Wow... so... wow.
The events of this book are so up and down, back and forth, and all over the place with improbabilities. It shifted around so much that after a while I stopped trying to surmise what strange new misery was going to befall these characters next. And - BOY O' Boy, there were miseries aplenty. Not that I mind angst. Actually, I LOVE angsty romances. But this angst felt contrived and the characters did not handle it in ways that I felt were appropriate, even when one considers all extenuating circumstances. Because if it wasn't some twisted villain trying to torment them, it was the characters themselves orchestrating their own misery.
Ok ok ok, before you say it... YES the hero had a tortured and painful childhood. Utterly terrible. And I felt for him. And I could accept this childhood trauma (and probable PTSD) as an adequate explanation for some of his behavior. But time and time again, over and over again, and just when you think 'OK FINALLY he's going to have some kind of believable breakthrough' - NOPE, denied. There was no relief for the reader in his back and forth rejection of the heroine, and then subsequent love, and then rejection again. When he wasn't pushing her away - cruelly - he was desperate to keep her. When he didn't act like he hated her, he loved her so desperately he thought he'd rather die than lose her.
And of course this is the primary issue this hero has, he is terrified to love for fear of losing. But you can only take that explanation so far before it loses its credibility... and this story stretched it past its breaking point. These two do fall in love fairly early in the book. And then events occur that do
sort of reignite his trauma and it does
make it easier to accept that he's simply afraid to lose her. However, my frustration reached a crescendo when the hero left her on their wedding night, got pass-out drunk on his ship, had sex with her after she SWAM to the ship to find him because she heard an intruder in her hut, and then the next morning told her to take a hike back to England because he could NOT be around her for fear that he might love her and then lose her. Give. Me. A. Break. It was so painful to read. I know how awesome of a writer Kinsale is, and I seriously doubted at that point that she could redeem this hero after that.
The heroine, by contrast, was relatively level-headed most of the book. The only time when I got really ticked off at the heroine was when she and that friend of hers in Tahiti cook up a hair-brained scheme to get him to 'rescue' her while in Tahiti, letting him believe that she was lost, probably injured, possibly dead. It didn't fit in with the book. It was too lighthearted and rompy. And come on, you're going to torment the poor guy with his greatest fear - losing someone he cares about? .
Still, I couldn't put this book down. I think mostly it was due to my desperate hopes that at SOME point throughout this story, the reader might be tossed a little bit of crumbs here and there, to get to see the hero and heroine have some moments of happiness without immediately finding some way to mash it and destroy it in a few paragraphs. That didn't happen until the VERY end, and by that point I'm not sure I was buying it anymore.