L.A. Meyer,
The Wake of the Lorelei Lee
(Harcourt, 2010)

Jacky Faber is living the good life. She has a brand new ship and a new mercantile scheme that promises great profits. She is sailing to England, where she plans to reunite with her lifelong love, Jaimy Fletcher, and settle down in wedded bliss.

So, of course, something is bound to go wrong. And, when Jacky Faber is concerned, something goes wrong quite spectacularly.

When she arrives in England, Jacky is arrested -- again -- and tried for stealing gold belonging to His Royal Majesty. She's convicted -- after all, she's actually guilty for this one -- and sentenced to life in Botany Bay. To add insult to injury, her new ship, the Lorelei Lee, is impounded by the British government for use as a convict transport -- Jacky's transport, specifically, along with a few hundred female thieves and whores. Jaimy, who is somewhat less guilty than Jacky, is also convicted and sent to Australia on a different ship.

The story is, like all Jacky Faber novels, a lot of fun. Jacky, of course, does not remain belowdecks for long, using her feminine wiles -- along with her musical talents, natural leadership abilities and occasional nudity -- to take over one faction among the female convicts and insinuate herself among the ship's officers.

Before all's said and done, Jacky will have a passing encounter with "Lucky Jack" Aubrey of Patrick O'Brian's famous series of novels, will earn renown as a coin diver all along the South Seas and will become the shaven "pet" of notorious Chinese pirate Cheng Shih.

Rooted in the mean streets of London, the finer neighborhoods of Boston and the ships of the British navy, the Jacky Faber series has ranged from the American frontier to the battlefields of France. The Wake of the Lorelei Lee takes Jacky farther afield than she's ever gone before, but she's still the same irrepressible Jacky whose company I've so enjoyed since I first stumbled across her, playing a pennywhistle in the rigging of the HMS Dolphin, in a snug art shop in Bar Harbor, Maine. Still only 16, she has plenty of room to grow -- and I hope this series, despite a change in publisher and a horrid new cover design for earlier volumes, continues to flourish.

Jaimy, however, needs to move on. Dude, she's never going to be faithful to you.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Tom Knapp

31 July 2010

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