Surgeon's Mate, by Linda Collison
Book Two of the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series
Patrick (aka Patricia) MacPherson has survived the horrific siege of Havana, and narrowly escaped death from yellow fever.
Now it is October, 1762, and Dr. MacPherson, surgeon's mate and female in disguise, is back on the frigate Richmond.
Those who have read Star-Crossed will know Patricia's history. The bastard daughter of a high-born plantation owner in Barbados, she stowed away to get to the island and claim her inheritance, and was saved from starvation and seasickness by a handsome young seaman, Brian Dalton. Somehow, she managed to get to the plantation, but only to find her father dead, and nothing to inherit. Desperate and penniless, she married a ship's surgeon, and was too quickly widowed, leaving her at her wits' end, again. Dressing as a man, and passing off as a surgeon's mate on the frigate Richmond (where Brian is a gunner) seemed the logical way out of her dilemma. Then came the siege of Havana. And thus the first book came to a nail-biting conclusion.
Now, Patricia is back on the Richmond, and all goes well until the horrible moment when her true sex is uncovered. What is she to do? Marry Brian, and become a gunner's wife, one of the unrecorded females who lived on His Majesty's ships at the time? The choice is taken away from her. Called onto a smuggling craft to try to save the captain's wife, she is spirited away, and forced to live on her wits again, while she carries on with her deception of being male.
Linda Collison knows her ships and her sails. She knows what it is like to haul on a line, and lean on the spokes of the helm. She has also done her homework, and has deduced an astounding amount about the life of a woman in the lower decks of an eighteenth century man-of-war. Anyone reading this book will learn more than he or she could possibly imagine.
I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Patricia's adventures on board the little smuggling craft. Not only was there a very good contrast between life on a small vessel and existence on the multi-layered decks of a frigate, but the feeling of "family" that Collison described is very evocative indeed.
With Fireship Press, Linda Collison has found a publisher with the enthusiasm she deserves. I look forward immensely to the next in the Patricia MacPherson series.