Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults -
Fiction & Non-fiction
Promise of Gold Trilogy The Notorious Captain Hayes The Money Ship
of Gold Trilogy by Joan Druett
Old Salt Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9922588-0-1
Old Salt Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9922588-1-8
Old Salt Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9922588-2-5
Captain Jahaziel “Jake” Dexter believes a pirate’s old sea journal contains the map to the lost treasure of Panama. Back in 1670 the Spaniards feared that Henry Morgan intended to steal their gold, so they loaded it onto a ship with a group of nuns. The ship and all aboard were never heard from again. Nearly two centuries later, Jake and his crew arrive at Judas Island in hopes of retrieving that gold.
While his men dig on the spooky island, Jake remains aboard his brig, waiting for his mate to return. Charlie has rowed over to a ship to broker a deal for whale oil, which they will sell in Valparaiso, Chile for a tidy profit. What Charlie returns with, however, is a passenger – and a female one to boot.
Harriet Gray’s presence is inconvenient and unwanted, but the eighteen-year-old actress has only one goal in mind. She must get to Valparaiso before the deadline passes. She can’t understand why the “gallant and kindly gentleman of the sea” insists that she return to the whaleship. But that vessel has since disappeared, and Harriet feels she’s been duped for the second time in her life. Her bridegroom abandoned her soon after the wedding, leaving her destitute and alone. Now Jake threatens to dump her on the first ship they pass, so she must find a way to change his mind.
Before long, Harriet discovers she’s among freebooters who run the Gosling like a pirate ship – each has a vote and majority rules. When the Goslings fail to find the gold, Harriet sees her chance. She purchases a share in the brig, much to Jake’s chagrin, and although the men are against a woman having a vote, they agree to her proposal to sail to Valparaiso where her brother, Royal, has rounded up a herd of alpaca that needs to be smuggled out of Chile and for which the British government will pay Ł1,000 once they are delivered to Australia. But the Chileans aren’t about to let foreigners abscond with their treasured alpacas, and Jake, the Goslings, Harriet, and Royal must use all of their wits and luck just to escape with their lives.
Then news arrives that gold has been struck in California, and Jake cooks up a tidy little plan that will net them a huge profit. If the tales of the strike are true. If they reach San Francisco. If the despicable Murieta brothers don’t harm Harriet and take over the ship.
Judas Island is the first book in the Promise of Gold trilogy, a spellbinding adventure series set in the 1840s. Combined with the two subsequent titles – Calafia’s Kingdom (book two) and Dearest Enemy (book three) – these stories undulate like storm-swept seas as the Goslings and the Grays search for treasure. The author’s note is really a list of recommended historical resources, rather than an account of the history behind the novel, which I would have preferred. There’s also a glossary for those unfamiliar with nautical terms.
Since books two and three take place on land, they’re not reviewed here, but I heartily recommend reading all three titles in this series. I found it refreshing and a real joy to be able to read what happens from the moment Jake and Harriet meet until the mysteries that entwine their lives are solved. Complete with humor, romance, tragedy, and fantastical exploits, Joan Druett expertly recreates the dizzying days of the California gold rush, where fortunes could be made and lost in the span of a day. Her characters come from all walks of life and are so vividly portrayed that they walk off the pages into your room. Promise of Gold is an exhilarating voyage not soon to be forgotten.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
The Notorious Captain Hayes: The Remarkable True Story of William “Bully” Hayes, Pirate of the Pacific
By Joan Druett
HarperCollins, 2016, ISBN 9781775540977, NZ $36.99
e-book ISBN 9781775491351, US $10.99
William Henry Hayes. After newspapers in Hong Kong and Singapore first print stories of him in 1859, the headlines are just the beginning of a legend that begins while he lives and grow after he dies in 1877. People want to read the latest grisly details about the man described as a “remarkable scoundrel,” “notorious maritime swindler,” and “thief, pirate, plunderer, kidnapper.” He is an American sea captain with magnetic charm, an aptitude for persuasion and bluff. He is also adept at cheating people out of merchandise, monies due, and ships, as well as evading the law.
