Ransom, by Lee Rowan
An officer, a gentleman… and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, a noose.
Publisher’s blurb: Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, William Marshall, David Archer realizes it is a hopeless passion. Not only is Will the son of a minister, his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Davy realizes that Will would probably not shoot him if he expressed his feelings, but their affectionate friendship would surely end, once Marshall learned of Archer’s “unnatural” yearnings.
William Marshall has never given much thought to any feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing with willing wenches, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text.
Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself—trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship.
The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives.
Ransom, the first book in the Royal Navy Series by Lee Rowan, introduces readers to the appealing characters of Lieutenants Marshall and Archer. Become part of the story as they discover their shared love against a backdrop of intrigue, mystery, and danger.
Review by Gerry Burnie
This is the first Lee Rowan work I have read, but after reading Ransom [Bristlecone Pine Press, 2009] it won’t be my last.
Indeed, it takes only a paragraph or two is get the impression that this author is very much in control; both of the story and of the reader’s interest. That’s a good thing, too, because most of the tale involves some fairly complex and prolonged suspense that could very well become unravelled if it were not for Ms Rowan’s masterful writing skill.
The same is true regarding David’s and Michael’s developing romance, which evolves from devoted friends to lovers throughout the first two-thirds of the novel. Consequently, without the strong, guiding hand of the author this gradual pace might have become frustratingly lethargic. Coquettish. As it is, however, apart from a few too many apologies between them, the pace seems quite credible for two navy lads of the eighteenth-century.
The balance of characters is nicely thought-out, as well. Captain Smith, being the most senior in rank, age and experience, represents a “stiff upper lip” example for the two younger lads to emulate, and the somewhat psychotic, pirate captain is the antithesis of Smith and the morality of the day. He is also ‘deliciously’ sinister, and a nice foil for the other characters.
Put all this against a background of intrigue and mystery that is exacerbated by the mounting sexual sadism of the pirate captain, the unfolding escape plans by Davy and Michael, as well as Captain Smith, and the brilliant sleuthing on the part of Lieutenant Drinkwater, and it makes for a page-turner for certain.
Having said all that I felt the story should have ended two chapters earlier than it did. I found the final two chapters anticlimactic, and almost an afterthought to include some graphic sex for the one-handed readers.
I am happy to say, however, that this is only a minor quibble—perhaps not even shared with readers of homoerotic fiction—and otherwise it is an outstanding example of 18th-century, naval historical fiction. Four and one-half stars.
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