Into His Arms
Into His Arms is Paula Reed’s debut novel. With an exotic setting, an unusual source of conflict, and a really adorable hero, she’s off to a good start.
Faith Cooper is not your typical heroine: she’s a Puritan. Even though her heart is not involved, she has just about decided to accept her latest suitor. Her parents married for love and want her to be happy, but she she is getting older – she’s almost twenty. Then the town minister comes to call. Dour and stern, he calls Faith a siren, a temptress, and announces there’s only one man to mold her into a proper Puritan wife: himself. And by mold, he means beat. Faith and her parents are horrified, but the minister is a powerful figure in Massachusetts Colony, and Faith’s father thinks they dare not refuse. Her mother desperately suggests they send Faith to her aunt in Jamaica, but her father won’t consider it; Aunt Elizabeth converted to Catholicism when she married, and has been all but dead to her family ever since.
Geoff Hampton is in Boston to sell his latest cargo, luxuries liberated from a Spanish ship in the Caribbean; he’s a privateer, of course, not a pirate. He spies Faith in the marketplace, but when he tries to have a word with her, the minister appears and chastises Faith for allowing Geoff to speak to her. That public scolding makes up Faith’s mind: she will do anything to avoid marrying the minister, even turn to a relative she didn’t even know she had. She runs away in the middle of the night and stows away on a ship bound for Jamaica. The ship’s captain turns out to be Geoff, who recognizes her at once and is delighted to have her aboard. He agrees to take her to her aunt in Jamaica, and in return he’ll be happy to teach her everything a Puritan girl never knew about sex.
The presence of a pirate hero and the cover art might lead one to think this is a rollicking adventure on the high seas. It really isn’t; only about a quarter of the book takes place on the ship. The close quarters provide the usual interaction, but the characters make it work. Faith might be naïve about a lot of things, but she’s not stupid. She learns to speak her mind and look after herself because she has to, and I liked how she grew over the course of the story.
Geoff is a thoroughly charming scoundrel. He doesn’t believe in God, and frankly pities Faith for having been raised by such strict rules. But he does admire her honesty and scruples, and it’s almost a challenge to him to make Faith put aside the meek manner she’s been taught. Even though he wants her from the start, he wants her to want him, and he spends as much time getting to know her as he does trying to get her into bed. His background looks at first glance to be standard issue tortured hero, but it doesn’t hang over him like a dark brooding cloud. He’s worked hard to get where he is, and he just wants to enjoy life.
This book is about two people finding each other, but it’s also about two people finding themselves. Geoff is a cocky rogue, but he’s also been a loner his whole life, and is sure things like true love are illusions. Faith has had her life defined by her religion and family, and when she runs away from that life, she struggles to find her own way, reconciling her independent impulses with her honest belief in God. Each has moments when the find themselves at a true crossroads, forced to confront and alter their deepest beliefs.
The story moves along at a good clip most of the time, and the characters are generally well drawn and feel real. The tension between Geoff and Faith is more emotional than sexual, but the love scenes are warm and integral to the story. There are some romance novel conventions, like the hero’s best friend who recognizes immediately how perfect Geoff and Faith are for each other and goes about getting them together, but there are also some unexpected things, and I always appreciate that.
Into His Arms marks a strong debut for Paula Reed. Any reader who has bemoaned the lack of historicals set outside Regency England, or who wants a more historically realistic treatment of religion, should consider giving this a look.