Clayton Thomas has found adventure and love aboard The Irish Lady. Though the crew tends to earn their keep by pickpocketing and thievery, Clayton finds them to be good men, especially the strong, dependable quartermaster, Jorge, and Captain Peter Simpson. Clayton and Peter become lovers soon after Clayton joins the crew and for five years they live a life of relative freedom on the high seas.
When a fierce storm cripples the Irish Lady and kills most of her crew, Clayton, Jorge, and Peter must find a way to survive on a small island. Here they are equals and intimacy blossoms between the men. But they cannot remain hidden on their island forever and as they begin to prepare for their return to civilization, Jorge and Clayton discover that Peter has been hiding something from them. His secrets may, at the very least, destroy the love they share, and at the worst, see Peter hanging from the nearest yardarm.
I’m not even really sure to start with this one. I picked up Uncharted Hearts because I enjoy shipwreck novels and generally anything historical. Unfortunately, this book barely falls into either category. But let’s start with the positive. The pacing was strong. It was a fairly short book and it really flies by quickly. There aren’t too many slow parts and the author does a good job of keeping the plot moving. The storyline is simple enough and while it lacks much depth, it doesn’t become too bogged down either, which only adds to the strength of the pacing. The characters are generally likable and you want the best for them, however improbable their relationship seems to be given the historical period.
The author indicates she has tried to remain historically accurate, but I don’t see much evidence of that. Certainly leeway is given to any piece of fiction set within a specific era but Uncharted Hearts doesn’t feel terribly well researched. Close friends and family accept the relationship between Peter, Clayton, and Jorge without anyone really protesting it. This simply isn’t realistic given the time period. Since sodomy was a criminal offense in most places, it was odd to find that it was never really developed as a threat. Additionally, many issues that should have been deemed important, such as slavery, were given short shrift or even made light of despite the fact that Jorge is a man of color. Very little rang true in Uncharted Hearts with regards to its historical context and I found myself consistently frustrated by this.
While the main characters of Peter, Clayton, and Jorge are superficially interesting, they lack any real depth or dimension. None of them seem to exist beyond the moment and, while we know a little of Jorge and Peter’s personal histories, none of this information fleshes them out or makes them seem whole. They are unfinished sketches that claim to love one another but we never really understand why. Clayton joins Peter’s crew and is having sex with him before the end of the first chapter and then, inexplicably, the narrative jumps forward by five years. We are told these men have shared a history and it is even referred to occasionally, but these events are never explained and, as a result, these men always seemed like shallow caricatures that failed to connect. I wanted to root for them because there were moments when they were likable, but the author failed to bring them to life.
The overall plot is a bit weak here. The trio ends up shipwrecked but they really aren’t shipwrecked. They can, in theory, leave at any time and while the island seems like a pleasant interlude, I’m not sure it actually does much for the characters. They do use this time to enter into an menage, but beyond that there isn’t a lot of forward character development. The threats they face are real once they leave the island, but resolved too quickly and any perceived risk seems pretty anti-climatic. As a whole much of the storyline felt forced and awkwardly structured and when combined with the lack of depth, Uncharted Hearts fell flat.
I wanted to enjoy Uncharted Hearts but there were just too many hurdles to overcome. From a poorly established historical construct and one-dimensional characters to fairy blasé action, nothing about Uncharted Hearts really worked for me. I’d have to suggest giving this one a pass.