Thursday, April 6, 2017

Captain of My Heart by Danelle Harmon

I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.

Heather, Sarah, and I decided to do an impromptu buddy read of CAPTAIN OF MY HEART because it was free, and as the mods of the Unapologetic Romance Readers group, it is our job to read as many romances as unapologetically as possible. #ReadDangerously

I was skeptical about this book from the beginning and only downloaded it because it was free. Why? A) that title, and B) this book was originally published in 1992, and you guys know how I feel about 90s bodice rippers (or should by now, considering how often I complain about them in my reviews - have you been following me?!).

So with low expectations, I began reading this book, and found myself...actually impressed.

CAPTAIN OF MY HEART opens up with action. We're introduced to Brendan Merrick, a charming, half-British, half-Irish flag-captain who is beloved by all his crew. When he finds out one of his immediate subordinates is mistreating members in exceedingly cruel ways, he immediately sets out to put a stop to it. But that man - Richard Crichton - is a villain of every sense of the word. He shoots Brendan's sister, Eveleen, shattering her hand, and then shoots Brendan as well, knocking him overboard. With no one the wiser, Crichton tells his superiors Brendan turned traitor, gets his position, and continues his villain unchecked.

Meanwhile, America is currently in the midst of its Revolutionary War. Mira is an overzealous patriot who enjoys dressing in men's clothing, fighting with her fists, singing boisterous songs, rescuing stray cats and then sneaking them into her house (they're called Rescue Efforts and they have numbers), and baking inedible pies. Her brother, Matt, is a privateer who leads his men against British ships to either sink or rob. When Brendan washes ashore, everyone assumes he's a no-good British spy, but it turns out he's actually her father's newest client with a ship design that's never been done before, but will make her father both famous and rich.

The romance unfolds against the backdrop of war, as well as Crichton's revenge quest for the man he felt robbed him of both his honor and his rights. The descriptions of the ships are wonderful, and the schooner that Brendan commissions, Kestrel, is pretty much a character herself. I can't imagine how much research went into this book, but it must have been a lot. The detail is incredible, and it seems like the author knows what she's talking about (I don't know for sure, though. What I know about ships could fill a thimble, and there would still be plenty of room left over for the thumb).

Crichton was a great villain. He was scary without being ridiculous, and his obsession with bringing Brendan down really kept the plot going. I loved Brendan. He's not one of those rapey heroes who still desperately tries to pretend he's the good guy that you see so often in 90s bodice rippers. He's a genuinely nice guy, and his charm seduces its way off the pages, making the reader go, "Faith!"

When Brendan's sister, Eveleen, is introduced, she and the heroine don't like each other and there is some body shaming that made me go, "Okay, here we go..." But then Eveleen's character is developed more, and to my surprise, Harmon did a halfway decent job portraying emotional eating. Eveleen and Mira bond, and Mira actually helps her exercise to lose weight and helps give her a renewed sense of confidence in herself. She loses the weight slowly, and learns to deal with the hand that was disfigured by Crichton's bullet. I really enjoyed her story arc a lot, because it isn't often that you see female characters who aren't the heroine developed so fully.

I could never really figure out whether Mira annoyed or amused me. I loved the Rescue Efforts (because I am a cat lady), and it was refreshing to read about a heroine who was genuinely a bad-ass and not just playing at one. It was cool to see her beating the crap out of people and manning the guns on a ship with deadly accuracy. Towards the beginning of the last quarter of the book, however, she does something pretty terrible to Brendan with devastating consequences, and it was really annoying to me because I've read several books about heroines who do annoying things because of a Misunderstanding, and then end up doing something drastic instead of just talking it out with the hero. She feels terrible about it later, as she should have, but I couldn't bring myself to like her as much after that. It tipped the scales too much in favor of "impetuous" instead of "endearing."

CAPTAIN OF MY HEART is a great book, though. The pacing is uneven, but the scenes with action and romance are well done, and all of the characters stand out as individuals. You'll be amused by Mira's family's terrifying fights, Brendan's rather eccentric crew, and the personality of Kestrel, the ship who doesn't have time for your games. It's got wonderful nautical descriptions and a villain who is genuinely creepy. Okay, 90s bodice rippers, you win this time. I surrender...

Read Heather's review here, and Sarah's review here.

P.S. I see that the Kindle edition I read was "updated and revised." I'm always curious to hear what's changed from the first edition. Does anyone have an idea? Inquiring minds want to know!

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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