Title: Pirates of the Narrow Seas Book 2: Men of Honor
Author: M. Kei
Publisher: Bristlecone Pine Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: m/m historical romance
Length: 284 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Book two in the Pirates of the Narrow Seas trilogy sees more exciting battles at sea, but I didn’t warm to Peter as much as the previous book.
Captain Peter Thorton, Sallee rover, and his lover, Shakil bin Nakih set out on a quest to rescue the mad duke, Henrique, Duke of Coimbra, the man who wants to be king of Portugal. Shakil disguises himself to slip into the Spanish stronghold of Sebta, and with a Spanish fleet hot on their heels, Thorton, Shakil, and Henrique flee for their lives-only to run smack into the arms of the British navy.
Arrested for desertion and sodomy, Thorton is obliged to surrender his arms and give his parole and serve as a lieutenant aboard the Ajax under the dour and proper Captain Ebenezer Horner. His former friend, Lieutenant Roger Perry, becomes his worst enemy. He is harassed and taunted, in spite of his victories at sea.
Thorton’s Sallee friends do not abandon him. Captain Tangle comes to his rescue, but the redoubtable corsair meets his match in the steely Captain Horner. Determined to do his duty and turn Thorton over for trial before the notorious homophobe, Admiral Walters, Horner must keep the impetuous Turk at bay even when being menaced by the Spanish who are bent on revenge against them all.
I’d had a mixed response to reading book 1 of this series, specifically because I’d never read an age of sail book before, or been particularly interested in boats or sailing. I’d got a bit lost with the technical jargon in The Sallee Rover but still liked the story enough to want to read Peter Thorton’s further adventures.
When we left Peter at the end of the last book he had converted to Islam, become captain of his own ship and is living in what is now Turkey and blissfully in love with his ex-lover’s brother in law, Shakil. As this book begins we are thrown into a tale of politics and intrigue as Peter and Tangle rescue an exiled Portuguese prince from the clutches of the Spanish and set out to bring him back to a place where he can take back his throne. On the way, they encounter the British navy in the form of Peter’s old ship The Ajax. Things do not go well for Peter when he boards The Ajax as he discovers that his resignation from the navy was not valid. Before he knows it, Peter is on the way to Menorca to be tried for desertion, converting to Islam, and for sodomy – which is punished only by the death sentence.
My feelings about this book were very similar to the first book in many ways. The writing was just as good, the descriptions vivid and the characters as well rounded. Once again, I struggled a little during the long action pieces, mainly due to may lack of knowledge of sailing and the number of nautical terms used. I know that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because those who love sailing will get a good and accurate feeling for what is happening, but I found it difficult to picture the scene in my head, especially those parts where ships are facing off against each other. When the action scenes narrowed down to a small area (such as the gun deck, for example) I was able to follow that much better than the scenes where two or three boats are trying to manoeuvre into position and attempting to blast each other out of the water. Some readers will find these parts of the book breathless and exhilarating, but I got a bit lost at times and so what the author probably intended for an exciting action scene was a little dull for me because I couldn’t work out what was going on sometimes. Having said that the book excelled at showing the harshness of life at sea, especially during those battle scenes with its blood and casual violence and I got a real feel of the dangers for a sea man of being in the midst of such battles.
Where the book shone for me was in the relationships between the characters. I found I didn’t like Peter as much in this book as I did the first. This was possibly because he comes across as very conflicted both in his loyalty to the British navy, the Sallee navy and in his relationships with Shakil, Tangle and Perry. Peter is proud of being a captain and having his own boat, yet he gives that up too easily in my opinion – without even a fight – when it is discovered that his resignation from the British navy doesn’t hold water. He almost willingly goes to what could be his death just because of some misguided sense of loyalty to a career that has caused him nothing but trouble, and who was happy to abandon him to his death in the last book. This irked me no end, and lessened my opinion of Peter. Having said that, I thought the author had done a good job of showing Peter as a very flawed man, a confused man in many ways, especially in his love for Shakil and the feelings of attraction he still has for Tangle and Perry. So whilst I didn’t always like Peter (or for that matter Tangle and Perry), I could still admire the skill that the author had of eliciting those feelings within me.
This made this a difficult book to review and the rate. I’ve gone for four stars because really those who like Age of Sail books will love this one, just as they will love the first book in the series. There’s still much to learn about Peter – which I think is coming in the third and final book of the trilogy. Despite my reservations about Peter and my confusion about some of the battle scenes, I’m still interested enough in Peter and his life to want to read that third book and I look forward to it.