Brandy, a beautiful, flame-haired young girl was born and raised on the pirate ship Red Witch. Her mother was known as none other than the Scarlet Mistress and her father, the legendary pirate Eric Erasmus, also known as “the plague”. The Red Witch was the scourge of the Caribbean and feared by all. When the British navy finally catches up with them and with her Father murdered by one of his traitorous crew and her mother executed by the British, Brandy and her uncle somehow manage to convince the captors that they are just part of the human treasure, carried in Red Witch’s holds and destined for the slave markets of the US. Britain, however, has banned slavery in all its colonies and freed its slaves. It would take the Civil War of the mid 1860’s before the United States would emancipate its slaves and there was a thriving slave trade operating at the time, even out of supposedly free British colonies. Delivered to Jamaica, Brandy and her Uncle set about establishing and running a successful tavern near the docks in Kingston, Jamaica. A mysterious Shaolin Priest also works at the tavern and has taken Brandy under his wing, teaching this already formidable woman the secret ways of the Chinese martial arts. A now grown-up Brandy is a formidable fighting machine with cutlass, knife and limbs.
When first-mate of The Morning Star, John Edwards arrives in Brandy’s tavern one evening, with his Captain, the famous now retired British Naval Captain, Arthur Joshua, the sparks between John and Brandy are palpable. Captain Joshua and the Morning Star have, for the past seven years, been rescuing runaway slave in the southern United States and ferrying them to safe harbour in free “maroons” all over the Caribbean and South America, all the while searching for news of what had happened to his wife and daughter who had disappeared on their journey to Kingston, to await his arrival, so long ago. What soon becomes obvious to all of them is that not only are their destinies linked together, their pasts may also be.
Brandy, Ballad of a Pirate Princess was an absolute joy to read. Author Dan Hendrickson’s writing is showing increasing maturity that has allowed him to jump genres so effortlessly. His style has always been conversational and easy-to-read but now also displays a depth and knowledge of character development that makes him stand out from the competition. As with all his work, there is no shortage of action with the fight scenes clearly well thought out and exciting. The research into the time period, the customs, the clothing, the ships, and the appropriate political climate appears to be extensive and accurate.
I particularly enjoyed what I took as the three overarching themes of the narrative. Firstly, that we are all products of our own decisions and are not branded or tarnished by the actions of our parents, no matter how despicable those may have been and secondly that morality, kindness, decency and love for your fellow human being regardless of their race or creed are strengths, not weaknesses; certainly a message that rings loud and clear even today in the twenty-first century. Thirdly, that love is still the greatest power in the Universe and ultimately love can overcome all travails. Ultimately this story is a love story but it is one with an incredibly strong and powerful female lead which lends it much credence.
The plot is, at times, quite twisty and convoluted but Hendrickson has this wonderful knack, through serendipitous coincidence to manage to tie it all together and make it totally believable. I thoroughly enjoyed his excursion into historical fiction and can highly recommend this book to all lovers of; the sea, swashbuckling action, soulful romance and historical fiction. This is a beautiful book with a compelling story – a 5-Star winner for me.