I’ve been wanting to read a Darlene Marshall book for a while now so I jumped at the chance to read and review Sea Change, her latest Amber Quill release. Now I am definitely going to read her backlist.
Sea Change features I few things I absolutely love in my romance. A kick-ass heroine who cross dresses and is working in a man’s profession (doctor in the early 1800s). It also has a great hero who is attracted to said cross-dressing woman but freaks out a bit because he thinks he’s attracted to a man. Oh boy do the sparks fly once the truth is revealed!
Charley (aka Charlotte) Alcott is disguised as a man and earning her passage on a ship to Jamaica from England, acting as the ship’s doctor. Her father, whom she apprenticed with, has died recently and so she’s going to stay with her godfather, also a doctor. She’s hoping she can continue apprenticing with him. Meanwhile, she disguises herself as a man. Her plan is totally screwed up when their ship is overtaken by American privateers and she’s forced onto their vessel. Charley’s ship was attacked because Captain David Fletcher’s younger brother was injured and Captain David needs a surgeon to save him. David isn’t exactly impressed with the young doctor he’s found, but he’s better than nothing. And once the pressing matter of his younger brother’s health is behind them, Charley and David form a loose friendship. I say loose because Charley still wants to go to Jamaica and David is determined to keep the doctor on his boat – his men like it, it has improved morale and Charley is someone that David can really talk to.
But Charley realizes that her feelings are growing for the sexy captain and this makes her more determined than ever to get away from him. David too is thrown for a loop when he realizes that Charley is growing feelings for him and thinking he’s a man, it freaks him out, because he’s noticing things and reacting to the young man. All of that changes one day when Charley is knocked overboard and David jumps into the ocean to save her. David can’t help but notice the shape of the body under the wet clothes. And David is furious:
David liked women. Not on his ship, of course, but when he was on land he enjoyed being in their company. He liked them clothed in their fripperies and unclothed in all their glory, curved and rounded and sweet smelling. He liked the contrast of their
softness to his hardness, their gentle ways and delicate natures to his life among rough men. And the ones who weren’t so delicate but gave as good as they got in a game of slap and tickle, he liked them, too.
What he did not like was the thought of a female who talked like a man, and dressed like a man, and thought like a man, and spent her day examining the naked bodies of men when it was no proper place for a lady to be!
The scene, where David reveals Charley’s true identity was so thrilling! He’s glad he hasn’t been attracted to a man but he’s horrified that she’s also a woman. She has been treating the men and seeing them naked and even treated him! It’s unacceptable and he’s determined to get her off his ship as quickly as possible. (There’s an awesome scene when he announces his intentions to the crew.)
I won’t say any more but that’s only half the story. It’s not so easy for David to let Charley go. And I LOVED that these two had time to get to know each other before their feelings came into play. It created some delicious tension, both pre and post gender reveal. I liked all the characters. Charley is a practical sort of woman and David is a great captain and sigh-worthy hero. The writing was engaging and the dialog never dragged. Who thought doctor-speak could be sexy?
“Do you know how an inoculation works, Captain?”
Her voice was low, and husky, and despite her prosaic question, made him even harder, if that were possible.
“An inoculation gives you a taste of a disease. Just enough to strengthen you against it.”
“Am I a disease then, Doctor?”
“If I kiss you, I may be inoculated against you, and I can sleep easy again.”
I got sucked into Charley’s story right from the get go and about halfway through, I knew I was reading a book I’d be listing as a top read for 2011. And I was right. Sea Change is going to be in my top 5 reads for this year.