by Sandra Madden, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7526-X
The setting of this book is interesing: it depicts the naval and maritime life of mid-19th century Nantucket, set before the Naval Academy of Annapolis Harbor. The heroine, Sophie Harrington, however, isn't just too stupid to live, she makes Too Bratty - Must Die a form of science. Readers with the patience of Job and the mountains for heroines who are 18 but act like 13 may appreciate the unusual setting of the book. Everyone else, if you really must read about sailing that much, bring inhalers for that inevitable hysterical attack of nerves that will inevitably follow.
Seaman Benjamin Swain - try saying "Seaman Swain" real quick for kicks - teaches at the Naval Academy but he really wants to go sailing and act like a real shirtless man among other shirtless men on ships. When the daughter of Admiral Harrington approaches him for some sailing lessons, he balks at the idea. But our idiot heroine then persuades a midshipman to take her sailing. The midshipman is not prepared to sail alone, so disaster strikes, and Seaman Swain here has to rescue our heroine. She's far from grateful. Her father thanks Seaman Swain by making him her (secret) protector 24/7. Hoping that he will please the Admiral and eventually gets promoted back to sailing the seas like real men do, he has no choice but to agree. Naturally, he then has to scurry after Sophie as she dashes into doing Really Stupid Things for the sake of plot.
See, when she is not hankering to sink ships by sailing them, she is also a budding romance author who thinks she has to experience amour to write about love. It's a pity she doesn't write about crack hos. This of course sets Ben up for the overused "Sex For Academics" plot so beloved of idiot heroines. Then there's her father forcing her to marry a man whose only flaw is that his breath stinks and he's old. This suitor seems like a kind man - heck, towards the end, this suitor actually bails the heroine out of serious trouble. Never mind that one can get rid of bad breath, no, never mind that the heroine deserves to be shackled to men with bad breaths, Sophie isn't grateful - she just wants to be independent to please her daddy. Naturally, this marriage thing sees her doing stupid things to sabotage it.
Following Sophie as she dashes in and out of inns and taverns of seedy districts, commits childish jokes on everybody, runs around begging to do stupid and often dangerous things while whining that she's really independent (save her) and strong (help her) so why don't daddy love her (I take that as a rhetorical question) - all the while dragging innocent bystanders into the mess - frankly, reading about this overprivileged spoiled brat going around terrorizing innocent people that are unable to turn her down because of her father is just a little better than subjecting my head to a real-time brain autopsy session sans anesthesia. The real clincher is that Sophie never grows up and stops acting like a brat with an insufferably large sense of entitlement. In fact, the author is trying to pass this brat off as a sad misunderstood poor little rich girl. Well, poor little rich girls, in my opinion, should get a drug habit and play out the tragedy porn they so badly want to star in or they better shape up and grow up.
When this book has me thinking up really gruesome and bloody ways to hurt the heroine - me, going to hell? I've already reserved a bungalow there - I'd say something has really gone wrong somewhere. And that something is Sandra Madden not letting Sophie drown when she has the chance and freeing poor Ben to go sailing into the sunset in his Love Boat Of Hunky Shirtless Sailors.
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