I really enjoyed the audiobook, Discerning Grace the first book in the White Sails Series, by Emma Lombard featuring a feisty heroine navigating life on the sea as well the stifling patriarchy in 19th Century society. Think Outlander meets a clean version of Black Sails.
I received a free audiobook version from Emma Lombard for an honest, unbiased review, but bought Discerning Grace on the kindle to read at leisure at a later date as I enjoyed this so much.
Genre : Historical Fiction
Narrator : Siobhan Waring
Series: White Sails
Grace Baxter is frustrated with her expected role in English society and her parents lack of interest in her life. But one day, her parents arrange her betrothal to the loathsome Lord Silverton who promptly tries to take advantage of her. Grace runs away and joins the HMS Discerning headed towards the Tierra del Fuego disguised as a boy and quickly learns how to serve at sea. Unfortunately, her gender is discovered when unable to keep silent about a crewmate’s ill-treatment and is lined up for a beating. The crew and captain react with horror, so Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam takes her under his protection. But despite his protection, Grace is still vulnerable and has to rely on her own wits and inner strength to survive.
I loved the TV show Black Sails particularly the strong, female characters on land and on the sea and felt the same vibes from Discerning Grace.
Grace is a woman ahead of her time. She is feisty, resourceful, funny and does not need a man to save her- she is more than capable of doing this herself, which I really liked. Grace isn’t perfect, she does make unwise decisions that have devasting consequences, but this makes a more rounded and likeable heroine. The same is true of Seamus, who has his own prejudices and beliefs but can work around them to be the man Grace most definitely deserves.
The romance between Grace and Seamus form the heart of this book but while it is lovely and sweet, it plays a small part in the overall story. This is definitely a story about Grace’s battles to survive in a society where she has no voice or rights and not to be ground down by the obstacles in her way.
The author has done her research and it shows in the intricate details of life as the lower deck crew on an 18th-century ship and boy was life brutal! The story races along with several unexpected twists that added to my enjoyment.
Lord Silverton is a suitably evil man, slimly and dangerous and I did loathe him deeply. There are plenty of colourful secondary characters but I have to confess I have a soft spot for the pirate O’Reilly.
This is the first audiobook I actually enjoyed having struggled with them in the past. Siobhan Waring is a talented narrator with an expressive voice that brings Grace’s ( and Seamus’s)voice to life. Her ability to present different characters is impressive and I could differentiate between all the characters by their tone and accents. The chapters are clearly delineated and the little sea ditties at the start and the end of the book are a lovely touch.
Attempted sexual assault, domestic violence, corporal punishment.
Five stars- I enjoyed this audiobook and look forward to reading my bought kindle version before I continue Grace’s story in Book 2, Grace on the Horizon.