The Matelot

Title: The Matelot
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: historical m/m romance, pirates
Length: Novel (307 pdf pages)
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: A character-driven story around the relationships of two pairs of men, set against the backdrop of 17th century Caribbean pirate culture.

The Blurb: Their pirate vessel destroyed, Captain Amery White, ship’s surgeon Gavin Watson, and quartermaster Quinn Davies are left without a livelihood or a home. The three men have served together since they were old enough to put to sea, sharing hardships and comfort until Amery and Gavin formalized their union with a matelotage—the pirate equivalent of a marriage contract.
Now they’ve been offered a letter of marque and a fine English galleon with enough speed and firepower to catch and capture any ship in the Caribbean. But their mission brings back memories long buried and puts a strain on Amery and Gavin’s relationship, especially when the Silver Queen captures a Spanish slave ship, bringing the very young, very beautiful, and very abused Eliodoro to their crew.
Quinn finds himself torn between the love he’s always had for his friends and his desire for their new crew member. When secrets from the past come to light and cause a rift between Amery and Gavin, Quinn will have to choose between substituting for Gavin’s true love and becoming the center of Eliodoro’s world.

The Review:

Amery, Gavin and Quinn have been friends for about twenty years, since the day they first went at see at age ten on a merchant ship. Togehther, they fled from their first ship when Gavin was raped repeatedly by a crew member, and together, they worked their ways up on several pirate ships to their current positions of captain, surgeon and quartermaster on a ship of their own, which they lose to a storm as the story opens.
Stranded on the island of Tortuga, the three men luck upon an agent from the Puritan colony of Providence Island who offers them a Letter of Marque and a ship, which means they can now officially hunt down and capture ships under enemy colors, particularly Spaniards.  Shortly before Amery and Gavin became matelots five years ago, Gavin and Quinn had been captured, brutalized and raped by Spanish slavers until Amery rescued them, leaving all three men with a deep hatred for all things Spanish. Thus they grab the opportunity for revenge with both hands, quickly coming to appreciate the new premises and their new ship, the Silver Queen, despite the need to share their booty with their employers. A couple of prizes later, their come across a Spanish slaver. Among the captives is a young Venetian, Eliodoro, who’s been abused by the slavers as their whore. After his liberation Eliodoro choses to stay aboard the Silver Queen. Eliodoro’s exotic beauty,  his courage and vulnerability don’t fail to affect Quinn, who finds himself soon more than attracted to the former slave. Eliodoro opens up a little to Quinn, begins to trust him, and the two men begin a tentative affair. Unfortunately, Quinn’s earlier commitment to Amery and Gavin gets into the way, threatening to nip the new relationship in the bud.

Although all three men had sexual experiences with each other, this stopped when Amery and Gavin fell in love and signed their matelotage, the pirate equivalent of gay marriage.  Quinn has been the odd one out since, secretly in love with Gavin but too good a friend to Amery to fight him for his man. However, Gavin and Quinn share a secret Amery isn’t partial of: while on the Spanish slave ship, it was only Quinn who’d been violently raped. Gavin, traumatized with the rape experience in his childhood, offered himself to the Spaniards rather than let them hurt him. Shame and fear of rejection make Gavin keep this secret from Amery, and rightly so, or so it seems, because when Amery finally uncovers the truth, he breaks them up. Gavin turns to Quinn for comfort. Now Quinn is faced with a hard decision: will he become Amery’s replacement in Gavin’s bed, or will he prove himself worthy of Eliodoro’s trust?

The focus of this story is really on the romance and the character development.  Each man had to come to terms with his own past traumas and those of his love in order to find redemption and fulfillment. They’re all rounded enough to be likeable, particularly Eliodoro, who was really sweet in his innocent brashness and just the right amount of femmy and needy to make it clear why Quinn, a natural nurturer and protector, had to find him irresistible.
For the price of giving the four main characters more room, the secondary cast remains sketchy, though, supernumeraries for the purpose of giving the acting characters cues.
The story is told in the alternating third person POV’s of the four main characters, mostly Quinn’s, with the narrator often switching from one man to the other within one paragraph. The breaks were sometimes barely distinctive enough to prevent headhopping. Also, there was a lot of “telling”  (as opposed to “showing”) how the characters feel and what makes them act as they do. I thought it fit the mood, since this is a historical, after all, and the author mostly managed to avoid omniscient narrative. Nevertheless, others might find this narrative style even more bothersome than I did. In my opinion, it only kept the characters from coming truely alive.

The beauty in the institution of matelotage is that it’s a historical fact, thus I couldn’t help wondering why m/m authors didn’t use it more often. In this story, though, the historical setting is merely the backdrop for the character development of the four main characters. The worldbuilding is subtle, more to give an idea of the time and place rather than being really essential, although it’s sufficient to create the mood. Yet, the historical facts and authenticity didn’t sit quite right with me on occasion.  It wasn’t much in itself really, little things like some of the sexual practices, or the men referring to themselves as “pirates”, or the Puritans on Providence Island accepting the matelots without reservations. I wouldn’t know if this is accurate; after all, I wasn’t there. But those little things which didn’t feel right added together to a constant, bothering niggle in the back of the reading.

If you’re looking for an action – packed pirate adventure or an hilarious romp à la “Pirates Of The Caribbean”, this story isn’t for you.  On the other hand, if you feel like escaping reality for a while and want to immerse yourself in an bucolic, exotic world full of romatic pirates, sweet, caring love and hot, passionate sex, you might want to give this book a try.

Author

Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.

6 comments

  • Spaniards, bad, bad boys. Why, why are always the baddies?? 🙂
    I´m no into pirate plots, but wI may end reading it, I seem to get sidetracked by novels with Spanish references. Thank you for your review .)

    Reply
    • Welcome Helena!
      Someone has to draw the short straw, after all. This time it’s the Spaniards, at other times the krauts…
      😉

      Reply
  • Hey Feliz – thanks for the review. I really enjoy historicals and have loved other author’s “age of sail” stories – not necessarily pirate stories though. I am wanting to try The Matelot but have a question. Is the rape/violence mostly referred to in passing as relating to past events or is it explicit?

    Reply
  • I have never understood peoples fascination with pirates, so I rarely read stories like this, but your review is intriguing, so I think I might give this one a try. Great review Feliz!

    Reply

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