Review: The Journeyer by J.P. Bowie

Edited blurb: In the year 1746, after the armies of the Scottish Highlands rebelling against the King of England were at last defeated at the Battle of Culloden, the English government began a vicious campaign of punishment and humiliation against the people of Scotland.  Jamie MacDonald, a young Scot mourning the deaths of his father and brothers in the massacre, and his mother embark on a dangerous journey to find a better life in the New World. But tragedy and unforeseen circumstance dog Jamie’s path and he finds himself pressed into service aboard a pirate ship commanded by a ruthless Spaniard-a man with a past as dark as any on the wrong side of the law, but with an allure Jamie cannot resist. When he finally reaches the New World, Jamie is a changed man-one whose innocence has been replaced with a keen sense of self-preservation and a determination to survive-no matter what. Fighting to endure in the wilderness, he believes he has found his destiny as his life becomes irrevocably entwined with a Choctaw warrior-shaman-a man who had a vision of Jamie’s coming. Together they fight the elements and those who seek to destroy them.

Review(with some spoilers) by Erastes

This book was the book that I thought “Brethren Raised by Wolves” was going to be. It’s an adventure story, and a damned good one.  This is no story of an innocent lad with wide open eyes who is taken by surprise by life; to me this reads like a true “journey” of a boy who quickly learns the harshness of his lot and the injustices of his world and strikes out to find new ways of living – only to find that life isn’t that much different, wherever you might go.

It’s not so much “coming of age” but the first stage in a life which could probably fill books, as this really only deals with a surprising small number of years in Jamie’s life.  If you like frontier stories or pirate stories you’ll like this as it has enough of both to satisfy.

I had a few moments, right at the beginning that challenged me and made me worry if I was going to like the book as a whole: One being the fact that Jamie MacDonald made no secret of his identity after fleeing the Highlands.  My knowledge (to my shame) of the post Culloden months is based almost solely on “Kidnapped” but I remember that people kept the fact that they were highlanders secret, and to mention a name like MacDonald would have been like tossing a cinder into a powderkeg – I didn’t find it realistic that he was bandying his name around, even in London, let alone in Scotland as he attempted to flee.

On a much more minor point I also shied at the fact that – when through circumstances he is forced not to take the boat to America that he has spent all of his money on – he didn’t attempt to try and sell his tickets on, despite the fact that there was a desperate queue of people attempting to leave the country.  It seemed a rather contrived way of beggaring him, when there were easier and more convincing ways to do it.  I also have to say, and I don’t like to – is that he struck me as just a little bit of a Gary Stu; everything he does, he tends to do really well. He rides well, he learns to sail, he fights incredibly well, everyone (well, to be honest, nearly everyone) he comes across takes to him, and a lot of people who didn’t like him to start with grow to like him.

But – and for me this is a big but, when the story got going it was nothing more or less than a page turner, and a grand adventure that put the wind of the Atlantic into my hair and made me remember the days of my youth when I wanted nothing more than to wear a deerskin breechclout and to run, unseen, to fight the white man.  The story moves along at a cracking pace, whilst never losing characterisation or romance development.

And yes, there is romance here.  We are given a hint of it right at the beginning, and then Bowie goes and veers off course and surprises the reader by giving Jamie a love interest that even he wasn’t expecting and one that he doesn’t even want to accept.

I liked Antonio a lot, and I appreciated the way that Bowie made us follow Jamie’s thought processes – and we fell in love with Antonio in the same way and for the same reasons, but it was fairly obvious to me that there was going to be something that ended this idyll on the sea and I won’t spoil you for what it is.

It is when Jamie comes to the New World that you get the sense that he’s a man – I enjoyed his time here a great deal. It was everything “Last of the Mohicans” should have been for me, a great love, loads of action and plenty of hot man-lovin’.

A word about the romance scenes, though – because I know some of you require hotter scenes than others – the sex is very subtle. It’s more about “he could feel his excitement” and “they spent their passion” than anything throbbing or spurting, but that was fine with me.  It was the plot that interested me far more than the anatomical details. I find it interesting that some male writers are writing what are more traditional “romance” scenes (Pierce, Virga, Bowie to name a few) and the majority of women seem to write them a lot more graphically.

Aside from the minor quibbles at the beginning of the book, I have to say – that like Lee Rowan’s, or Alex Beecroft’s books, even though I wasn’t at all au fait with the Jacobite period it was clear to me that Bowie had done a good bit of research and I was able to relax and enjoy the book for what it was.  If there are errors within it that an historian could point out, then that’s fine – there weren’t glaring and that’s a plus for me. I felt like I was in a safe pair of hands and I could wallow in the adventure, string my arrow to my bow and hunt the white-man while protecting my tribe. The ending kicked me in the stomach, too, so be warned.

May I further add that it’s self-published by iUniverse and the editing is pretty damned good. I hope that as the genre gain popularity that this book is picked up by a mainstream publisher because it’s one that deserves to sit on any historical fiction shelf.

Definitely a recommendation, and I’ll seek out his other historical, the Roman “Slaves to Love” soon.

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