The Wildest Shore
by Lisa Cach, historical (2001)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52454-6


This book is special to me. This is because Lisa Cach has loosely - I use the term loosely very loosely, mind you - base the story of amateur seafarers Anne Hezlett and Horatio Merivale on the voyage of James Brooke to Sarawak in the 1800s. How many times have I encountered a romance that makes a pit stop in my country? There was one old Avon by Susannah Davis, and there's Joseph Conrad's depressing Lord Jim, and er, that's it. I'm sending a copy to my sister in Sarawak.

Anyway, this story isn't just set in the Borneo island. It starts out from somewhere in the Indian Ocean, somewhere off the Madagascar, where Anne is a long-suffering maid accompanying the self-absorbed Miss Godwyn to India. On board the Neptune, she witnesses a rogue named Horatio Merivale flirting with Miss Godwyn. What a useless man! Too bad he's rather... cute. When Neptune does a Titanic on everybody and Anne ends up stuck with Horatio and a ragtag band of crewmates, that's when the fun starts.

As they drift to a pirate ship (run by a daffy French pirate with an adorable monkey named Mango), to Batavia, and finally to Sulawak, with enough adventures to keep everyone busy in the meantime. There's shipwreck, of course, and taking over a pirate ship and a sudden marriage and of course, the falling in love nuisance thing. It's fun and adventure all the way to happy ever after.

I like Anne. She may grumble, but she's one tough woman who has traveled all this far in search of a dream. Good for her! She can hold her own against pirates and inhospitable terrains without turning into a Princess Xena, so she has brains too. Reading her story is fun.

The secondary characters are on the stock, stereotypish side, but that's okay. I'm too busy having fun. But I have some problems with Horatio: who is he? Anne sometimes doesn't know, and I certainly don't. He's charming and roguish, but he seems to make important decisions - like falling in love - by whim and sometimes in a cringe-inducingly glib manner. Sometimes he seems like a beautiful, mad, and daring man who laughs at the face of danger (check out the songs he is singing while languishing in bad pirate captain Chartier's "hospitality"), but sometimes I'm sure he's insane. He makes me laugh, he makes me see stars, and he drives me crazy. I can't figure him out! Bah. Still, a man who charms me and gets me all worked up like that, well, that's good, I say.

Seafaring adventures and romance on the high seas and in the hottest tropical jungles - The Wildest Shore is a breathtaking, comedic, and exciting road trip of a romance indeed. And as always, this book is unlike any of Ms Cach's previous books in premise and plot. Maybe I best go get a few more copies for my friends in Sabah as well. We need more authors who dare to be different in the genre.

Rating: 88


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