Monday, June 27, 2016

Perilous by Cari Z

Title: Perilous
Author: Cari Z
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks 
Cover Artist: Aria Tan
Genre: Historical
Length: 43K novella
Formats Mobi, epub, pdf

In 1803, England declares war on France, staking the fates of two mighty empires against one another. Thousands of men serve in the British navy, hungry for distinction in the battle against Bonaparte.

One of them, Lieutenant Thomas Williams, thinks he knows what he wants out of life: prize money at sea, a career of decent note, and the means to maintain his independence when he leaves the navy. What he finds is service under Captain Christopher Knightly: a tactical genius, inveterate charmer, and the youngest son of a wealthy noble house.

Their unexpected and perilous love affair is a gamble against the odds, for in a time of war, nothing is sure to last. If the French don’t tear them apart, one slip in front of the wrong eyes or ears might. When the demands of Christopher’s family take him from Thomas’s side, he thinks it might be the best thing for his captain. Little does Tom realize just how far Christopher will go to return to him, and when life takes a turn for the worse, how much further he will go to save him.

I do love some Hornblower and Jack Aubrey, and also some Alex Beecroft and Charlie Cochrane, but let me say right now that Perilous fits in with this company!

Cari Z gives us a perfectly plausible way to get our two characters together, and to let them have some stolen moments of happiness. While Captain Knightly is aboard, the endless blockade work and the stealthy attacks on the French have panache and derring-do. And the celebrations afterward have to be very, very quiet, because an 18 gun sloop is a very small ship!

The penalties for male/male contact in those days were severe, so the captain and his lieutenant had to be extremely careful. When duty to King and family rears its ugly head, Captain Knightly has little choice in obeying. Duty above all, to those in the Royal Navy, and Thomas does his to his lover as best he can. Heartbreaking for both of them.

The style will be very familiar to Hornblower readers, descriptive and a little distant. The story has more of what they’re doing than the details of ship-handling, which is fine, I didn’t feel deprived of leewards and starboards and such, I can get that from Patrick O’Brien, who will never ship Aubrey/Maturin like we do. The romance is satisfying, and the ending both heartbreaking and endearing, when happiness is at last in reach.

I was a little concerned how Captain Knightly advanced to his rank without being much of a shiphandler, because how would he have the opportunity to demonstrate his tactical skills? Once I stepped back and let him wow me and (and fluster the French!) it was fine. I think my bigger quibble was a collision of rimming and the hygiene of the day, and a requirement for penetrative sex. A little more sensory input would have been nice: I didn’t feel entirely present on board ship, but I did cheer for the Perilous and her gallant officers. 4 marbles

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