Review: Lover’s Knots by Katherine Cross

Third Lieutenant Andrew Clayton wanted senior officer Daniel Barrett from the moment they first met. Something about the charismatic man with the scarred knuckles and street-tough voice heats Andrew’s blood and makes his body ache. He’d give up everything for just one taste of the forbidden—his position in Society, his commission…even his life.

Daniel’s sure he’s losing his mind. Nothing else could explain his obsession with noble-born Andrew or his constant desire to spread him across the wardroom table and mark his fair skin. In His Majesty’s Royal Navy, the punishment for their love is death. One misstep could have them both at the end of a hangman’s noose.

But everything changes when they’re granted an unexpected leave. Far from the captain’s watchful eye, Daniel agrees to one week—seven days to explore each other’s bodies, to let four years of suppressed desire consume them—before they must return to their ship and the way things were. But some passions can’t be tamed once unleashed, and some dangers are worth the risk.

Review by Alex Beecroft

I know I said, just in my last review, that I didn’t like erotica much. So it seems like a dose of poetic justice that this should be the very next book I read. This is a very sexy book indeed and I loved it.

There’s not a great deal of story; we open with the ship on blockade duty, patrolling up and down the coast of France to stop any potential French invasion fleet from leaving harbour. This duty which is tedious at the best of times provides plenty of opportunity for Andrew to yearn for Daniel, angst about what Daniel would think of him if he knew, and enjoy some scorchingly explicit dreams.

Daniel’s low born roots and current high status make an enemy of the fourth lieutenant, Edmund Sinclair, who has designs on Daniel’s job and – it emerges later- on his person as well. However, before he can manage to find any weapon to use against Daniel, the ship is directed back home to England for the Captain’s wedding.

On the way, Daniel lets slip to Andrew that he is that way inclined too, and has been lusting after Andrew for some time. Further angst ensues as Daniel does the sensible thing and insists that nothing should happen between them.

However, by dint of cunning and determination, Andrew convinces him to at least spend the seven days of their upcoming leave in bed together, and much further highly entertaining sex ensues.

Unfortunately, the moment they reappear in public they make a disastrous mistake and are spotted kissing by their First lieutenant and by Sinclair. Given the opportunity he was looking for to hurt Daniel, Sinclair proves not to be the cad we thought he was, and doesn’t use it. The first lieutenant also keeps mum, and during a battle with the French, the two lads behave heroically and all is forgiven.

Put like that, the story is not enthralling. In fact I would say that the story is the weakest thing in the book. Not a great deal happens, and the villain who has been set up to provide some feeling of threat fortuitously turns out not to be a villain at all. Despite a battle at sea, there isn’t a lot of conflict, and this does rather undermine the characters tendency to angst about how dreadful it would be if they were ever found out.

But I don’t think that anyone who was reading this book would be doing so for the story. It’s an Ellora’s Cave book, and its intended audience are people who are looking for a sexy read. This is certainly that, the sex scenes are numerous, emotionally and sensually involving, mean something to the characters and therefore also to the reader, and are very very intense and hot.

The book is also beautifully written with a lovely spare style which is however not lacking in detail and description. And the historical research and setting are absolutely impeccable. No topless waiters and glassed-in portholes here. The scenes on HMS Charon are the real deal. I may not be sure about “swabbing the barrel” as a command – I’m fairly certain it would be “worm and sponge” – but I suspect that’s just a translation for the sake of greater clarity. Apart from that little nitpick, however the sea scenes are wonderful, and could have graced CS Forester. I’d have liked to see more of them, in fact.

That’s my main problem with this book – I would have liked it to be longer. I’d have liked to see Sinclair go through on his threat, and how the lads dealt with that. I’d have liked more of the action at sea that Katherine Cross proves she can do so splendidly. I’d have liked the heroes to have to struggle harder for their happy ending. Maybe a couple of hundred pages harder J

I also had a minor problem with the character of Daniel. Throughout, we hear about what a great leader he is, how everyone loves him, even the villain, how he’s born to be a captain despite his low birth. Everyone seemed determined that he should be given a command of his own, and the social and financial support he needed to get it. And the more everyone in the book praised him and said he was wonderful, the more I ended up mildly disliking the man.

He doesn’t act like a born leader. It’s Andrew (whom the book tells us is a natural follower) who forces the issue between them. Andrew decides that he will use his family connections to get Daniel a command, and drives this decision through despite Daniel’s protests. Andrew overcomes Daniel’s determination not to get sexually involved, and it’s Andrew at the end of the book who continues to drive the action.

The book’s insistence on Daniel as the ‘alpha’ of the pair, and as the one destined for greatness didn’t really match the way they came across to me, and ran the risk of making me dislike Daniel as a Mary Sue. But having said that, despite this, I did like him anyway, as a sort of gentle, immovable rock of a man, and I liked Andrew even more for his nervous but unstoppable determination.

This is definitely the best piece of Age of Sail erotica I’ve read recently, and I can only reiterate my wish that she would try something longer and more plot heavy to let all that lovely historical setting and research shine out even more.

Buy from Ellora’s Cave

4 Responses

  1. Ooooh, a good book! Thanks, that really made me want to read it.

  2. Good review, Alex. I read this book and I agree with everything you said. The author does have a very nice writing style and little touches inserted here and there, such as the sachets that Andrew’s sisters embroidered for him and he tucked in among his clothes, were just perfect. The story could have been so much more and I would have loved much more because there was a lot of potential that just wasn’t fulfilled.

    • Oh yes, that was excellent :) Not only very likely (I’ve seen the gorgeous curtains Emma Hamilton embroidered for Nelson hanging around his cot on HMS Victory) but also a fantastic reason why the hero smelled so nice in such a malodorous time :)

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