Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ransome's Honour by Kaye Dacus

Ransome’s Honour is like Horatio Hornblower meets Jane Austen for CHRISTIANS

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the strong period setting, the pitch perfect dialogue of the era and the perfectly infused historical details regarding the glorious Age of Sail. Dacus never dumps information, rather strings it into each sentence with fervor and aplomb. The result? One of the strongest historical voices in Christian fiction.

Julia Witherington stands to inherit a large dowry upon her 30th birthday. One young man, destitute from gambling debt, vies for her hand and the promised fortune. Another is the dashing William Ransome: a Captain beloved by Julia and her father who turned her suit away years ago. Now, back in her life and as daringly close as ever, Julia proposes that they marry, that he secure her fortune, that she use his means in the navy to secure passage back to her native Jamaica.

The Portsmouth and subsequent sea setting of the novel are so well-coloured you believe that Dacus has lived and worked there in the time in which this novel is set: the golden cusp of the Napoleonic World ---when England turned from War to downing pirates and lusty privateers. Yet, it is rather (according to some searching on her blog) a love affair with a type of thinking person’s fan fiction that wrought this captivating tale. You know from the get-go if you, like me, have devoted hours of your life to the reading of Patrick O'Brian and watching of films like Master and Commander and the excellent ITV Hornblower series that Dacus is a kindred spirit. A sprinkling of drawing room manners loans the author’s penchant for Jane Austen and the inclusion of nautical figures provide the chivalrous spark. Many characters emulate doubles from the Hornblower series specifically: especially Bosun Matthews and Ransome’s eager servant. The righteous and brusque Admiral Witherington is so very much like the indomitable Pellew of the Hornblower series (lesser portrayed in the books; but still widely mentioned).

I have often mentioned that part of the reason I enjoy reading Dacus’ fiction is she features a unique type of Christian heroine: a single woman amidst a bevy of married women who is very much trying to find her place. It is interesting that to a degree Dacus is able to transplant this part of her ongoing thesis into Ransome’s Honour. Julia is very much “on the shelf” at almost 30 and well beyond marriageable age. Her wit, intelligence and refusal to comply to societal niceties and norms; and, further, the adventurous spirit that will catapult her into Ransome’s path and to Jamaica set her apart from the usual Regency era dolls with careful curls and docile dispositions.
It was quite a different experience reading this novel in conjunction with Dacus’ modern-day romances. I really REALLY liked this book and quite look forward to the next two in the series.


Court said...

What about for us non Christians? Because I like the sound of Horatio meets Austen.

Unknown said...

Great review, Rachel!

@Court - I say go for it. ;)