped to illustrate the backdrop for much of the book. The hero’s father, a nice guy, was a welcome addition to the cast of idiots, ingrates and criminals. The fact that The Bastard was only 204 pages long on my e-reader was also a plus.
This story is one cliche after another. The TSTL heroine, the villain who redeems himself at the last minute (in this case there were two who did this), and the girl-in-pants, to name a few. My personal favorite (facetiously) was prevalent: The old “I love you but I’m not good enough for you/you’re not good enough for me” trope was worn out in this book. I stopped counting the number of times the heroine did something to endanger her life. The one spot of originality was the scene in which the heroine was grabbed by other sailors and almost forcibly tattooed. That’s something I hadn’t read before.
The hero was not great, either. Treynor kept rescuing Jeannette and taking her abuse no matter what she said or did. Then, of course he fell in love with the idiot. He also made an asinine decision we’ve seen a million times. He loved her, and knew she loved him, but because he’d told her a million times that he can’t marry, ever, when he does decide to marry he courts someone else. That scenario never has, never will make sense in a romance. Like we’re supposed to believe that the people we’ve followed for so many pages will marry other people?
I’m not giving the book an F because, while I didn’t like the story at all, I can respect that the editing, pacing and overall technical skill weren’t bad. The dialogue wasn’t badly written, just badly composed. None of this can compensate, however.
I suppose the title is fitting. The Bastard is a bitch to read.