Tag Archives: Privateers

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

It is misleading to say that The Unbinding of Mary Reade (please note the extra “e”) is based on historical facts since the author, Miriam McNamara plays fast and loose with the so called “truth”. Yes, Mary Read, Anne Bonnie, and Calico Jack Rackham were pirates together, but the timeline is ignored leading to a misleading narrative. What is true is that the illegitimate Mary Read was brought up disguised as her half brother Mark so as to financially benefit off her “grandmother” with the proceeds of her deceit supporting her mother. Eventually she joined the British Military and fought against the French in the Nine Years War. Mary married, settled in the Netherlands, and ran an inn, but after her husband’s early death she once again took up the role as a man and ended up on a ship traveling to the West Indies which was taken hostage by pirates who she gladly joined. She accepted the governor’s pardon in 1718-19 and became a privateer, basically a pirate for the crown, but the ship mutinied and it was at this point she joined the pirates Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny (who also was disguised as a man). Eventually both their true identities were revealed. Ironically, Anne’s father had unsuccessfully forced Anne to take on a boys identity in her youth to hide the fact she was his illegitimate daughter.

While in the book McNamara portrays the two female pirates as roughly the same age, in fact, Mary Read was thirteen to fifteen years older. Of interest is the gender fluid nature of both these female buccaneers who seemed to take pleasure from men but were rumored to have an intimate relationship with each other as well, switching back and forth between the sexes as the situation dictated. That they were fierce fighters is not in doubt, shown by their efforts to hold off the invaders intent on taking them captive, although they were eventually outnumbered and captured because the male crew were too drunk to fight. Both ladies were “with child” so spared the fate of their male counterparts who were hanged for high treason. While Mary is believed to have died of child fever in a Jamaican prison (buried April 28, 1721), Anne was luckier, possibly rescued by her influential father, William Cormac, ending up in her birthplace of South Carolina.

As you can see, Mary’s life was actually quite fascinating, but the author somehow found a way to make it mundane. I had to force myself to finish this book, which seemed to drag on and on.

Back and forth between 1704, 1707, 1717, and 1719 alternating between the locales of London and the Caribbean, the backstory comes too late, leaving the reader confused as to exactly what is happening. Ultimately, the intriguing details of the lives of these two rebellious woman are not used to their best advantage. There was too much tell, not enough show, with the author too often describing the events rather than putting the characters in the midst of the action.

However, this book’s one saving grace is bringing Mary and Anne to our attention and I suggest a look at A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, published in 1724, which provides the basis of many of the myths surrounding this fascinating period on the high seas.

Two stars and a thank you though both Netgalley and Edelweiss for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

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Duke of Thorns by Sara Ramsey

Two impossible people – one a free spirited woman used to doing whatever she pleases, another a man used to controlling others either by tactical persuasion or by physical force. Two total opposites who are destined to find love despite all obstacles giving the reader the potential for an exciting romance.

That’s just what Sara Ramsey does in her most recent novel, Duke of Thorns, the first in a new series, Heiress Games. Lord Gavin Thorington depends on his luck to support his younger brothers and sisters, but the charm which had previously cursed him with fortune has now turned against him. Faced with three lost ships, failed crops, and gambling debts, Thorington must secure wealthy mates for his siblings before news of his ruin becomes common knowledge. If his young brother Anthony will accept the hand of the potential Briarley Heiress, then at least his future is secure. Off the entire family goes to the house party where one of three Briarley woman will be selected to inherit all. The determining factor is which bride-to-be selects the best (or most interesting) husband. Gavin is certain the brother of a Duke will triumph. Now, if only both of the affected parties will cooperate.

The obvious winner is Calista, the cousin from Baltimore. Gavin is instantly drawn to her independence and vitality, so unlike the other girls in society. Unfortunately, she is not schooled in the ways of the ton, so Thorington decides to become her “governess” and trains her in the essentials so she doesn’t ruin herself before her wedding day. Calista simply wants the stable home which Maidenstone Abbey will provide, as long as she can maintain the independence necessary to continue running her company. Thus, Thorington’s proposed arrangement is agreeable to her, as long as Anthony is cooperative.

As Gavin and Callie are thrown together, the chemistry they feel gets stronger, but their ultimate goals remain the same leaving a mutual romance impossible. Plus there’s the little issue of her sloop, Nero, which has turned privateer for the Americans in the War of 1812 conflict. The very ship which, ironically, has captured Thorington’s fleet and caused his financial demise.

A mess to be sure and this particular dilemma leads to a compelling Regency Romance.

Sara has made the characters come alive with witty banter and lively interactions. Even the minor characters are interesting. They should be, as many of them appeared in previous novels in the Muses of Mayfair series. These supporting players assist our hero and heroine in finding their voices, leading to a satisfying conclusion despite the numerous obstacles both must overcome. We, along with Callie, see the potential good side of the domineering Duke and root for Gavin’s heartfelt personality to triumph over Thorington’s manipulative manner, so the two lovers may forge a mutual relationship where their passion can be expressed.

A well done, thoroughly enjoyable novel with stimulating romantic interludes. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, Lord of Deceit, due out this Spring, Four and a half stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley for allowing me a free download of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.