Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch her most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.
To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest–until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?
Author: Tessa Dare
Genre: Ocean romance, Regency Period
Series: Second in a trilogy
Sensuality: PG-13 to R
Content warnings: None.
Ramblings: This has been an amazing year for historicals already. The year is a little over half gone and I have twice as many “A” reads as I did all of last year. SOAS is one of them.
First, let me say that this book can be read stand alone, altho it will be a richer, more nuanced read if you have read the first book – Goddess of the Hunt (GOTH). Sophia only appeared in a handful of scenes there but the general consensus seems to be that she stole what scenes she was in. A lot of readers seem to love her and looked forward to her story.
I was not one of them.
I generally don’t respond well to characters with . . . hmm, how shall I say this? . . . . over-active imagination. I would say that it is almost a hot-button with me. I basically put Sophia down as a pathological liar in GOTH. It is a tribute to Dare’s skills as a writer that I ended up loving Sophia after I finsihed. Sophia is such a strong character that she dominated the book. This is as much her story as it is a romance and she is shown in all her vivid, lusty, selfish,curious, mischievous, artistic glory.
My favorite scene in the whole book is the dolphin-fish scene. Sailors are harpooning fish for food and Sophia sees the fish lose its beautiful rainbow colors as it is in its death throes. Any other heroine would go swooning back to her cabin but not Sophia. She wants to harpoon, too. I loved how the scene turned on a dime. Her lust for LIFE for so huge and it really moved me.
So, SOAS starts pretty much where GOTH left off. Sophia has just escaped wedding a baronet which her ambitious family much desired. She books a passage on a ship to Tortola (in the Virgin Islands) where she meets the hero, Gray, the owner of the ship and a former privateer.
“Anchors aweigh!” The call came echoing through
the grated skylight. “All hands! All hands!”
The three men hurried back the way they’d entered,
and Sophia followed them up the narrow staircase and
onto the deck.
What a glorious commotion awaited her there— the
sailors shouting and hauling and climbing into the rigging
like spiders scaling webs.
Approximately 80% of the novel occurs on the ocean. I’ve always imagined that sea voyage stories are one of the harder ones to write and not make claustrophobic. Dare does a great job of describing what could be endless days. I thought the pace of the book was surprisingly good since sea voyages aint my cuppa. The only lull I came across was at the end when the court scenes were not as grandly climatic as what I am used to. In another words, it aint no Almost Heaven. Of course, since Almost Heaven (like most McNaught novels, as regular readers of this blog well knows) made me wanna barf, I guess that’s a good thing.
I was reminded of quite a few books as I was reading SOAS, actually. I guess it can’t be helped when you started reading romances as an amoeba as I have. The last sea voyage romance I read before this was Marsha Canham’s fabulous The Iron Rose. Both Iron Rose and SOAS are assured, vivid novels where you practically smell the ocean breeze but that’s where the comparison ends. The Canham is a classic swashbuckling adventure where you almost expect Errol Flynn to appear any minute in costume. SOAS reminds me more of James Cameron’s Titanic: an ocean romance with a restless heiress feeling trapped and eventually finding her true self & destiny.