I do love a good historical novel and this is exactly what you get with Jenny Bond’s book as the narrative moves between characters who are based in the Massachusetts’ town of Eastham and those who are in the Caribbean in the years of the early 1700s.
Based on the real story of pirate “Black Sam”, the book begins in Eastham where we are introduced to all of the main characters: Leah and Palgrave Williams are happily married but struggling financially whilst Leah’s sister Maria Hallett meets a handsome newcomer to town called Samuel Bellamy and becomes captivated by him, much to the consternation of her friend, Silas Dent who harbours hopes of betrothal. Sam and Palgrave then make a decision that changes all of their lives forever and we embark on a tale of pirates and opportunity on the high seas.
Bond is a competent writer who creates clearly delineated characters from the opening scene of the book. The small town atmosphere of Eastham with the close scrutiny provided by certain higher status residents on the behaviour of others is presented with tension, which only increases as the action of the book progresses. The attitudes that pervaded the period, of superstition, with the emphasis on the role of godliness being an indicator of evil, augments this especially in juxtaposition with the looser, more lawless lifestyle of the Caribbean.
The troubles that beset the women while the menfolk are away seem apt for the period and the plot is fairly convincing although I felt sometimes like certain events could have been made more dramatic and the lead up to them developed a little more. However, the plot reveals itself at a good pace, reads convincingly and ends solidly.
Taking a real life character of notoriety, as a writer, means that you are, to a degree, constrained by facts and faced with the challenge of making your creation credible, with what is known from the time. I think that pirates have to be fictionalised with a certain charisma that fits with our perceived idea of them as well as a sense of danger because they had men follow them into lives that are high reward but high risk and Bond balances this fairly well in her depiction of Bellamy, helped by incorporating the contrast of Edward Teach, the infamous Blackbeard.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, this will satisfy.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.