Brown, with assistance from researcher and co-author Kelly, debuts with this historical novel of piracy and Colonial America.
Young Maria Hallett, having lost both her parents, works as a governess to her aunt’s children in early 18th-century Cape Cod. Her friend Isaac Doane is employed at the novel’s namesake tavern, and although he is enamored of Ms. Hallett, his shyness prevents him from becoming her suitor. But that’s not the case for historical pirate “Black Sam” Bellamy, who strides ashore, swiftly sweeps Maria off her feet and leaves her with child while he goes plundering in the West Indies for several months. By the time he returns to the coast of Massachusetts, circumstances have changed for the worse, as the child has passed away and Maria is being held criminally accountable. Although the real Bellamy died in a storm before reaching land, Brown and Kelly imagine what would have happened had he lived and found his way back into Maria’s life. The book’s often gorgeous descriptions and impressive vocabulary help bring the world of Colonial New England to life, through its flora, fauna, geography and people. The characters populating Brown and Kelly’s world, both fictional and fictionalized, are imbued with great depth. The authors’ zeal to bring so much of their vast research to the page, however, creates problems for the narrative, as the story is consistently interrupted by italicized sections of commentary, some of which reads like informational footnotes and all of which is distracting if not beside the point. And while scene-setting is essential to a book such as this, too often the plot is forced to sit still for it, and too much of the action—including most of the actual pirating—takes place off the page.
Brown and Kelly create a richly detailed world, but need to more seamlessly marry facts with story.