Men in blue. Need I say more?
If Lydia Bennet was condemned as the most determined flirt to make her family ridiculous in Pride and Prejudice for her fixation on any officer in a red coat, then I am as guilty as changed for a Royal Navy man in blue. Besides pictures of my father in his uniform, my earliest memories of a naval hero was of watching Gregory Peck in the 1951 movie Captain Horatio Hornblower on TV as a teenager. *swoon* Extend that memory into a new story of a dashing naval officer set in post Napoleonic war Portsmouth inspired by the author’s love of Jane Austen and Hornblower, and, I fall in, salute attention, take orders, and read Ransome’s Honor!
Seventeen year old Julia Witherington will never forgive Lieutenant William Ransome for not proposing to her in 1802 when she and all of Portsmouth society expected it. She is the daughter of a Royal Navy captain who made a fortune in prize-money during the war with France and ready to bestow a thirty-thousand pound dowry on the lucky man to win his trust and her affections. He is a promising young naval officer from humble beginnings who has earned his advancement but little money. Fearing being tagged a fortune-hunter with no title or money, at the last moment his pride and honor will not allow him to propose. Heartbroken and humiliated, Julia leaves England believing he didn’t really love her, having only courted her to cozy up to her father and his Navy connections.
Twelve years pass and the war with France has ended with Napoleon’s final surrender. Julia returns to Portsmouth still single and the belle of the social season. A beautiful, confident, and accomplished businesswoman, she has spent the last several years running her family sugar plantation in Jamaica. An only child since the loss of her brother at sea, she joins her widowed father Admiral Sir Edward Witherington and her Aunt Lady Pembroke, now acting as her chaperone since her mother’s death the following year. Among those officers and seamen returning to Portsmouth after the war is also one Captain William Ransome, eager for a new assignment for his ship Alexandra and anxious to be land locked for six weeks while she is refitted. Their inventible reunion after so many years is wrought with tension – she still holding on to her resentment – he regretting his decision. When Julia is pressured into an engagement with her ne’er-do-well cousin Sir Drake Pembroke desperate for her fortune to pay off his debts, she enters into a bargain with Captain Ransome for a one year marriage in exchange for her dowry. He is not interested in her money, but is honor bound by his promise to her father his commanding officer, and his own heart to assist her. Will Ransome’s honor prevail and soften Julia’s resolve and rekindle her affections?
Kaye Dacus has delivered a moving Regency era romance infused with naval lore and engaging characters. Her heroine Julia, intelligent and proud must move beyond her resentment and depend on the one man she vowed never to forgive. Her hero Captain Ransome, well, he had me at the first salute. From Julia’s chatty and energetic friend Susan Yates, to her husband Colin, William’s best friend and fellow officer, we form important impressions of our hero and heroine, discovering their character strengths and flaws. The villains, Sir Drake Pembroke and his mother Lady Augusta slither and scheme dubiously supplying the request evil to thwart the happiness of our protagonists. I smirked and grinned at their wicked doings and rooted for honor and good to prevail in all the right places. Above all, it was refreshing and rewarding to spend a delightful engagement with Captain William Ransome, an honorable and distinguished navy man reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth, and evoking fond memories of actor Ioan Grufudd’s interpretation of Horatio Hornblower.
An overall enjoyable read, Dacus’ writing style is very spare and could have benefited from a bit more clarity in the dialogue and more detail in her description of settings and action. The begining of the book moved rather slowly but picked up considerably by the second half. In addition, I was puzzled by the character inconsistency in spirited Julia succumbing to the demands and constrictions of her aunt after her father’s departure to London. The Julia that she had set up to that point would not let others run her over so easily. A sweet romance, this novel is actually classified as Christian fiction, but I did not find the religious vein overly preachy or imposing. A most delightful voyage with the distinguished and dishy Captain Ransome, I am all anticipation for his further adventures in romance, and the sea, when the next installment of the Ransome Trilogy, Ransome’s Crossing makes port next July. Until then I shall feel like a Navy sweetheart patiently waiting for her man to return from the sea!
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Ransome’s Honor, by Kaye Dacus
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR (2009)
Trade paperback (342) pages