Awakening Alex

Blackthorne

Briana

Courtship of Izzy McCree

Rory

The Sea Nymph

The Sea Witch

 
The Sea Sprite by Ruth Langan
(Harl. Historical #565, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29165-5
**
I had only read a few pages of The Sea Sprite before I felt as though Iíd come in at the middle of the story and got the sneaking suspicion that this was one of a series. Checking TRR Archives, I learned that itís the third in a trilogy (after Sea Nymph and Sea Witch). Ideally, sequels should be able to stand on their own. Itís a bad sign when a reader needs to check our Archives to supply necessary background information. In this case, it was also a warning of dangerous shoals ahead.

When still only a daredevil child of four, Darcy Lambert, the youngest of the three Lambert sisters, is rescued by a youthful Gray Barton. Itís recognized immediately that these two share a special bond and are meant for each other. But years later fate intervenes. Gray is now first mate on a ship. They plan to marry when he becomes captain; she will sail with him as his first mate. A storm off the coast of Wales dashes their plans; nearly all hands, including Gray, perish.

Darcy cannot believe that Gray is dead. Surely her heart would not still beat if her soul mate had died, but slowly she comes to accept it must be true. Gray has not gotten in touch with her, and she knows he would if he still lives.

She volunteers to captain her familyís ship, the Undaunted, along with trusted family retainer Newt as first mate. Darcy is a fearless commander, sailing into battle with pirates even when conflict could be avoided. Newt convinces her that the men need a break, and so instead of charging into another battle with a pirate ship, she agrees that the ship can make port in Wales and the crew get time ashore.

It is when she is about to go to bed in a room in a tavern that she meets young Whit and his friend Gryf. Her first reaction to Gryf is that Gray is still alive, but as she observes him, she realizes that this slow, battered man cannot be her lost love. Gryf was severely burned in a tavern fire and has no memory of his past - even his name was given him by the family who nursed him afterwards. (Of course, heís still got that hunky wide shoulders/slim hip physique.)

Overnight six members of the crew desert. Whit and Gryf sign on as new crew members. This provides lots of opportunities for hanky-panky between the captain and her crew member who suddenly seems a lot more verbal and vigorous than he was back at the tavern. Even as Darcy suffers pangs of guilt that she is betraying her true love she finds their mutual attraction impossible to resist. Is it possible that he is really her beloved Gray, or is this a new love?

I have considerable doubts about the historical accuracy of a romance set in the seventeenth century where a woman captains a ship and takes on one pirate ship after another. Particularly because this is the third Lambert sister to serve as shipís captain. (Lest you think that Darcy is not the equal of her older sisters, let me reassure you that her decks also ďran red with bloodĒ and after her crew is incapacitated, she single-handedly drives ďthe rest of the pirates over the rail one after the other.Ē Every pirate is slain but not a single member of the Undaunted crew. What a woman!)

I didnít know the seventeenth century was such an equal opportunity employment era. Itís also apparently an era of sensitive naval leadership where a captain would be on first name basis with crew members and no oneís flogged at shipís mast.

I also have doubts about the intelligence of any woman who canít recognize her true love, her soul mate, her close companion for most of her life just because heís a little scarred and beaten up. She and Gryf get real close and personal real quick, and she still canít tell heís her dearly departed. I could tell my true love from another in the dark. Darcyís definitely on the dim side, or she couldnít have known Gray all that well in spite of their long history if she canít figure it out in the light.

Furthermore, I have major doubts about Gryfís medical history - severe burns and amnesia. Letís be honest here: severe burn victims did not survive in the seventeenth century. Even today with modern medical advances itís often iffy. But thatís not enough trouble for this guy; heís got amnesia too. And if his unlikely medical history werenít enough to strain credulity, thereís the farfetched coincidence that he just happens to be hanging around the particular small community where the Undaunted unexpectedly makes port. Oh, come on now.

Romance readers know weíre reading fiction, but sometimes a characterís credibility is stretched just too thin. I didnít accept Darcy as a believable heroine or Gryf as a believable hero. If I canít believe in the characters, I canít recommend the book.

The main reason to think twice before picking up The Sea Sprite, however, is that it isnít a very gripping story. This is one of those plots that rely on a cute kid with a cute pet for a good part of the conflict and action -even the climatic moment in the story - rather than on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine, and those are usually unsatisfactory. Most romance readers will likely find this a disappointing read.

--Lesley Dunlap


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