A fictionalized version of the romance between a Hawaiian princess and an English naval officer from Cook’s last fateful voyage, one of the first hapa haole (half-white, half-Hawaiian) marriages on record.
Maile, daughter of a Hawaiian high chief, looks forward to her marriage to Ikaika, her father's prime navigator, but after a misunderstanding with Capt. James Cook instigates a skirmish which causes the captain’s and Ikaika’s deaths, Maile becomes the conflicted nurse of English officer John Harbottle. At first considered an enemy, John is able, with help from Maile, to convince her father to let him and his men help them against a threat from a neighboring island. Meanwhile, Maile is assigned to teach John their ancient navigation principles so the Englishmen can get back home since one of the things that caused the skirmish were missing navigation instruments, presumed stolen. John and Maile’s time together leads to mutual respect and tender feelings, though John’s expected departure shadows their growing love. Todd’s (Resist, 2016, etc.) first adult novel is based on her fourth great-grandparents Harbottle and Papapaunauapu (Maile in the novel) and is a delightful amalgamation of fact and fiction as well as a beautifully rendered peek into Hawaiian society before any large Western influence. Through Maile's first-person narrative and John's occasional diary entries, Todd explains ancient Hawaiian customs, beliefs, and wisdom, including actual navigational methods, and creates a clever, multifaceted heroine. A trend in the romance world often has female characters rendered as anachronistically feminist, which isn’t quite the case with Maile, though readers may wonder if a woman in a society as rigid as the one described here could have had the influence she does throughout the book. Still, the story is captivating.
Astute and luminous, like its heroine.