Last month, I read The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin by Colette Moody, mostly because it was a lesbian pirate novel, and I’d never read one before.
Plot summary: “The Gulf of Mexico, 1702: When pirates of the square-rigger Original Sin steal ashore to abduct a doctor to tend to their wounded, they end up settling for the doctor’s attractive fiancée–Celia Pierce, the town seamstress.
Together with Gayle Malvern, daughter of the wounded pirate captain “Madman” Malvern, Celia becomes a reluctant participant in an unexpectedly thrilling journey through the Caribbean. For Gayle, Celia’s presence is at first a welcome and shapely distraction, but as her attraction to the seamstress deepens, she realizes that Celia comes to mean more to her than is prudent. As Celia and Gayle navigate the perilous territories of gypsies, prostitutes, mercenaries, and slave traders, they forge a partnership born of necessity that Gayle soon hopes will veer away from insurmountable danger–and instead detour directly to her bed.”
The book was a lot of fun, though I’m not sure it will appeal to all romance readers. To me, even though Celia and Gayle do fall in love, the book was more a commentary on pirate novels than a romance novel, offering suggestions as to how an abduction narrative would function if a woman pirate captain did the abducting, and if a woman were her captive who finds freedom and personal fulfillment through a buccaneering life.
The setup for the story isn’t totally unbelievable. Gayle has sailed on the Original Sin for years, since her mother’s death, because her father is the captain. She becomes captain only when her father is seriously wounded, and has to win over the crew; she succeeds partly because all agree her captaincy is temporary. Gayle’s subsequent derring-do privileges brains (clever ruses) over brawn, which both reflects her lesser physical strength and the whole idea of pirates as societal underdogs.
More unlikely to me, in the historical sense, is that Gayle’s sexuality is well-known to both the crew and to the townspeople they meet on land, yet it’s barely remarked upon. It’s part of the story’s fantasy–perhaps Gayle’s public lesbianism reflects the author’s avoidance of having to tell yet another Coming Out story. Instead she can get right down to the swashbuckling.
Celia is a fun character with a sarcastic pov. She’s a gorgeous young woman, in the tradition of the heroine abducted by pirates, but she’s also brave and self-sufficient. She does not cower from Gayle’s sexuality or her own; once her eyes are opened to the possibility of a sexual relationship with a woman, there are few romantic roadblocks.