L.A. Meyer,
Jacky Faber #12: Wild Rover No More
(Harcourt, 2014)

Little Mary Faber, a guttersnipe from the back alleys of London, has come a long way since she changed her name to Jacky and posed as a boy to get a berth on a ship in His Majesty's navy. In 12 books from start to finish, author L.A. Meyer has written Jacky into some of the great places and events of early 19th-century history, from the studio of famed painter Francisco Goya in Spain to the battlefield tents of Napoleon and Wellington, both of whom she served in some capacity. She created a new life for herself in Boston, mastered the mighty Mississippi, earned a degree of notoriety in New Orleans, became a "pet" to notorious Chinese pirate Cheng Shih and, along the way, built up a modest but profitable shipping company, founded an orphanage, acquired a theater and a pub, and more.

And she's made a few enemies over the years. Now, in the final book of the series, her past is catching up to her. Charged with treason against the United States -- a crime that, for once, she didn't actually commit -- Jacky is forced to go on the lam, hiding in the guises of both a governess and a circus performer before the law runs her down. Treason, of course, is a capital offense.

Jacky has from the start been a very endearing character and, while recent books might have faltered a bit, she has never failed to entertain. Meyer closes his series on a strong note, giving Jacky a chance to mature and accept that, sometimes, her actions have consequences.

There's also romance. Jacky has, of course, flirted with countless young men through the course of the series, none more loyally -- if you can use the word where Jacky's concerned -- than one Jaimy Fletcher, former ship's boy, now a lieutenant in the British navy. Their path has been rocky and he has committed some unforgivable acts; fortunately, his behavior in the previous book, Boston Jacky, was so heinous, we could finally write him off and wait for Jacky to find a man who's more her match.

Oh wait, no, he begins this book by coming back and saying he's sorry. I guess that's all right then -- no harm done.


OK, so I don't think Meyer has a good grasp of romance. Otherwise, however, the tales of Jacky Faber have been a rollicking good ride, and I will miss this character immensely. Maybe, if we're lucky, Meyer someday will let us know how Jacky is doing in her new life.

book review by
Tom Knapp

23 August 2014

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