BookPage review by Elizabeth Mazer
In the latest installment of the Outcasts series, author Miranda Spencer shows that she has by no means lost her taste for juicy, refreshingly shocking characters that throw proper London society into a tizzy.
Martin Bouchard, captain of the Golden Scythe will be familiar to her readers. The New Orleans–born privateer has been a recurring character in the first two books of the series, and the story opens with him seizing a Dutch slave ship and finding, among the human cargo, someone he never could have expected. Sarah Fisher was born and raised in Africa and seized by the slavers along with the rest of the villagers, despite being the Caucasian daughter of British missionaries. When she’s freed by Martin—or rather, when her freedom is confirmed, since she starts the process herself through the audacious theft of the slaving captain’s gun—arrangements are made for her to be transported to England, courtesy of the Golden Scythe. While Sarah thinks of herself as plain (and tall, for that matter) and therefore entirely unlikely to entice the gorgeous, notorious, sin-poured-into-breeches captain, it doesn’t take long for her to fascinate, irritate, educate and enflame him. They clash—a lot. They say the wrong things and hurt each other—a lot. Their attraction is palpable (and very, very obvious to everyone around them) but at times it truly does seem like they’ll never be able to overcome the obstacles they keep putting in their own way.
Sarah is self-conscious about her looks and wounded by a lifetime of feeling undesired and out of place, and so she struggles to accept or even recognize Martin’s fascination with her. And Martin, wounded by secrets from his past and his own feelings of unworthiness, bristles with jealousy and what seems to be a deep streak of self-loathing that leads him to not just push but actively hurl everyone away from him. They’re complicated characters, and their journey to love and happiness is far from easy.
It would be clichéd to say that in the end, love sets them free. It also wouldn’t be quite true. Love actually comes early on, even if neither of them wants to admit it. Freedom comes later—and it’s something they have to embrace before they can truly let love in. Spencer enjoys poking at the delicate scales of power in Regency society. While her characters move in the highest echelons, they’ve all struggled with powerlessness and disdain in various forms. Sarah’s struggles would seem at first to be the most challenging—after all, she begins the story in the hold of a slave ship. But it’s Martin, a former slave himself, who carries the weight of his bondage, even years after gaining his liberty. When he lets go of that burden and finally accepts that his past doesn’t have to control his future, he’s truly set free. Free to love and accept love in return—and free to live happily ever after.