(Feather light spoilers for an earlier book, Goddess of the Hunt. Nothing that should ruin your enjoyment of the earlier work, and it doesn't need to be read first. However, SoaS begins where that book left off.)
What I Bring to The Party: I'm a fan of romance novels and a recent fan of Tessa Dare.
What's It All About? Sophia, longing to experience passion and adventure, books passage on a ship sailing to the West Indies, and concocts a false identity. She meets Gray, the owner of the ship. She experiences the aforementioned passion and adventure.
The characters: Sophia made her first appearance in another Tessa Dare novel, Goddess of the Hunt. Lucy, the heroine in GotH, at first mistook her for a sedate lady without a radical thought in her little head, but discovered that Sophia had quite the mischievous imagination. The women became fast friends and Lucy gifted her one of her most prized possessions - a book about a wanton dairymaid, which figures delightfully into SoaS as well. I enjoyed this character and the first book and was glad to see her personality remained much the same. Sometimes when characters carry over, authors alter them to fit the new plot. Amusingly enough, her stories of an imaginary lover and one story in particular is repeated in both books as she tries to convince the hero that she's more experienced that she really is. She's an artist, but she would have been one heck of a writer too. What I liked about Sophia is that she's a woman who has fantasies and desires even before she meets Gray - there's no hedging as a lot of books do in making the heroine only "awaken" when the hero arrives. She's sweet and innocent, but also clear that she has wants that she's not allowed to share in polite society, and so she must escape that society.
The hero, Gray, wants to be respectable after years of being disreputable in order to secure a future for his siblings. Getting involved with Sophia is not in his plans. He, in fact, promises his brother who is the ship's captain that he won't even kiss her. And he doesn't for a really long time, but that doesn't mean that the time before that was wasted or chaste. In fact, a lot of *interesting* things occur before he kisses her, and this was foreshadowed when he made the promise. I like very much that he didn't take giving his word as a light thing, and fought his attraction more than most heroes do in similar circumstances. He was convinced he wasn't a good guy, but his actions and choices said something else.
Gray's brother, Joss, was a hard person to like. He had several rightful grievances, but he didn't seem to want to give his brother a break. By the end, he was much more sympathetic a character. Of note was the way the crew of the ship were rendered by the author. They were rough, but for the most part sympathetic as Sophia takes an interest in stories of their lives and loves.
I like Tessa Dare's narrative style a lot. She seems to be a natural born story teller and has an ability to make her heroines in particular unique characters. Lucy and Sophia both got the lives and men best suited for them, and neither would have been satisfied with the other one's life or choices. That shows me that the author isn't looking to repeat the exact same story. She also did her homework, clearly, on the vernacular of ships - it was never heavy-handed, but the Kindle dictionary got used now and again, and it made it feel authentic. (Speaking of language, Grey is angry at one point and thinks his brother is acting like a slang word for the make anatomy - not the first term that comes to mind, but the second one. The thing that a thorn does to your finger. ::grin:: That use seems anachronistic to me, but I don't know.)
Ms. Dare's also deft with a sex scene. A lot of romance readers skim these scenes, because there's a certain sameness in many of the books. I haven't skimmed any scenes from Ms. Dare's books yet - they're too good. Not only are they erotic and creative, but they're true extensions of, in this case, Gray and Sophia. About half way through the book, there is a scene which goes from scalding hot to poignant in the blink of an eye. Sophia makes herself vulnerable to Gray, feels embarrassed, and he comforts her beautifully, and in doing so repays her vulnerability. Well, until things all go awry again. The rest of the scenes are also quite erotic, but also an extension of the emotional issues between the characters.
The general impression I get while looking at other reviews is that, while this book was well-received, Goddess of the Hunt is perhaps slightly preferred. I have to say I liked this one a bit more and this is as someone who liked the first story a lot. I believe another review mentioned there was too much time spent on the ship, but I never felt confined by it. The setting was right for these characters!