Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Iron Rose by Marsha Canham *****

Maybe I should add another star rating just for Canham's books - 5+, or 6, or maybe 10! She has a way of capturing my imagination, grabbing my hand and running with me tagging along behind as she describes worlds, histories, adventures, characters, situations that all become so real I can feel the wind in my hair and the sea spray on my face, even the sting of the dagger cuts and the blood running down my arm.

This is the sequel to Across A Moonlit Sea, another 10 star book. Simon and Beau Dante now have 3 grown children, 2 boys (Gabriel and Jonas) and a daughter Juliet. They are living on a secluded atoll in the general vicinity of the Caribbean with a community of their sailors and families, with a couple of dozen other privateers living similar lifestyles nearby. Juliet is out testing her new ship, The Iron Rose, when she comes across a Spanish galleon that is fighting a British ship and she slips in to save the day. Her crew manages to force the Spanish to surrender (cowards!!) and while the British ship sinks, most of the crew is saved, including the king's envoy, Duke of Harrow, Varian St. Clare.

Varian is a on fool's errand to get the various British privateers to adhere to the most recent treaty between Spain and England to stop sea warfare. Hah! Little does he know that many have been sent before and turned away!

The conflicts between Juliet and Varian are many - and the gap is wider than it ever was between Simon and Beau. Varian already has a future bride, chosen by his mother to carry on the St. Clare name. Although he has years of experience as a British officer, his seafaring experience is lacking. He's a whiz with sword and dagger, but only knows the civilized rules of land-based warfare, not the cutthroat ways of pirates. Juliet grew up a tomboy, tanned, wearing men's clothing as a way of life, not as a rebellion. She's never been schooled in the ways of the nobility. Her immediate reaction is to mock and challenge him constantly. She comes across as realistically immature - she is only 20 or 21, to his 28 - in her treatment of him. He, on the other hand, shows more maturity and tolerance of her behavior. I liked it!!

When they return to the Dante community, Beau reads all of the papers that were saved from the Spanish ship and discovers written proof that the Spanish are preparing to invade England in violation of the treaty. This convinces Varian to join in a plot to stop the ships currently in the Carribbean from crossing to aid the effort. Then Varian must try to convince Juliet that they have something worth fighting for - both the effort of the privateers to stop the Spanish invasion, and the growing love between them!

In classic Canham style, the story is both a swashbuckling adventure and a steamy love story. Juliet is shown to be strong, capable of taking care of herself and leading her own crew on her own ship, while still being immature about men and relationships. She thinks she knows what she wants - no cowering virgin - but she is still cowed by the thought of competing with Varian's lifestyle in England, with his betrothed, his 65-room castle, his rich lifestyle. Varian also has to face his own choices - to return to his duties as a duke, a peer of the realm, or to face a lifetime of privateering alongside Juliet.

I took a long week to read and savor this book, grabbing pages while working, a few pages before sleep. It was worth it in every possible way and is joining the first book, as well as most of my other Canham stories on my keeper shelf!

1 comment:

Kristie (J) said...

I heard - though I haven't seen evidence yet, that she might be coming out of retirement and writing stories for the brothers in this book. I hope the rumors are true 'cause I really enjoyed this book too and truly miss Marsha Canham's writing.