Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Captain Blackwell’s Prize by V.E. Ulett

Title: Captain Blackwell’s Prize
Author: V.E. Ulett

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / Nautical / British Navy / Romance / Austen / North Africa / Mediterranean)
Publisher/Publication Date: Fireship Press (6/20/2012)
Source: The author

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The violent, action-filled, and deliciously sexy adventures of a British naval captain and a young American.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- for a book that has a very heavy romantic element, I like that the cover doesn't feature bosoms, corseted women in fainting-like poses, or other romance novel-y elements.

I'm reminded of...: Susan Kaye

First line: The battle started the moment the English captain settled his hat back on his head after raising it in salute to Captain de Leon y Castillo, who stood on the quarterdeck of His Most Catholic Majesty King Carlos IV's 42 gun frigate La Trinidad.

Am... I delighted to discover a publisher of just nautical fiction and non-fiction?: YES. Now I can supplement my Wentworth/Aubrey obsession!

Do... I love the list of resources the author includes on her website?: YES. More books to get nerdy with!

Am... I eager for the sequel?: YES! That Capt. Blackwell is pretty dreamy...

Why did I get this book?: My Wentworth crush has extended to other sea captains.

Review: This novel opens with a pretty epic naval battle and the action continues right through to the last page, so if you want a novel that feels like a movie, this is your book.

Set sometime in the 18th or early 19th century (I'm not exactly sure), the novel follows Captain James Blackwell, British Naval captain, and his ship the Inconstant. During a battle with a Spanish frigate, he liberates (or seizes, depending on your viewpoint) Mercedes de Aragon, a Spanish-American woman on her way to Gibralter. He promises to take her there and in the course of their voyage, finds himself smitten.

I'll be honest -- at times, my eyes swum from the nautical jargon. Ulett seems to know her stuff (I am super unfamiliar with boats and ships so if she made any mistakes, they were lost on me). I had a strong sense of the sea and British naval life, and it was a fun angle for this sexy, historical romance. (The sex is unabashed -- not graphic exactly, but not coy, either -- and I don't think this book is a romance exactly, but the relationship between Blackwell and Mercedes is a huge motivator of the plot.)

The plot is pretty action heavy so those who don't want a lot of moody introspection will dig this as the story is chock full of sea battles, clash of cultures (British, Muslim), honorable ladies and dishonored ones, sailors of all moral stripe. The book's blurb rather perfectly articulates the feel of the book (Captain Blackwell's Prize features exciting sword fights and sea battles alongside the manners, ideas and prejudices of men and women from the time of Nelson and Napoleon.) as Ulett's characters have to come to terms with some pretty heavy things. Women are sexually assaulted, and the men in their life recoil, feel disgust toward the women, even reject them. Ideas of 'proper' birth and station dart through the background of this story, leading to one of the most delightful (and, I would imagine, controversial) twists in this novel. I shrieked with horrified amusement but Austen purists might feel less kindly.

A fairly zippy read, this was a quick and diverting historical romance with heavy nautical themes. While I didn't buy the romance immediately -- it felt a bit rushed -- there was a kind of straight-forward acknowledgement of sex for survival that I appreciated. Although there is a sequel in the works, this novel ends very satisfactorily without any cliff hangers, and offered an interesting snapshot into 18th century naval life.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Captain Blackwell’s Prize to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/international readers, ends 11/2.


  1. I like that the action and adventure don't get cut because of the romance, but also that the romance is included and NOT coy. I hate coy romance. I do love sea tales, so this will be one that is going onto my Kindle soon. I feel the need to read this one! Thanks for the awesome review today, Audra!

    1. The romance/sex is pretty rapacious, in a good way -- and I appreciated that! I hate it when there's a pretense of abstinence when clearly that wouldn't be the case! Can't wait to hear what you think of this one!

    2. Bahaha, that's awesome. Rapacious! That almost makes me want to read this, but I can tell that it's so not my thing. The nautical jargon would drive me crazy, much like the super detailed sections from Pug's report in The Winds of War.

  2. Read most of your review out loud to my husband, a reader of nautical fiction. I'm always on the lookout (get it?) for new authors for him.

    1. Laurie -- I think this might be a good ... I don't know what the word is, crossover? for 'masculine' tastes -- there's a kind of grim pragmatism to the characters which I appreciate and while there is a 'romance' it's not very heavy. I recommend you check out Fireship Press as it is all nautical fiction!

  3. I love nautical tales. Although I don't generally read books that fall within the historical romance sub-genre I think I'd be willing to try this one.

    Thanks for the review and the giveaway.

    1. Melissa -- while the romance between Blackwell and Mercedes preoccupies their thoughts, it doesn't feel wrong to the story -- and again, it's not all coy misunderstandings as you find in many traditional romances. I think it is worth trying.

    2. I'm very happy to hear that. I certainly don't mind love stories, I'm just not a fan of how they are played out in romance novels.

  4. Sounds absolutely brilliant, I'm loving that short blurb summary, the social aspects sound very interesting. As does the way the romance fits in without taking over, which kind of fits with the way the cover isn't, as you say, typical.