The Captain's Castaway
The Captain’s Castaway is a fairly tepid offering from Signet by debuting author Christine Scheel. It features a shy sea captain who rescues a nearly-dead American girl on the open seas. Love and romance – of a sort – ensues. It has some interesting moments, and the premise isn’t bad, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
Captain Sir Nicholas Sidney was left with a nearly bankrupt estate, but his success in the navy has brought him many a war prize, and he’s been able to recoup the family fortunes. He thinks of little but the navy, however. He’s always felt awkward around women, and tends to stutter when he gets nervous. His single foray into the ton went badly, so he’s content to go on sailing for king and country. One day, his crew discovers a makeshift raft occupied by an old sailor and a delirious young woman. Nicholas takes them aboard, and the ship’s doctor cares for the girl. They find out that she and her father were traveling to England. She survived a shipwreck, but unfortunately her father wasn’t so lucky. Her last sight of him was on the boat, and she knows it couldn’t have survived the storm. Matters are complicated by the fact that the military is searching for a spy with the initials “E.A.” – which happen to be the initials of Julianna’s father. Julianna is carrying a somewhat mysterious letter that seems to further implicate him. When they reach shore, Nicholas takes the grieving Julianna to her aristocratic relatives. Though he’s reluctant to leave her, he knows she is better off without him. Why? Because heros always think that, I guess.
Julianna is only with her relatives for a few days when she receives a note from her father, who apparently survived the wreck after all. His note, though, is quite cryptic. It says nothing about his whereabouts, and Julianna has no clue how to find him. She decides to enlist the help of Nicholas, figuring that his ties with the admiralty will open doors and expedite the process. And here is where the book begins to bog down in earnest. Julianna attends a few parties here and there, and meets some people (they are universally uninteresting). Nicholas frets a bit and wonders how he can help Julianna. There is much talk of waiting and several half-hearted discussions about strategy. Julianna enjoys a desultory flirtation with another man. The wheels of investigation slowly turn. Eventually progress is made and Nicholas searches for Julianna’s father, but danger looms in the background as the three subplots (mysterious letters, missing father, and desultory flirtation) converge. Eventually, it all ends happily.
This book has a few things going for it. Nicholas is kind of an interesting man, and is pretty sweet in his own shy way. He tends to fare better when he’s on his ship, as that gives him something to do. He’s clearly better accustomed to navy life. The fact that Nicholas returns to his ship and is truly in his element at the end of the book basically saves the book from being a D read. Like Nicholas, Julianna is a nice enough character. She’s not annoying or hoydenish in an irritating way. But like Nicholas, she doesn’t have much to do until the end of the book.
Unfortunately, much of this book reads like an unnecessary meeting where people talk a lot but don’t actually do anything. We’ve all been to them, and sometimes they are a necessary evil. But it’s not a quality I enjoy in my reading. Julianna and Nicholas spend their entire shore time discussing strategies for finding her father. These are not interesting strategies; they mainly consist of stuff like, “Well, okay, I’m going to poke around the admiralty, ask some questions, and see what I can find out. You wait here.” Then this is followed by more of the same. When Julianna complains about this to her relatives, they reassure her. No need to worry about your dad, Nicholas is making inquiries.
This might have been more interesting with the inclusion of some romance. It seems like a reasonable expectation, since this is a romance novel after all. Unfortunately, most of the “romance” surfaces as vague thoughts of longing. Nicholas and Julianna spend little time together, and what little time they have is spent discussing the aforementioned strategies. At the very end, he proposes. It has all the excitement and drama of a trip to the dry cleaners. Even if you like your romance subtle, there just isn’t much here.
I wish I could recommend this book. Like most Regency fans, I’m always looking for new blood. As it stands, I’ll just hope that this author improves over time.