This was my very first Marsha Canham book, and it hooked me so thoroughly, I spent the next two weeks finding the prequel to this one, Across a Moonlit Sea - and every other book of hers I could find by nosing through used bookstores & shopping ebay (she has a fairly long out of print list). I hadn't read romances in years before I picked this one up, and my first thought was that romance heroines had drastically changed in the intervening years...
Juliet Dante is a pirate and the captain of her own ship (you guessed it), the Iron Rose. She also happens to be very good at it. I love strong, determined heroines who are driven to excel at whatever it is they do. Trouble is, they usually have a difficult time when it comes to finding men who are their equals, much less surrendering any small measure of their will to those honored few when they do find them. This usually leads to the time-honored (and often dreaded) game of push/pull between the protagonists - something that never fails to bore and irritate if not done well. I'm happy to report that in this case, it was skillfully done, and not the least bit irritating.
Varian St. Clare is Juliet's equal in every way. He's every bit as skilled with a sword, just as strong-willed, and equally determined when it comes to getting what he wants. No surprise, he decides early on that he wants Juliet. I found a great deal to like about Varian. He's all man, but more open to his emotions than your average romance hero. Juliet shouldn't appeal to him beyond a brief romp between the sheets; she's just not the type of girl a guy like him brings home to the stately family manor, and drapes in expensive jewelry and silk ballgowns - she's a pirate! Varian realizes she's Miss Inappropriate, but he also realizes much faster than the average hero that he's in love, and he goes after the object of his affection with enough tenacity & determination to make even the coldest heart skip a beat.
Juliet is a little more pragmatic. She wants him too, but she's not kidding herself that marriage is the logical outcome for a relationship between two people as different as she and Varian. He has a tough time convincing her, but the journey to their HEA is nine-tenths of the fun. Great attention has been paid to historical detail in this novel, the secondary characters are strongly written without being intrusive, and the love scenes are signature Marsha Canham H-O-T. It's a keeper, and one of my top ten most highly recommended historical romances.
Worthy Sequel to "Across a Moonlit Sea", -- read that one first, that was an excellent book, then go to The Iron Rose.
For those of us who loved "Across a Moonlit Sea," "The Iron Rose" is indeed a worthy sequel. Simon and Beau's daughter Juliet has taken up the pirate's trade in the tradition of her parents. She is the equal of any man sailing the Spanish Main in 1614 -- she loves her life and is not bothered by the absence of a permanent man in it, until she meets Varian St Clare, an envoy of King James VI of England. Varian is on a mission to convince Juliet's father and his fellow pirates to honor a peace treaty with Spain when he is rescued from almost certain death by Juliet. As with Ms Canham's previous novels, this one contains accurate details of life aboard ship in the 17th century, and "gentle readers" may be off-put by some of the graphic battle scenes. Also, Ms Canham has created "bad guys" with few redeeming qualities, and several plot twists that kept this reader's interest from beginning to end. Juliet is not a typical romantic heroine -- she can go for days without a bath, has had several casual lovers, and has no interest in marriage. Varian is more in the typical romantic hero mold, although more witty than most, and he does have a trick or two up his sleeve that keeps Juliet off balance. For those who hoped for more about Simon and Beau, they play fairly minor roles in this book, although there is a surprise involving the still-lovely Beau. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Iron Rose," as I love pirate stories, and enjoy romance novels that are not typical of the genre. If you have similar tastes, I think you will give this highly entertaining book a place on your keeper shelf.