A journey down the Mississippi River is fraught with perils: alligators, pirates, and a debonair flatboat captain with his sight set on revenge. Sign me up!
What’s it About?
Whom could you trust if you were stranded fifteen hundred miles from home? Misfortune has plagued Juno Brock for months. Recently widowed, a chance encounter with a dangerous criminal in St. Louis exposes her to information that can see her branded. Or worse, hanged. When a pirate attack on the Mississippi River maroons her in the wilds of Michigan Territory, she has but one choice: use her wits to secure passage on a boat traveling downriver and reunite with her family fifteen hundred miles away.
An arrogant mistake in his youth has set flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau on a forked path of redemption and revenge. His successful livelihood transporting goods to New Orleans revolves around cargo, not passengers, but Juno’s recent encounter with his longtime enemy makes her the exception. A bargain is struck: safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she unwittingly discovered.
What follows is a month-long journey where mistrust and resentment unfolds into an unexpected friendship filled with secret confidences and before long, attraction. Sometimes dangerous, often humorous, their voyage down America’s most infamous river and the outlandish characters they meet along the way will ultimately inspire a destination neither expected: love.
This is only the second Marti Ziegler book I’ve ever read, but I think it’s fair to say that one of my favorite things about her work is seeing the characters evolve. I’m now convinced she is an absolute master at creating a rough male lead who you can’t help but love. At first introduction, Malcolm is kind of a jerk. He is hell bent on revenge, and is more than willing to just leave Juno on the side of the Mississippi River to fend for herself. But then we slowly start to unravel his story, and see what can almost be described as a charmingly boyish side to this rough man. I found myself smitten within a matter of pages even though you also kind of get the urge to slap him a few times throughout the book.
There’s a similar unraveling to Juno’s character as well. When the novel beings she sort of seems like a momma’s girl, always clinging to her family’s side. Someone who is afraid to be out on their own. Very quickly though we discover that this strong woman knows how to survive. She’s clever, stubborn in only the best of ways, and just a downright fun heroine to read. All in all, I’m always mesmerized by the lead characters Ziegler introduces me to in her work.
A Motley Crew
It’s not just the main characters who are an absolute delight in this river tale. We literally have a whole crew of Malcolm’s boat mates to provide us with thorough entertainment. From his hard-lined cook, to a few flirtatious scallywags, you never want this trip down the Mississippi to end. That brings us to the setting, which is basically another character in and of itself. ‘Tis a journey filled with a plethora of perils, some of which were mentioned above. Alligators, exploding riverboats, pirates and religious zealots.
This motley crew is constantly facing challenges as they make their way to return Juno to her family, and for Malcolm to finally achieve revenge against his sworn enemy who was the most devious of villains. I do sort of wish we had seen more of this enemy rather than just a few scenes at the very beginning and end of the book. He is described at length throughout from Malcolm’s point of view, so we do learn about their complicated history. That being said, I think it would have been more interesting and suspenseful to have more scenes between the two in person.
From Nuisance to Lover
What I particularly enjoyed about this novel, aside from learning the historical aspect of 19th century riverboat life, was seeing the evolution of Juno and Malcolm’s relationship. At the start they are both severely annoyed by each other, and see the other as a deterrent and nuisance to reaching their final goal. However, they quickly realize they must rely on each other in their journey.
Slowly, Juno and Malcolm start to open up and trust each other. This is perfectly reflected in their nightly pastime where Malcolm reads to Juno, who doesn’t know how to read for herself. She’s still fascinated by the written word, and though she initially kind of harasses Malcolm into reading for her, it soon becomes their nightly thing. Malcolm begrudgingly puts up with it every night, but then when he eventually buys her a small pocket reader to teach her to read? Girl, I damn near had tears in my eyes it was so beautiful.
Let’s Rock the Boat
For a historical romance these two have some sizzling hot sex scenes! And in some pretty unique locations on top of everything. They tussle about in a small bed on a flatboat, against a tree trunk, and even on the floor of a cave. For those last two, they definitely aren’t the most comfortable of locales, but that’s what I positively loved about it all. Juno acknowledges right away that a bed probably would have been more convenient.
She has twigs in her hair, a few scrapes and bruises, but when you’re overcome by passion? You do it wherever you can apparently. When the two realize their time together is soon coming to an end their lovemaking becomes even more desperate and passionate. However, they still manage to keep things grounded. For example, at one point they also have a drunkenly frank conversation about how they can’t have sex because she’s on her courses. It provides a comforting sense of realism and domesticity to their relationship that I just loved.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: Stand-alone. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this author!
Should you read it? Well, I’m a fan! I love that with each Ziegler novel I get to learn about a different period of history, and in a new unique setting. All the characters also have such great chemistry together. I could see how some might not particularly warm to the somewhat schoolyard antics of Malcolm and Juno’s relationship at the start, but just stick with it to see it develop! I do wish we had seen more of the villain, who was so creepily written you just want to see a bit more from him. Overall though, a fun historical read.
Smut Level: These two get busy in some unique locations, and I loved how they both commented soon after that it might not have been the most comfortable experience. There was one sex scene that seemed somewhat ill-timed following a near death experience, but I guess that simply increases the passion level!!
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 351 Pages.