Review: The Matelot by Ariel Tachna

Their pirate vessel destroyed, Captain Amery White, ship’s surgeon Gavin Watson, and quartermaster Quinn Davies are left without a livelihood or a home. The three men have served together since they were old enough to put to sea, sharing hardships and comfort until Amery and Gavin formalized their union with a matelotage—the pirate equivalent of a marriage contract.

Now they’ve been offered a letter of marque and a fine English galleon with enough speed and firepower to catch and capture any ship in the Caribbean. But their mission brings back memories long-buried and puts a strain on Amery and Gavin’s relationship, especially when the Silver Queen captures a Spanish slave ship, bringing the very young, very beautiful, and very abused Eliodoro to their crew.

Quinn finds himself torn between the love he’s always had for his friends and his desire for their new crew member. When secrets from the past come to light and cause a rift between Amery and Gavin, Quinn will have to choose between substituting for Gavin’s true love and becoming the center of Eliodoro’s world.

Review by Sal Davis

I do like pirates. I know I’m on very shaky ground historically speaking because pirates tended to be syphilitic psychopaths with bad personal hygiene and worse morals, but from an entertainment point of view pirates are excellent box office. Swash buckling, passion, open or no shirts, wind-blown hair, healthy exercise in the fresh air, a little light robbery from people who deserve it – the cover of The Matelot conjures up all of that. Cover artist Analise Dubner has produced a well-balanced sepia toned image that depicts Quinn and Eliodoro, the two main protagonists of the novel, very well.

Relationships in the book are quite complex. Amery and Gavin are in a formal relationship, having taken out articles of matelotage. This leaves old friend and some time lover, Quinn, out in the cold, listening to them boink through the thin canvas wall between his and their cabins. But discovering the gorgeous Eliodoro chained in the hold of a Spanish prize takes his mind off his loneliness. Naturally there are obstacles to their love, and Amery and Gavin’s relationship is imperilled as well before the story is brought to a satisfactory and loving conclusion. As a romantic romp the book works very well. There are sex scenes that are sufficiently different in pace and content to pique the interest, but not so frequent as to get tedious. I think that people who want a light, if substantial, read will be pleased with this.

Less pleased will be the people who are fans of Age of Sail novels. Patrick O’Brien this isn’t and even to my eyes there were enough maritime gaffes to make me giggle. There are also some editorial problems – words out-of-order, confusion of personal names, misuse of words, including ‘colossic’? – which surprised me. Dreamspinner are usually better than that. However both problems were within my tolerance and I could ignore them.

Less easy to ignore was the sheer emoness of these pirates. They all spent far more time angsting about their objects of desire than pirating. It also seemed to be an OK-Homo Caribbean since there was only one person in the novel who had a problem with the male/male relationships, and that was expressed merely as a disapproving sniff and nothing more came of it. I also had problems with the ‘abuse’ angle. Luckily none of it was shown but they talked about it a lot. Quinn, Gavin and Eliodoro had all been raped, sometimes repeatedly, with varying degrees of emotional damage.

So – emo pirates – not my cup of tea but I think that people who want a light, if lengthy, read will be pleased with this, especially if they aren’t too picky about their history.

Author’s website

Buy at Dreamspinner

One Response

  1. I have to just say yes, Matelotage was a real institution with pirates–AJ Llewellyn kindly sent me a link via facebook and it’s here:

    http://www.gayrites.net/forums/general-discussion/15

    I even wrote a short story about it a couple of years ago.

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