SPOILER ALERT ⚠
3 1/2 Stars
Reviewed by Introvert Reader
Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer) is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.
Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.
The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.
Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.
The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.
Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.
Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).
Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.
In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.
As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.
A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.
Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.
Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.
Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?
Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.
More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.
Raven’s first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.
I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.
I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.
He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a genuine man who deserved her.
Final Analysis of Raven
This book was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.
As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.
If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.
I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it. 3.49 stars