Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
Upon the death of her husband, Patricia MacPherson becomes Patrick MacPherson and signs aboard the Royal Navy frigate Richmond as a surgeonís mate, having acquired some surgical skills under her husbandís tutelage. This second in the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure series opens in the fall of 1762. Patrick and the Richmond are bound for New York to disembark wounded soldiers who live in the colonies.
Thus far, Patrick has assisted Charles Brantigan, shipís surgeon, but his ailing eyesight makes it difficult to operate. With Private Everett Leeís festering wound, Brantigan selects Patrick to do the amputation, rather than her fellow and more experienced mate, Dudley Freeman. She questions her ability and skill, but follows through with the operation.
Although she lives in a manís world, Patrick is still a woman who loves Gunner Brian Dalton, the only man who knows her true identity. Carrying on a romance aboard a naval ship, however, poses untold complication s and their desire for privacy will only be realized once they put into port and gain ship leave. Two additional obstacles she must deal with concern the chaplain, who may suspect sheís actually a woman disguised as a man, and her relationship with Freeman, who has every intention of gaining a promotion to shipís surgeon.
Time ashore, however, doesnít go well. When her relationship with Dalton is unmasked, she gets sacked and must make some hard decisions about her career and her identity. Then Private Lee seeks her assistance after his sister-in-law falls ill. Too late, Patrick discovers the woman has smallpox, which quarantines the vessel where her patient is. Helping a stranger in need forever changes her lifeís path, but is it a path Patrick wants to or even dares to follow?
A key facet of the story, this internal struggle is ably and credibly portrayed, but once or twice it intrudes into the narrative. The pace and flow of the first half of the book keeps the reader riveted, but once Patrick separates from the Richmond, it slows, sometimes too much so. It doesnít pick up again until the French pirates appear. These are minor annoyances.
Collisonís recreation of life aboard an 18th-century naval ship skillfully and accurately transports the reader back in time until he/she stands on the frigateís decks. As pages turn, the reader sways with her roll and pitch, hears the sails snap and the wooden planks creak, and bears witness to everything as it unfolds. MacPherson is a three-dimensional character that expertly walks the fine line between living in a manís world while being a female in disguise. Her male persona fits like a fine glove, but while her career is important and she doesnít want to give it up, she still longs for love and a family.
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