Saturday, December 31, 2022

Sea of Ruin by Pam Godwin


SEA OF RUIN has been on my radar since it came out because I kind of have a soft spot for old school pirate romances and the cover design had a decidedly retro bent to it, like the author (and the artist, obvi) was trying to pay homage to the bodice-rippers of yore. As someone who loves the bodice-rippers of yore, I was super into that. And the only thing better than reading a modern day throwback is conning several of your friends to read it with you, so thanks to Rebecca, Aaliyah, and Koistyfishy for joining me on this "sea of ruin."

The book is written in first person and has a very melodramatic, breathless style to the narration that reminded me a lot of Natasha Peters's works, a bodice-ripper author from the '70s and '80s who wrote books in the first person that followed a heroine over the years as she grew up and was shaped by the chaotic elements in her life. Specifically, this reminded me of SAVAGE SURRENDER, which also had a bratty heroine who was kind of kick-butt and a toxic romance with a dangerous, obsessive hero who was not to be crossed.

Was this a perfect book? No, but there was a lot to like about it. It seemed really well-researched and I loved the scenery, the fight scenes, the descriptions of the taverns and the ships. All of it was quite nicely done and added a lot to the story. I also liked Bennett, even though she was a bit of a Mary Sue. She suffered as most authors don't let their precious Sues suffer, and I think this kept her from feeling too two-dimensional. There were several scenes in this book that were very hard to read, involving death, torture, tragedy, and rape, which definitely gave this book more of an old skool flavor.

I'm not usually into M/F/M books but I liked that element in this book, too. The idea of a love triangle between a female pirate captain and her pirate husband and a pirate hunter was intriguing to me. They also all had chemistry, which is, I imagine, hard to do. I also liked that the men had distinctly different personalities, even though they were both incredibly dangerous. Priest is fire and impulsivity and filled with animal passions, whereas Ashley is more of a cold and icy type with a frozen maelstrom underneath. They also cracked me up. Priest's orange allergy leads to not one but TWO rather convenient exercises to further the plot, and can we not forget Ashley's midnight self-pleasuring sessions on the balcony of his ship? SO. DRAMATIC. How did the author come up with this stuff?

If you're not into dark romances or the politically incorrect bodice-rippers of olde, I would not recommend SEA OF RUIN. Actually, I would not recommend SEA OF RUIN for a lot of reasons, because I feel like it embodies a lot of the tropes that romance novels of the present day are trying frantically to distance themselves from. But that's kind of messy, because for a lot of people, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Christine Monson and Johanna Lindsey were the authors people cut their teeth on for the first time, so I like the idea of a bodice-ripper Renaissance written for a modern audience, but with all of the chaotic, crazy tropes that created a booming industry with some of the best cover artists around.

You be the judge, though.

P.S. Docking a half star because, like the bodice-ripper predecessors, the sex scenes in this book were too purple and went on for waaaaaay too long. Sex scenes are like red pepper flakes: I love a liberal sprinkling but please, for the love of God, don't serve me an entire PLATE of them.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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