Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29821-1
Historical Romance, 2015
Ooh, a romance set in the high sea – how can I resist? Okay, the hero Kit, or Captain North to you, and the heroine Kate Medhurst are of the noble “we don’t kill unless we have to, and the heroine naturally wants to save everyone” sorts, but the author doesn’t let these characters’ determination to be dutiful and honorable above everything else to be the conflict of the story. As a result, The Lost Gentleman is very readable indeed.
Kate operates on the high seas as La Voile, the privateer who leads the crew of Coyote against the British to such an extent that the British fears that La Voile could be a big threat if left unchecked. They send North, the famous pirate hunter, to give La Voile the walking papers. Like most people, North assumes that La Voile is male. In fact, Kit has a guy in place to play La Voile while she gives the orders through that guy, as she knows that men are more inclined to follow orders that come from another man. So, when Coyote attacks Kit’s ship Raven, assuming that Raven is another merchant’s vessel (all part of Kit’s plan), the resulting confrontation sees Kit killing the man who claims to be La Voile and bringing Kate on board his ship. He believes Kate to be an innocent woman abducted by those pirates, you see. Kate keeps quiet and goes along in order to protect her crew from further bloodshed, all the while plotting to get out of Kit’s “protection” ASAP.
The Lost Gentleman boasts a cast that isn’t anything new if one is familiar with the tropes. Kit is all brooding inside, convinced that he has no honor due to unhappy things in his past when he’s actually more honorable than most people. Kate is the action heroine with a cause – vengeance, concern for others, that sort of thing. The crew, while far from being happy Disney sailor sorts, are nice folks too, all of them looking up to their respective captains like devoted underlings, and there is the usual gruff but loyal sidekick of the hero too. There are predictable scenes such as the hero showing kindness to traumatized kids, the heroine nursing the hero’s sick crew, and sex when everyone’s feeling vulnerable and blue to top off things.
While nothing here is too far out of the ordinary, I do like stories of this kind, and it’s not like such stories cross my path often these days. Since the author does a pretty good job in stringing together familiar story elements to create an entertaining story, reading this book is like rediscovering a favorite meal after a long time. It’s a pretty nice experience.
I admit that I’m a bit peeved by how obvious the author’s hand is in this story sometimes, such as when she utilizes everyone’s favorite plot device of the heroine becoming a rapist magnet the moment she steps out of the hero’s Venn diagram of protection. That particular plot device is such a contrived and cheesy overused thing that I actually groan when it comes up. Anyway, there are many moments here when Kate should have escaped Kit, but the author decides to then throw rapists and whatever out of the blue onto Kate’s path to force her to be stuck with Kit longer. This aspect of the story is too obvious for my liking, and it’s the main reason Kit and Kate never seems to play on equal footing, hence diminishing my pleasure a little.
Still, Kit is a pretty enjoyable hero, even if he sometimes feel uncharacteristically incompetent (to show how Kate attracts rapists and perverts every time she steps out of his shadow, I suppose), and Kate can hold her own pretty well here. There is some pretty steamy sexual tension here, and both characters are smart and level-headed enough to approach their star-crossed lust-love thing in a convincingly genuine manner.
I do feel that the last few chapters of the story seem to drag on more than they should, as the climax of the story takes place a while earlier and subsequent pages feel like more filler. Still, The Last Gentleman is generally a well-written adventure romance with an enjoyable cat-and-mouse dynamic and a leading couple that seem well-matched. It’s a pretty good story.