September 16, 2016 by kitmoss
ON A LEE SHORE by Elin Gregory
Let’s get the concept of a “trope” out of the way first. The more recent and both popular and irritating (to purists) definition of a trope is: mean a commonly recurring literary device, motif, or cliché (from Wikipedia). It might be wise to listen to the advice on many such “tropes” on the web site TVtropes that sometimes the cliché is in the eye of the beholder. That’s what I am going to aver right now.
People who decry tropes, no matter how clumsily or skillfully used in a work, are ignoring the whole concept of archetypes, which scholars like Joseph Campbell say are part of the natural storytelling of human beings. Like the infamous “boy meets boy, boy gets boy, boy loses boy and finally gets boy back,” it is such a familiar story and so universal we not only accept it, we embrace it. I can imagine someone saying this novel’s plot is pure trope: “Honorable man meets pirate and falls in love and winds up joining him in his dastardly life—or is it so dastardly.” The mistake is condemning it when it is well used. So there.
That out of the way, ON A LEE SHORE is the story of an honorable man with the charming first name of Kit, who is an officer in the Royal Navy. His opposition to dishonorable practices by his former commanding officer gets him flogged, but the ship is in an accident and sinks. He is cleared at least officially at a court martial, but now he can’t get a new position and is forced to take on the assignment of accompanying a diplomat in the capacity of a valet. His fate turns when the ship he and the diplomat are on is boarded by pirates, one of which is the infamous LeGriffe, a stunningly handsome and elegant rogue. They needed a good navigator, and Kit is just such a one, so he becomes a member of the crew, like it or not. He falls bit by bit for LeGriffe, who returns his interest, and also begins to recognize the gray areas of morality and honor on LeGriffe’s brand of pirate ship. Ultimately he must choose his former honorable life or throw that to the winds to fly into his new lover’s arms. It remains to be seen if he can do this and still embrace his own strict values.
As implied by my rant in the first paragraph here, this is a familiar story. Gregory manages quite skillfully to make it and the characters in it thoroughly her own. It may be a motif we all know but it’s neither simple-minded nor predictable. Both of the main characters are conflicted by their relationship, bringing to mind the gay pirate novels of M. Kei in the series Pirates of the Narrow Seas. It is as if Gregory sat down to think of a common fantasy, being carried away by a swashbuckling pirate, and considered “But what would happen next? Could I just go along with the less savory aspects of piratical existence?”
This is a well-written adventure with plenty to enjoy but also to reflect on. The characters are not only well named but are complex and appealing, that is, the good guys anyway. It will join the happy collection of gay-pirate romance adventures.