Gay buccaneer historical adventure/romance. The third novel in a series chronicling the adventures of Will, a disenchanted English Lord, and his beloved matelot/partner, Gaston, an exiled Frenchman, set among the buccaneers of Port Royal, Jamaica, in the 1660s. In this volume, the men ponder the true definition of sanity and the necessity of compromise in the name of love while contending with the arrival of Gaston’s father, their potential inheritances, the political machinations of Will’s father, Henry Morgan’s ambition, a bounty upon their heads, unwanted brides, and an unexpected child.
Review by Sally Davis
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Howard Pyle image on the cover of a novel about buccaneers! This 19th and early 20th century artist is responsible for a lot of our most enduring images of the period, his style being instantly recognisable. Very good choice.
I’m a big fan of the late 17th and early 18th century, a time when boundaries were being pushed in all kinds of interesting ways and the building blocks of modern thought were slowly and painstakingly being laid down. Great leaps were being made in science, politics, philosophy, medicine and man’s relationships with God. The buccaneers society of the 17th century was one of the more fascinating experiments, arriving at a form of democracy and satisfying emotional needs with formal same sex unions, and proving its worth over many decades. Any novel set in this era should make at least some attempt to address some of the above, but in additon, Hoffman takes a long hard look at how those unfortunate individuals suffering from mental illnesses were treated both in and out of society.
The amount of research that went into this novel is plainly to be seen. It is even written in a period appropriate style – the narrator’s voice and the descriptions of Will and Gaston’s life on Negril reminding me of Robinson Crusoe. I’m not familiar with ancient Port Royal but would lay money on the street names and distances between points being spot on. Ship names too and the over all progression of events on Morgan’s ramshackle expedition to Maracaibo were comfortingly familiar.
But this is fiction too. Will and Gaston, both noble, both emotionally damaged, one dangerously psychotic, tread a fine line as they attempt to negotiate with local government, other buccaneers, unwanted wives, much wanted babies, puppies, the sudden arrival of Gaston’s father and his interference in their affairs and the discovery that Will’s father, who appears even more psychotic than Gaston, has put a bounty on Gaston’s head. Add to that their involvement with Admiral Morgan’s expeditions and that’s a lot of plot to cover. It’s as well that this book is long – 550 pages.
Most of the first 400 pages are taken up with family matters, as described above. Will has an alcoholic and very pregnant wife, Will’s sister, Sarah, is pregnant, Gaston’s father wants a reconciliation and he also want Gaston to marry. All these stresses and strains need to be juggled without pushing Gaston into a violent episode of madness. A combination of love, laudanum, coercion, Platonic philosophy and BDSM is prescribed, to no avail, leading them to take ship to join Morgan for the last 150 pages.
There is a lot to like here but I struck an overwhelming snag – I just couldn’t warm to the narrator. I wanted very badly to like Will but I found him manipulative, reckless, smug and selfish. The personality fitted very well with the period and some of his attitudes, particularly his brutal contempt for women, rang very true. But he displayed little care for those he professed to love, even endangering Gaston. He knew he was putting them in danger, had plainly made a habit of it, but accepted their help as his due. Also, I found the continual discussions between the lovers, their adherents and enemies somewhat tedious. The reader is told huge amounts, some of the conversations go over the same ground time and again, and the action is crammed into little snapshots between. I feel that if the book had been red penned down to a tidy 400 pages with a bit more emphasis placed on buccaneering it would have been worth an excellent 4.5 stars. As it is, it’s good – 3 stars – but I feel no urge to read the 4th in the series. However, I will read the first, hoping that all the exciting military stuff happened in that one.