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The Bastard

by Brenda Novak
Published on November 1, 2011
ISBN: 00B005Z4ZX94
Kindle Edition, Published October 23rd 2011

Penny’s Rating: B-

A penniless French daughter of a nobleman (Jeannette Boucher) flees from her new English husband and a fate worse than death. To escape the clutches of her powerful husband, (St. Ives) and his nefarious plans for her wedding night, Jeannette chops her hair, dresses in boys’ clothing, and joins the crew of a Royal Navy ship. In running away, she runs right into the arms of one Lieutenant Crawford Treynor, who protects her even before he discovers who “Jean” really is. Their growing attraction causes both great frustration and pain as they struggle to guard their hearts. Not to mention, Jeannette is already married. Will she be able to escape her husband for good, and find true love?

This book has some classic storytelling elements that when I list them off sound pretty cliché:

  • A girl masquerading as a boy
  • A wedding without a wedding night
  • A jaded but honorable bastard, (the handsome Lt. Treynor)
  • A heroine who gets into scrape after scrape
  • A hero who nobly sacrifices himself again and again to get said heroine out of trouble
  • A voyage that goes awry
  • A battle at sea and a sinking frigate
  • A duel to the death

There are a lot of cliché archetypal elements in this novel, than at first glance, might not seem like they would go together in any sort of cohesive way, but Brenda Novak manages to tie them up into a neat little enjoyable story. If you are looking for something deep and brooding, this is not it. It was however, more than I expected, in terms of a pleasant quick read, and in terms of characters and character development.

Some of the situations Jeannette gets herself into are pretty funny, like when the crew decides that “Jean” should get “his” first tattoo, and she very nearly ends up with a naked lady tattooed to her arm.

Others are a bit more far fetched, like when Jeannette and Treynor help a stowaway pregnant hooker give birth to a baby in the bellows of the ship.

The chemistry between Treynor and Jeannette is palpable. Their love for each other grows from their mutual attraction and all of the not sex that they are having. They have to share quarters on the ship for part of their journey and they see each other naked, a lot.  They also bathe in front of each other, which leads to some pretty interesting moments. Treynor does live up to the books title on occasion, and hurts Jeannette, while hiding behind a callous facade.

Though the book is called “The Bastard”, a great deal of the story is told from the point of view of the heroine Jeannette. It would have been great to hear more from Treynor, and to know a little bit more about what he is thinking. Also, though it does factor into Treynor’s character development,  the fact that he’s a bastard is such a minor sub-plot in the book, it almost feels like the book should have been called something else.

By the end of the novel, I was irritated at both characters for being so stubborn and idiotic. It always irritates me when pride and ego are the obstacles in the way for two people who love each other. Really, after all they went though, Treynor doesn’t think he’s good enough for her? At this point he’s saved her from basically everything….it’s just infuriating that now he turns into this wet blanket.

There isn’t much more that I can say without giving away too much of the story, but on the whole I was pleasantly surprised but this tale.  B-

Note: Though the cover of this book plays host to a very attractive shirtless man sporting a very manly chest, I don’t think that the man on the cover looks like Lt. Treynor at all.

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