>> Thursday, August 18, 2011
Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch her most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.Sophia Hathaway was first introduced in Goddess of the Hunt, the perfect society beauty Lucy's beloved Toby was determined to marry. If you've read Goddess, you know how that all turned out (and if you don't, go read it, it's a fantastic book!).
To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest–until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?
But Sophia is not as prim, proper and perfect as everyone seems to want to believe. In fact, she'd like nothing better than to be completely improper, and to do this, she decides to escape the strictures of her life in London society and run away to the West Indies (at least until she turns 21 and gets her inheritance free and clear). Disguised as an impoverished governess she manages to get herself on board the Aphrodite, in spite of misgivings of the ship's owners.
Benedict "Gray" Grayson is a former privateer determined to go straight and become absolutely and completely respectable. He owns the Aphrodite with his half-brother, who's the captain, and although he knows it's not a particularly good idea to let the very tempting "Jane" on his ship, but can't resist saying yes. Surely his promise to his brother that he won't touch her will be enough.
What we've got here is a heroine trying as hard as she can to shed all respectability, and a hero trying just as hard to do the opposite. I'm not particularly well-disposed to this sort of heroine, as they often feel just a wee bit too modern. With Sophia, though, I bought the whole thing: the dissatisfaction with being placed on a pedestal by men, the frustration at the bafflement and incomprehension elicited by any abortive attempt to climb down off that pedestal, and the conviction that she will just explode if she can't let even a little bit of the real Sophia out.
And the real Sophia is as obsessed with the idea of sex as your average spotty teenager. It's not that she's this innocent who's magically turned into the perfect virginal sex kitty by meeting the right man. She's just generally horny. She's technically a virgin, but only because of the time and place in which she was born. Now she is on a ship with a handsome man she really fancies, and who has no idea she's a virginal, gently-reared young lady (and therefore untouchable), so Sophia sees this as the perfect opportunity to gain a bit of practical experience. Gray might be determined to resist, but Sophia is just as determined that he won't be able to.
What results is scorching sexual tension, and a couple who have tonnes of chemistry, sexual and otherwise. Both these two are characters who feel fresh and real, and more self-aware than most (Sophia, for instance, knows perfectly well that her actions have been a bit silly and melodramatic, but she's human, and she did what felt necessary at the time).
I also really liked the piratey, adventures-on-the-high-seas feel of the story. I'm not one who's been missing old-school pirate romances (I avoided them like the plague even back when they were common), but this is nothing like that, and it was loads of fun.
The only reason this wasn't an A is because things kind of derail at the end (and even that wasn't that bad).
MY GRADE: A B+.