Sally Kent decides to take her younger brother's place when he refuses to report for duty on the Audacious
. Her brother would rather be writing sermons than joining the British Navy like the rest of their family. Sally has been surrounded by ships her whole life. She grew up learning everything about them and really does not think it is fair that her brothers and father get to sail while she is stuck at home.
Lieutenant David Colyear knows most of the Kent family, but it has been six years since he laid eyes on Sally. He is expecting her brother, and at first the charade works for the most part. But he starts to get suspicious because Richard is supposed to be very inexperienced when it comes to ships, and Sally, pretending to be Richard, knows exactly what she is doing. She is smart and gets along well with just about everybody on the ship. No one sees past her disguise. It helps that she is built just like her brothers - very tall and lean. She's nineteen, and though her face is not masculine, she is able to pass as a teenage boy.
Once it finally dawns on Colyear who Richard really is, Sally is very established on the ship. He knows he should tell his captain that Richard is really a girl, but after Sally begs him not to, he keeps her secret.
Colyear really admired Sally when he thought she was boy. She's brave, not afraid to try anything on the ship and extremely intelligent. He liked how adept she was at looking ahead and knowing the consequences of their actions. That admiration continued when he realized she was a girl, but his feelings also grew to desire. It was getting harder and harder to be on the ship with her and treat her like one of the men, especially when they go into battle. Sally pretty much lusts after Colyear from the beginning. But she is able to keep herself occupied with the ship. She has never been happier; it is where she belongs. I loved Sally's enthusiasm and zest for sailing. She did feel a little too young, too innocent, for me at times, especially her inner dialogue and sighing over how handsome she found Colyear. But mostly I really really liked her.
Essex obviously did a lot of research for this book. The majority of the sailing terms went over my head, but she was able to write it in a way that made me feel like I was there. She was able to explain a lot about the Navy, ships, and sailing without it reading like one large info dump. The language was the most fun for me - "Compliments of the oars, sir, but seeing as you're still leaking blood like a bleeding pin cushion, might I make a suggestion?"
This book was actually a really pleasant surprise for me - well written and whole lot of fun.
ARC provided through NetGalley.