cover image Contraband Hearts

Contraband Hearts

Alex Beecroft. Riptide, $17.99 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-62649-805-1

Beecroft (Under the Hill) has fun retrofitting an old trope with a queer sensibility as she links her Age of Sail series to Riptide’s shared world of Porthkennack. In this late-18th-century Robin Hood–esque adventure, the relationship between the stuffy lawkeeper and the charismatic outlaw is complicated by sexual tension. Ambitious customs officer Peregrine “Perry” Dean is sent from cosmopolitan London to Porthkennack, Cornwall, to rout out corruption. He receives a dubious reception both for his profession and because he’s black. He’s astonished to find that the notorious freckled smuggler Tomas Quick is more beloved and respected in the seaside town than the rich Sir Lazarus Quick, who has commandeered Perry to execute his personal vendetta against Tomas. Perry soon learns that Tomas is glad to be his ally in the rescue of black men who have been captured from shipwrecks to be sold as slaves, and he embraces a compassionate new balance between inflexible law and human needs—while also, incidentally, embracing Tomas. It’s easy to love Beecroft’s headstrong, imperfect heroes and their social dynamic, but their romance feels like an add-on; nevertheless, readers who appreciate LGBTQ twists on classic stories will find this one cleverly and appealingly told. (May)