Book review: Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden

Adventure on the high seas, swashbuckling pirates, a stowaway heroine and a voyage back in time to the Age of Discovery…

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 26th June 2013, 10:00 am
Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden
Mistress of the Sea by Jenny Barden

Jenny Barden’s sizzling, seafaring debut novel certainly puts the romance back into English history in this epic tale of passion, revenge and skulduggery as we travel on board Sir Francis Drake’s ship The Swan and head for the New World.

At the heart of Barden’s fun, fascinating and vividly drawn Elizabethan treasure hunt is a young woman who finds her rash scheme to muscle in on a man’s world puts her own life, and the lives of the two men she loves, in serious danger.

New to historical novel writing, Barden’s inspiration derives from retracing the footsteps of the irrepressible Sir Francis Drake while travelling in Panama and her love for this exciting age of exploration shines through in this atmospheric, enchanting and sweeping maritime saga.

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By his own admission, master caulker Will Doonan is a rash adventurer but he is very serious about two things – seeking revenge for his beloved brother Kit who was captured by the hated Spaniards and his love for the beautiful Ellyn Cooksley, daughter of his landlord, the wealthy Plymouth merchant Nicholas Cooksley.

Will has already accompanied the notorious explorer Drake to the Americas where they raided and pillaged the Spanish ships which transport gold and other precious metals back to Spain.

The year is now 1570 and Will is torn between setting sail again for the New World with Drake and his crew of pirates hell-bent on Spanish treasure or staying behind in Plymouth to try to win the hand of the beautiful Ellyn who is falling for his charms despite his lowly social status.

Ellyn, meanwhile, is being pressured by her father into making a good marriage but, bored with her lacklustre suitors, she has eyes only for handsome Will who has persuaded her father to part finance Drake’s latest adventure.

And when Cooksley insists he will accompany the crew on the voyage, Ellyn makes the reckless decision to stowaway on the Swan and disguise herself as a cabin boy. Inevitably, she is soon found and identified, and an angry Drake plans to dump her and her father on a Caribbean island until their mission is completed.

Will must decide which is more important… his love for Ellyn or the lure of gold and the lust for revenge?

Mistress of the Sea is a rip-roaring, escapist adventure story full of action, drama, good guys, bad guys, real history and thrilling romance.

What more do you need as the summer holidays draw near?

(Ebury, paperback, £6.99)