Finished Reading: August 2013
Times Read: 5 since 1992
Shelves: angst-to-infinity-and-beyond, ebooks, hero-i'd-do, historical, keeper, plus-sized h, ptsd, tear-jerker
I really do not know what to say about this book. This is probably the fifth time I've read StF but for whatever reason, it just really got to me this time. Maybe it's because we've been through so many more conflicts since this was written or maybe I've become more educated about PTSD. Whatever the reason, this book stuck in my brain for many days after I finished it.
Olympia is a real princess. Of course she has not seen her home country for many years and really has no real idea of the political climate but that does not stop her from planning her own little revolution when she finds out that her grandfather, the current monarch of Oriens (a microscopic piece of land in Europe), plans to name her his successor to his throne. Unfortunately, the current heir, her uncle, has a more dastardly plan to marry her himself in order to take control of the country. Amid all of this are rumors of revolution, which Olympia supports. Olympia has no desire to marry her uncle and wants to help the people of Oriens stage their independence. With this in mind, she decides to take steps to avoid marriage and to lead her people to independence. The only problem is, she has been extremely sheltered and protected for much of her life and she has absolutely no idea how to go about this.
Enter Sir Sheridan Drake.Sir Sheridan is a reluctant hero who in return for accidentally saving an admiral during an attack at sea, has been granted a knighthood posthumously (he fell overboard and was thought dead). Lo and behold he has shown back up and quit the navy in order to put his dead father's affairs in order. Olympia has kept up with his naval exploits for years and has idolized him from afar. Now that he's home, she is sure that she can talk him into assisting her in her quest. Unfortunately for Olympia, Sheridan is not quite the man she thinks he is.
Sheridan is an extremely damaged human being and has been for many years as his father had a penchant for cruel "jokes", the cruelest being when he told 10 year-old Sheridan who loved music more than anything, that he would be traveling to Vienna to study classical music and instead was put aboard a ship to start his naval "career". This was pretty much the beginning of the molding of Sheridan's personality. Ever since this incident, Sheridan has protected himself by not letting getting too close to people, especially in the navy as chances were, that you would probably see your best friends and colleagues blown to bits at any given time during battles with the enemy.
Fast forward to Sheridan being "strongly encouraged" by the British government (an ally of Oriens) that he should certainly do his duty to England by helping her. Sheridan agrees but also puts into play, his own agenda with an eye out for lining his pockets to try to pay off old debts left by his father. What follows is an awesome adventure that goes from England to South America, the Falkland Islands to be precise (the blurb mentions this being a desert island paradise but trust me, it is not), to Turkey and finally to Oriens. During several months of travel, both with Sheridan and at times, on her own, Olympia does some serious growing up and Sheridan learns to love and trust another human being.
But there is also so much fucking tragedy that I had to stop several times in order to gather my thoughts. When it is learned of the things Sheridan has been through in his life, it is impossible to stay objective. I wanted to beat the living hell out of his father, his father's mistress, the British government, the sultan who enslaved him as a boy, and even Olympia for her blind adoration which put him in so many untenable situations! This poor guy could not catch a fucking break! Every time he thought he was at a decent place in his life, that possibly he had found someone who loved him for himself, the proverbial rug was pulled out from under him and he slipped back into his habit of lashing out, pushing people away and once again being alone.
Olympia ends up being very hurt by some of Sheridan's actions, which are as far from hero-like as you can get. But finally, she does start to realize that she has put him in an impossible position with her adulation and starts to love the man he is and not the untouchable hero she fantasized about.
I simply cannot say enough about this book. Laura Kinsale is a master at bringing together numerous plot points and making them work seamlessly. Nothing ever feels contrived or forced and at the end you believe in their HEA. Her treatment of Sheridan's PTSD seemed thoughtfully researched and never devolved into melodramatic sentimentality as it so easily could have done.