Caution to the Wind by Mary Jean Adams: 3/5 stars!
Battles on the high seas aren’t always with the enemy…
When the War for Independence leaves them fatherless, Amanda Blakely must protect her adopted brother, Neil, no matter what it takes – even if that means following the impetuous lad onto an American privateer. She disguises herself as an adolescent boy and convinces the crew master she is Neil’s older brother.
How long can she fool Captain William Stoakes, the man they call The Sea Wolf? A rebel with a bloodthirsty reputation, Captain Stoakes has but one hard and fast rule – no women on his ship. Staying safe means staying away from him, but that’s hard to do when the wolf calls to the woman within.
Once her disguise is revealed, Amanda is a constant reminder to the captain that his cardinal rule has been disobeyed, his command usurped. To make matters worse, she thinks she’s a damned sailor and has his entire crew wrapped around her little finger. If only he can keep her out of trouble long enough to return her to Baltimore. If only he can keep his hands off her.
Caution to the Wind is my second Mary Jean Adams book, the first being Le Chevalier. I really enjoy historical romance in the revolutionary America time period and Caution to the Wind is an OK example of the genre. The premise is great; a young women disguises herself as a boy in order to join the crew of a privateer ship, the Amanda, and watch out for her younger brother. As a fan of the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, this plot really appealed to me. Throw in a romance with the captain and you should be golden. I say should be because something about this book threw me off and I could only give it three stars.
The things I like:
- Ms. Adams’s writing is strong and clear and the dialogue is realistic.
- Our heroine, Amanda/Adam, is likeable. She’s strong-willed and cares for her brother enough to follow him out to sea. She isn’t physically strong but she still tries her best on the ship despite the rough and sometimes terrifying conditions. Amanda’s character development isn’t super dramatic but it’s there and well done.
- The secondary characters are likeable and realistic and add character to the story.
- Amanda isn’t a convincing boy. I’ve read a few books where a girl disguises herself as a boy and I’ve never really understood the logistics or reality of the situation. I get that it can be done if the girl is younger and hasn’t fully grown into her body but for a developed young woman, it just isn’t plausible. Except for a few people, most of the men on the ship quickly figure out that Amanda isn’t actually a boy, WHICH IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!
Things that could have been stronger:
- Ms. Adam’s isn’t a very descriptive writer. I knew this going into the book but it was still a disappointment. Historical novels naturally deserve a lot of description because you need to transport the reader to a completely different time period. Writing about life in a different time period and aboard a privateer ship is even more difficult. Having read the Bloody Jack series, which follows the adventures of a young girl aboard several different ships, I’m very familiar with literary nautical description. It’s imperative to do research when writing about these types of things and it’s clear that Ms. Adams didn’t put in that effort. To be fair, the ship’s description isn’t crucial to the story, but it still would have been nice.
- Our hero, Captain Stoakes, aka Will. I’m just not into him. While he does develop throughout the story, he lacks depth and you never really get to know him. He’s rather two dimensional and his character and personality are never clearly defined.
- Amanda and Will’s relationship just doesn’t do it for me. We don’t know Will enough to understand why he’s attracted to Amanda, while Amanda’s attraction is understandable, mostly because we get to know her.
Overall, Caution to the Wind is good, not great. The writing is strong and I like the heroine, but the hero and romance just didn’t cut it. If the book were a bit longer, there would be plenty of time for description and plot development. I want to place this book in the historical novel category but it’s more of a romance with some historical decoration. It’s worth reading if you’re looking for a light romance!