Trade Winds by Christina Courtenay
|Trade Winds by Christina Courtenay|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Dysfunctional families and unlikely romance in the days of sailing ships and the oriental trade makes for an unchallenging but entertaining distraction. At the risk of being sexist, it's probably not one for the boys.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: September 2010|
|Publisher: Choc Lit|
It is 1731 and Killian Kinross, disgraced heir to the estate is making his way as best he can through the gambling dens of Edinburgh, trading on his skill, ability to hold his drink and the smiling fickle fortunes of lady luck. The Lady is smiling at the moment, although she hasn't always done so.
The noble wastrel has had his share of hard times, and keeps his abode with his present landlady in the seediest area of the city principally because she always allows leeway when the rent is late.
Somewhere along the way, he picked up a young pickpocket whom he is slowly dragging out of the gutter and into if not a less wayward way of life, certainly a more legal one. Adair is devoted to his strange master as a result.
On this particular night Luck shines brightly – or his opponent plays the fool. Often the two things are the same. Either way. Kinross wins, on the throw of the dice, a ship. All signed, sealed and legally transferred.
Pleased as he might be by becoming the proud owner of a sea-going toy… he's not quite prepared for the discovery that his prize is an ocean-going cargo ship. This isn't frivolity he quickly realises. This might just be the opportunity to walk away from his grandfather forever. This is his way into business.
Meanwhile… in Gothenburg, a girl just as wayward in her way, is being allowed to return from rustication to the family home. She had been sent to the country estates for disobedience… or maybe just to keep her away from suitors her stepfather deemed to be unsuitable. Either way, now she is home, she tries to catch up with the latest doings in the family business – something her stepfather cannot, and will not, allow. Jess had always understand that the greater share in the business was, under her father's will, held in trust for her – so what exactly is going on?
Obviously, in all the traditions of the best romances our hero and heroine are destined to meet, to be antagonistic… and then maybe not so… to be thrown together and pulled apart.
As we've quickly had our setting established in the merchant marine of the seventeen hundreds, we can expect kidnappings, and storms, and journeys to the far east in search of tea and silk and finery. We can expect harsh lives below decks and slightly easier ones between them. Strange customs and familiar superstitions.
If you just happen to be watching the current re-runs of The Onedin Line, you'll have a fair idea what to expect. The men are still men… and the women are tougher to deal with than they expect. And both are at the mercy of the elements once you leave a shoreline behind.
Courtenay has done her research well. The voyage that forms the focal point of the book (although not actually getting under way until about three quarters of the way into the story) is based on the real first voyage of the Swedish East India Company, and a number of the characters are real people. The detail is taken from the Supercargo's journal of the trip, and it's clear that a number of English and, particularly, Scots sailors and merchants were involved in the trade.
Around her historical figures she has built a romantic tale that she manages to spin out in appropriate measures.
This is an old-fashioned romance, with minimal suspense, sex and violence by no means banished but kept resolutely in their dark corners. It is to the credit of the writer that the predictability of the passage and its outcomes do not stop you wanting to read on – just to be sure. It's not entirely evident why this should be so. Setting is mere background, all but the two key protagonists are scarcely developed as living characters, the language is simple and to the point. Dialogue works well in places, but severely clunks in others. On the other hand, it is an adventure story of the kind that is plausible by the very virtue of its lack of excess.
Trade Winds doesn't quite live up to its cover billing of a delicious treat but it reads quickly and for those who love a simple yarn – especially those who hanker for the days of sail and lands not yet explored – it is a pleasurable diversion.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
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