First Lines: It wasn’t the first time Sally Kent had donned a worn, hand-me-down uniform from one of her brothers’ sea chests, but it was the first time it had felt so completely, perfectly right.
When it comes to historical romances, the more unconventional they are, the more fun I tend to have with them. Sure, there are anachronisms in those kinds of stories, but they tend to have bold, interesting characters. And I’ve read a lot, but I was pretty sure this was going to be one of the boldest Regency romances I’d ever read.
For generations, the Kent family has served in the Royal Navy and made an honorable name for themselves. So when Sally’s brother refuses to report for duty, Sally decides to put on his uniform and take his place. Boarding the Audacious is the adventure of a lifetime for her, especially since the sea has always been Sally’s life. She’s as able a soldier as any of the other recruits–better, even. There’s only one problem. Lieutenant David Colyear, the man whose duty it is to protect the ship, sees through Sally’s disguise. And he’s furious. But it’s hard to hate her actions when she’s the best midshipman on board. If only she didn’t tempt him so much. With such a serious secret they’re keeping, can they keep each other safe…and can their budding love survive battle at sea?
This was definitely…something different. Not your typical Regency romance.
In this story, we’re introduced to Sally Kent, whose entire family is made of Navy men. For her entire life, she’s been left behind as they’ve all grown and started their own naval careers. And Sally, who loves the sea, is incredibly jealous. So when her younger brother, Richard, runs away before he can be shipped out, Sally decides the best way to save her family’s honor (and live the exciting life she’s always dreamed of) is to take his place. She’s basically a seafaring Mulan.
Sally is definitely unusual for this type of story. She has no interest in dresses and debuts and getting married. Literally all she wants is to be allowed to climb the rigging and fight in naval battles. She’s a total tomboy and…now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever read a historical romance with someone who was this much of a tomboy. It was unexpected and made Sally unique.
We’re also introduced to Lieutenant Colyear, a family friend of the Kents. He hasn’t seen the Kents in a few years, but he just has this weird feeling that something isn’t right with this Kent. The stories he’s heard of Richard being sullen and more interested in sermons doesn’t fit with this exuberant recruit. And because he’s her commanding officer, ho boy do the sparks ignite. Especially considering how angry he is that she’d do something so stupid.
Individually, I really adored both Sally and Col. Sally’s a fighter and Col is ambitious and self-controlled. However, there were moments when I thought their relationship didn’t quite work. When Sally was hiding her gender, I thought the attraction was more obvious than when they were actually able to be together. Sally says something at one point about how she knows how to act like a boy, but not a young woman and I don’t know if that’s the difference or what, but it definitely lost something in the process.
There are slow moments to the story, but the uniqueness of the story and the setting I think make up for that in a lot of ways. This story is just so vastly different from anything else I’ve read like it that it was just super interesting.