Novels about lesbians and pirates seem to be an ever-growing popular genre. I’m happy to recommend a book that has these things: Water Witch: The Deceiver’s Grave by Nene Adams.
The story starts as female pirate captain, Bess O’Bedlam, goes to Antigua to follow up on a rumor about the whereabouts of another pirate, Fancy Tom Carew, and his lost ship, the Deceiver. Treasure is believed to have been on board Carew’s ship, and Bess loves gold, so the opportunity seems too good to pass up. She learns that another woman, Marguerite de Vries, may be the key to finding the treasure. So she kidnaps the woman and brings her aboard her ship, the Mad Maudlin.
Marguerite, an orphan-turned-thief, has no idea why she is linked to Tom Carew, except for a strange tattoo on her shoulder that she’s never been able to really explain. At first, she and Bess hate each other and then they try to seduce each other for their own gains, but in reality, there is a genuine attraction between them that neither will admit at first. As they get closer to finding the Deceiver, Bess and Marguerite soon learn that there is a lot more at stake than just lost treasure, and there are supernatural forces at work.
Water Witch, though it takes place in a real time period, has magic, demons, witch-fire, and spook-binding spells that give the book a more ghostly appeal. So many characters in the book have some knowledge of magic. That takes away some realism from the book, but not much, because the rest feels so real. And the magic is a pretty good touch.
The story itself, besides the supernatural, seems very much in keeping with what went on in the Caribbean in the eighteenth century. There is nautical jargon and old slang terms that I had to look up in the glossary. Though annoying at times to stop in the middle of a tense scene to look something up, the story certainly seemed more authentic.
Water Witch was packed with action, especially near the end. Sea battles, demon attacks, sword fights, and a deadly showdown kept me reading. There were unexpected twists and surprises. The book was very descriptive, even at the gory scenes, that I could easily picture what was going on. There were no moments of wondering where the characters were, or what they were doing. Everything was pretty clear, which made it easier to enjoy the book. The best part of the novel was watching Bess and Marguerite slowly acknowledge their love for each other and throw their differences aside. There were definitely “Oh my gosh!” moments, and “How will they make it?” scenes that are nail-biting. But it works out satisfactorily in the end. My only problem with Water Witch was that I didn’t learn much about Bess’s past. Marguerite’s story was well told, as it was necessary for the plot, but I would have loved to know more about Bess’s childhood, her parents, and what drove her to become a pirate. I got tiny hints here and there, but not enough to clearly form her story. This made her a bit less fleshed out than I’d like.
Besides that though, Water Witch: The Deceiver’s Grave was a gripping, well researched read. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but for hardcore pirate fans. Still, the adventure was fun, and the book never got boring once. Nene Adams clearly put a lot of work into her story, and it shows well. I’ll be reading this one again!