As Britain declares war on France and prepares to engage Napoleon, Lieutenant Thomas Williams is assigned to the small but beautiful naval ship Perilous. Meeting her captain is a revelation. Christopher Knightly is noble born and bred, and he admittedly is not much of a seaman. But he’s a brilliant tactician, and he and his crew have been assigned a special mission by the naval command. They harry the French troops and disrupt their supply lines. What surprises Tom the most is that his captain is open and honest, sharing details Tom doesn’t expect. The more time they spend together, the more Tom falls for his captain. However, he knows he can’t show it, and their time spent together becomes a beautiful kind of torture. Until one night when the truth about both men’s feelings are revealed. Their connection is strong, and they become lovers.
Since their missions are so highly successful, it’s a surprise with the ship is called home. Only once they are there do they learn that Christopher’s family’s machinations are at work. He is being forced to marry, as is fitting his position. It’s devastating news to Christopher, who would rather die than be parted from Tom. But Tom is much more sensible than that, and after a conversation with Christopher’s beloved, knows what he must do. With Christopher embarking on his new life, Tom assumes command of the Perilous, and continues on in the war.
But fate takes another turn and almost takes Tom’s life. Though he hasn’t spoken much to Christopher in the intervening years, his love for the man is what keeps him sane and holding on. It may not be enough to keep him whole, however. Until fate and chance intervene, and these two men who love each other so much, just may have a chance for forever.
Truth is, I’m rather picky about the historicals I read, and I’ll pass them over more than I’ll pick them up. I took a chance on this one because of the author, who very rarely, if ever, lets me down. And Cari Z came through again with this lovely story about two men finding each other in a time when love like theirs is punishable by death, and making the wrong move will absolutely get them killed. Fate brought them together, but there’s no denying that Tom and Christopher’s love is timeless and strong.
I’m going to start with my one issue with this book, and it wasn’t even really that big of a deal. I was missing some of the world building, some of the backdrop to the time and place. The author did a good job of framing the world, of showing us life on naval ship in the early 1800s. But I felt like this could have been explored a little more. There were times when I felt like it was just skimming the surface and I missed deeper nuances to the time and place. Ultimately, this didn’t detract hugely for me, but it was enough that it was worth a mention. There’s no doubt this is a historical book, and parts are done incredibly well. But I wanted just a little something more to really ground me in the past.
Where this story excelled was really the characters. This story is told through Tom’s POV, and though I would have liked to have seen Christopher’s thoughts and feelings directly from him, it was written so well that I didn’t feel like I was missing much. The characters were so wonderfully drawn and developed, so perfectly fleshed out, that even though the entire story was colored by Tom’s perspective, it felt complete and whole. I also think it was a particularly good choice. Tom is a rather stoic and stone faced man, but there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. He feels intensely, and as a deep-rooted sense of loyalty and morals. But on the surface he’s all about the sense of propriety and following the rules. By being in his head, we got to truly understand his motivations and feelings, and it worked so well.
It also works because Christopher is so easy to read that the reader gets a true understanding of him as well. He’s not a completely open book, but we don’t have any trouble truly knowing him. He comes from a wealthy and noble family, and so there are certain parameters to which he must adhere. Not to mention, he has luxuries most others don’t. But he’s got a realness to him I found believable and engaging, and I was sucked in by his charm just as much as Tom was.
The chemistry between the two MC just sparks off the page. The romance itself is not much of a surprise, story wise. It’s immediately clear that their attraction is intense, and it progresses quickly. At least on page. I would have liked to see this part fleshed out just a little bit more, to see more of them as they fall in love. But it’s believable and real, and their chemistry is just so good. What I also appreciated is that, for the most part, it was totally in keeping with the times. They don’t live openly, they can’t, and they have to do some unpleasant things for the good of each other. And the ending? For these two men, it totally works, even if it maybe wouldn’t have in real life at the time.
So really, it was just a well done book. Cari Z’s writing has a lovely quality of drawing the reader in, engaging you and keeping you glued to the page. Coupled with fantastic MCs and an interesting, if not too in depth world, and Perilous is a great story. I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a nicely done historical, or maybe wishing to branch out a little. This book is definitely worth a read.