His past is somewhat murky; one story recounts that he hanged twenty-five Chinese pirates without a trial and was then court-martialed for doing so. Or maybe he resigned in disgrace from the Imperial Chinese Navy, for blackmailing coastal merchants in order to protect them from pirates. Or perhaps tale neither is true.
He has friends of influence. He trades and mortgages one ship for another, even if he doesn’t have the authority to do so. He marries more than once, although at least once he may have two wives at the same time. He captures island natives and sells them elsewhere. Several girls accuse him of attacking them. His demise comes at the hands of his own men.
Druett examines the life of this notorious sea captain and shows readers how difficult it is to separate fact from myth. She traces events from period newspapers and documents, and the story unfolds chronologically through each ship that he acquired. The histories of these vessels and accounts of the people who crossed paths with Hayes are intricately woven into the telling to give readers a fuller appreciation of who, what, when, and where, even if the why isn’t always known. While there are occasional references to piracy, and in particular the pirate Eli Boggs and his connection to Hayes, Druett clearly shows that Hayes was not a pirate, but a consummate con man who knew how to manipulate others to get what he wanted.
Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
The Money Ship
By Joan Druett
Old Salt Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-9941246-4-7, $13.95
e-book ISBN 978-1-9941246-6-0, $9.99
Inquisitive and headstrong, six-year-old Jerusha Gardiner loves being with her father aboard his whaling ship. She basically does what she wants since her parents assume someone else is watching her. (She often does the same ashore. Although she tries to please her mother, she usually fails. And it’s no different on the Huntress.) As the three-year voyage passes, her inquisitive nature compels her to learn whatever she can, including studying discarded medical books and asking the first mate to teach her navigation.
Going to sea is more his mother’s idea, rather than Nelson O’Cain’s. But it does provide him with one advantage; he’s far from his vindictive half-brother, the duke’s legitimate son. During the voyage, his meteoric rise from apprentice to first mate leaves Nelson feeling ill-equipped to handle any problems that arise or Captain Gardiner’s precocious daughter. Yet when he finds her aloft, away from her mother’s rants, he keeps her secret and when his brother comes aboard with spiteful news, she is the only one to offer solace.
After a strange sail is sighted, Jerusha is sent to visit the captain in hopes of acquiring some fresh supplies. She expects to find someone like her father, but Captain Rochester of the Hakluyt is quite different and his cabin is like a magical place. He is a collector of treasure stories, so Jerusha shares the only one she knows – the day her father, as a young boy, found gold aboard a wrecked money ship – long before he became a sailor and was pressed into the Royal Navy. Rochester shares a tale of his search for the lost or buried treasure of a pirate, which he believes is somewhere in the South China Sea.
As time passes, the Gardiners and Rochester frequently cross paths as they visit ports in these exotic waters. One day, he shares his latest find to prove his hypothesis, which is reinforced when Jerusha catches a fish that turns out to have a plate of gold within its belly. But no one is getting younger and Rochester’s sudden death leaves Jerusha and her father, as her guardian, owners of the Hakluyt. Nelson also leaves to sign aboard an East Indiaman, but during a visit, he intervenes when his brother attempts to blackmail Captain Gardiner and physically threatens Jerusha. Then his brother is murdered, Nelson is arrested, and Jerusha is sent to the United States to live with an aunt she’s never met while her father remains in Borneo intent on continuing Rochester’s treasure hunt and conducting a profitable trading venture that raises the ire of the British East India Company.
The Money Ship isn’t a typical nautical tale. Rather it is a coming-of-age story in both familiar places and exotic locales. Divided into four separate parts, it follows the lives of Jerusha from childhood into womanhood and Nelson, who is just entering adulthood when he signs aboard the whaler. While no specific dates are given, it begins after the Napoleonic Wars have ended and transports readers from England to Singapore, Borneo, and Massachusetts. Druett wonderfully populates her story with a plethora of characters that include pirates, Sea Dyaks, missionaries, Illanoans, and many others both reputable and despicable. She intricately weaves a tapestry of unusual cultures and complicated politics with infidelity, secrets, arranged marriage, and betrayal. From first page to last, The Money Ship transports readers back to the early nineteenth century on an epic journey spiced with high adventure and contemptible lows. Be forewarned: the tempests blow not only at sea, but also on land and one is never quite certain who will survive.
Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar
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