From the sandy shores of South Carolina to the Caribbean islands to the high seas, and set during the eighteenth-century’s Golden Age of Piracy, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read in my life. It’s both a rip-roaring pirate adventure—packed with action and jaw-dropping twists on every page—and an all-consuming romance that oh-so perfectly captures the angst and drama of its unique setting, but every single part of it is utterly marvellous. Like the lapping waves of the sea, Pam Godwin’s seductive prose lulls the reader into submission with its lyricism and vivid imagery, only to then jolt us with the unexpected, time and time again, weaving a story that never stops knocking the wind out of us. If I had to recommend one book this year, it would be this one, and it has everything to do with a lady pirate named Bennett Sharp.
He was the sea. Rough. Dangerous. Dependable. No matter how far he traveled or how long he stayed away, he always returned to me.
The book opens with a fourteen-year-old Benedicta Leighton growing up in the American colonies with her English countess mother, but dreaming of sailing the open seas with her infamous pirate father, Edric Sharp. A girl on the cusp of womanhood, Benedicta’s rebellious nature and desire to live a life outside of what is expected of women of her time are apparent from the outset. But nothing prepares her for the day when her whole life changes in an instant, leaving her alone in a world that she no longer belongs to.
I was a pirate captain, a rebel queen of the sea, fighting against the conformities of society and the oppressive laws of man.
When we meet her again, seven years later, Benedicta Leighton has followed in her father’s footsteps and is now known as Bennett Sharp, fearless pirate captain of her own ship and of a faithful crew of scoundrels ready to follow her every command. The only living person who knows her past is her husband, Priest Farrell—notoriously known as the Feral Priest, king of libertines—a man who’s been hunting her for the past two years, ever since he broke her heart by bedding another.
“It doesn’t matter how far we fall, how much pain we inflict, or how dark it becomes in the ruin. I’m going to be with you, waiting for you, loving you, forgiving you. I’m never letting go, Bennett. Never.”
When Priest finally catches up with his runaway wife, it is clear that Bennett has never stopped loving her husband or wishing he’d desire her without longing for another when he is with her. His betrayal, however, has not only stirred insecurities in her that she does not know how to ignore, but also awakened painful echoes of a time long gone, when she watched the two people she loved the most in the world, forced to live their lives apart, no matter how deeply they loved one another.
I wanted this man to the point of madness. His body. His love. I craved him with a recklessness that would cost me everything.
She is set on hurting Priest the same way he hurt her, hoping that her own betrayal of their wedding vows would finally expel him from her broken heart, but her chance never comes as Bennett’s life takes a sudden turn when Lord Ashley Cutler—commodore of a Royal Navy warship and pirate hunter—captures her, planning to deliver her to England where she would be convicted and hanged for piracy. With her survival instinct in overdrive, Bennett schemes to seduce the unsmiling commodore, only to discover, beneath his veneer of apparent indifference and civilised behaviour, a man torn between his king’s desires and his own. What starts off as a ruse to regain her freedom, suddenly becomes all too real for them both.
“You feel me running, Bennett?” He rested his forehead against mine.
“No.” My chest rose hard, my voice barely a whisper. “I feel you falling.”
And that barely brings us to the halfway point in the book. What follows is a gripping romantic adventure that deserves to remain unspoiled because every second of it is intense and gruelling and brutal and absolutely fantastic. Scene after scene, you barely get a chance to breathe as Pam Godwin goes above and beyond to deliver a powerful tale of survival and selfless love that continues to push the boundaries of its genre, all the while subtly bending the reader’s mind any way she chooses. With a colourful cast of characters ranging from the humorous to the menacing, and even the occasional real historical figure such as Charles Vane—a sadistic English pirate who terrorised the seas during the Golden Age of Piracy and was hanged in March 1721—and charged with a constant sense of danger that never goes away, Godwin weaves a story that remains heavily centred around female resilience and tenacity. And even when I could barely see the page through my own tears, or breathe from the tension, there was no looking away from this breathtaking whirlwind of a book.
I was married to a man I loved. I loved another man who didn’t know I was married. Choosing between them wasn’t an option. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I’d rather drown beneath a burning ship.