REVIEW: Lord of the Sea by Danelle Harmon
A Sea Devil Who’s Reckless At Heart . . .
Captain Connor Merrick’s thirst for danger has brought him fame and fortune as one of the most brazenly successful privateers of the War of 1812. But deep beneath his swagger, derring-do and charm, the handsome American captain is hiding a devastating secret, and he’ll go to any lengths to protect it . . .
A Beauty Who Gets More Than She Bargained For. . . .
Rhiannon Evans has longed for an adventure — and a mysterious, dangerous man to sweep her off her feet. While enroute to the tropical paradise of Barbados, she never dreams that her heart will be captured by the dashing American privateer who rescues her from bloodthirsty pirates. Only Rhiannon can see beneath Connor’s reckless façade to the man beneath. But when tragedy strikes, can Rhiannon’s love save Connor from himself? Or will the secret he guards so carefully, end up being the undoing of them both?
Dear Ms. Harmon,
When I read “The Wayward One,” earlier this year, I realized that there were quite a few of your books I needed to catch up on. Here is one which is set during the next US/UK war – the crazy sauce War of 1812.
Wide open with the devil’s own luck Connor charges, or sails actually, to the rescue here thus meeting his heroine. Okay so yeah he intends to take the merchantman as a prize but he does save the lives of most of the crew and the two passengers aboard, both of whom know or ought to know him. Family relationships and entanglements galore later, he sweeps an already besotted Rhiannon and a fuming Alannah off to his ship. Given her name, at least Rhiannon is Welsh. Con is a charming rascal, completely confident in his own abilities but Alannah warns Rhiannon that even though he’s been looking at Rhiannon – too much – he’s the type who breaks hearts over his knee like nothing. Well, phooey. We all know where this is going to go so let’s just see how it’s going to get there.
Rhiannon is exuberant and delighted to be onboard Con’s rakish schooner. And he’s delighted that she’s delighted and looking at her with that predatory smile again. Rhiannon discovers she loves the heady breathlessness of being on the Kestrel and having Con notice her. Con wouldn’t mind continuing to notice her but he’s got an enemy port to sail into in order to deliver the women to his own brother-in-law – an English Vice Admiral. Things could get tricky though, as Con says, if he’s strung from an English yardarm, it might complicate the his sister’s marriage a bit.
A half chapter of backstory later, which fills us in on Con’s parents, and there appears to be a family reunion in the making. In Barbados. Which is English. Oh well, should be interesting.
Back in Barbados, more family backstory and proof of fecundity and marital love – really this is more tangled than jumbled Christmas lights and quickly made my eyes cross trying to keep everyone straight. It’s also very, very informal for the level of social status and it’s all so interrelated someone is eventually going to be his own grandpa. Yeah, yeah let’s get to the good stuff.
Con seems to be the sort who loves to poke at people and get into things just because someone tries to stop him from doing it. Rhiannon realizes this attitude is calling to her too – to be reckless and daring. Con finds himself puffing up and trying to impress Rhiannon whenever she’s nearby. He knows he shouldn’t, knows he shouldn’t encourage her but DARN it, he keeps doing it. It’s his cousin who cheerfully points out that Rhiannon would actually put up with Con’s restlessness.
Con knows it’s not smart to keep being around her though and has to battle his pride as well. Because if she ever found out his secret – of course he’s got one – he’d be shamed. Right, one guess here as to what it is. Con tells Rhiannon his definition of courage. It’s not doing what you don’t fear but rather doing what you do fear. Something tells me this will become a factor later in the story.
A little bit about the War of 1812 is covered to explain what Con and his crew are up to. Con is blunt about the less than stellar reasons it began and how it hurt the New England economy. Also about his financial reasons for privateering. This isn’t a matter of patriotic fervor but plain old mercenary need and greed.
Con is honest with Rhiannon about how he feels towards her and what he’s going to do vs what he should do. But by now his Charming Rogue Card has already been verified as having been issued by the Romance Charming Rogue Society. Rhiannon knows exactly what he’s thinking and planning to do. Their banter as he acknowledges all this is refreshing. He also gives her plenty of chances and time to pull back and tell him no and it’s obvious he would honor her “no.” He’ll only go as far as she allows.
It’s heartening that once the inevitable “marry her or she’ll be ruined” proposal takes place, both principals are thinking about the future and considering what they’ve got themselves into. Will this work or won’t it? They might be physically attracted to each other and enjoy each other’s recklessness and spirit of adventure … but is this enough to base a marriage on? Thank goodness that Mira Merrick is a better one at explaining the Wedding Night than Lady Bridgerton was. Rhiannon and Con must now work out a marriage to go along with their attraction. Only Rhiannon seems to have undergone a personality change. Where’s the “it’s an adventure” woman?
There follows lots of sex and lots talk about babies both about Maeve’s new one and the grandparent’s desire for more. I know people now who aren’t as fixated on or talk this much about babies so to see early 19th century ones all but discussing birth pains and proper breast feeding at the dinner table is a stretch.
So, lots of foreboding later and it’s obvious that Something Is Going to Happen with the Kestrel and that Con should have paid more attention to what everyone was telling him. Yes, Con feels the need to prove himself and live up to his legendary father but he’s also supposed to be a more than competent captain so his curt dismissal of his father’s concerns about the aging ship smack of idiocy. Yeah, Con’s not only being an ass about this even worse, he’s being stupid. When the worst happens, I was moved by the crews’ efforts and how valiantly Kestrel tried and how horribly she’d been let down by her captain before his father saved what little of the day could be salvaged. Well Connor is finally awakened to his stubbornness and foolhardiness. I can feel sorry for him because of the weight he will always bear. I also realized that when I feel more sympathy for the fate of a ship than for the hero, it’s not a good thing.
Will Con learn from all this and engage in some character growth? And why haven’t the whole lot of them learned that no one stays down in the Caribbean if they can help it due to the fevers rampant there? Cocky Con completely collapses under the strain of his grief. All righty then, how is Connor going to redeem himself in his own eyes? Life and death, that’s how, with Con’s recklessness possibly being what will tip the scales.
Rhiannon and Con end up balancing each other. He gets her to let go and allow her inner adventuress out (for a little bit) while she anchors him in a good way, steadies him and helps him finally find a true belief in himself. It’s a gutsy move to see out the conclusion of one couple’s lifelong romance – though I’ll admit in a manner that pays tribute to them and their enduring love. I doubt that Falconer would have been able to gift what I assume is a Royal Navy vessel to pay Connor back for what he did but perhaps Rapier is just a loan.
This one ends up being hard for me to grade. I can understand Con’s need to cast as long a shadow as his beloved father, I enjoyed watching the romance relationship develop, the family times got a touch wearying and the baby obsession annoying. Con does seem to have matured a bit but he pays a price that could have been avoided despite all he does to make up for it and all the reassurance he gets – granted from those who would know – that the last course he took wasn’t too out of line. He should have kept the Kestrel up though. C+