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Star-Crossed by Linda Collison

Linda Collison's Star-Crossed reminded me of a mixture of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and a more mature The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Like Kit and Charlotte, sixteen-year-old Patricia Kelley is forced into a radically new life, but remains stubbornly determined to shape it to her will. Orphaned, illegitimate, and penniless, Patricia stows away on a British merchant ship bound for Barbados. She was born there and is certain her father left her his sugar plantation before he died. She is soon discovered by bosun's mate Brian Dalton. But instead of exposing her, Dalton gives her a set of sailor's clothes and helps keep her presence a secret. In the dead of night, he spirits her up onto the deck and teaches her how to climb the rigging and track their progress by the stars.

Their secret is soon revealed, however, and she is only allowed to stay in the capacity of assistant to the ship's doctor, Aeneas MacPherson. Patricia gets through her days learning how to set a bone and stitch a wound, but she longs for the clear nights when she can climb to the top of the crow's nest with Dalton. Upon reaching Barbados events do not unfold as Patricia hoped. With no choices available to a girl in her position, Patricia numbly accepts Aeneas' proposal of marriage and Dalton leaves immediately for a gunner's position aboard a naval ship. The second part of the novel follows her life with Aeneas, while the third depicts the unexpected chain of events that lead to her crossing paths again with Dalton, once again disguised as a boy, this time aboard a naval ship in the midst of war with Spain.

Like its lovely cover, everything about this book is strong and vivid. Patricia's first attempt climbing the rigging to dizzying heights, gruesome descriptions of patients suffering from yellow fever, fiery battle sieges at sea, and the few stolen moments when Patricia and Dalton are able to speak freely. All of these leave the reader breathless and feeling as though she were actually there with them, desperate to survive. The novel is meticulously researched and I loved the map, glossary, background information, and particularly the closing quote by Sappho. "I tell you, someone will remember us." I look forward to Patricia's further adventures as Ms. Collison has indicated it will be a trilogy.

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