Black Heart of Jamaica

This YA adventure (360 pages) was published in March of 2018 by Frost Wolf;. The book takes you to 18th-century Jamaica. Melissa read Black Heart of Jamaica and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.


Black Heart of Jamaica

Julia Golding

Meet Cat Royal. She’s four feet tall with long red hair and an affinity for close scrapes. She’s been a spy and a ballerina, gone undercover as a boy, and been kidnapped and forced to sail across the Atlantic. The year 1792 finds her in Philadelphia. But it won’t be long before Cat accidentally joins a pirate crew and is caught up in an uprising of enslaved people in the Caribbean.

Eager for a change of scenery, Cat and her best friend Pedro — an African violin virtuoso and formerly enslaved person — join the Peabody Theatrical Ensemble and sail from London to various ports of the Caribbean to perform the works of Shakespeare, including As You Like It in Kingston.

But after the stunning debut of their show, their dramatic careers are cut short when Pedro catches revolution fever, and Cat is tricked into a perilous situation that gives her first-hand experience of what it’s like to be enslaved.

Don’t be fooled by the hijinks of this YA adventure; this story has teeth and knows its history. Yes, slavery was a legal and socially accepted part of life in the 18th century, but Cat and Pedro are not having it. ‘The mulattos are fighting for their rights, the slaves are demanding their freedom. It’s revolution… and the French masters can hardly complain because the people are only following the example set in Paris.’

The story unfolds in Cat’s feisty first-person narrative as she recounts her run-ins with old nemeses, new friends, and a very curious fruit: the banana. Her tale has everything you could want in a pirate/theater/sassy-heroine adventure. There’s a pious theater impresario with secrets, a bloodthirsty bosun, pirates with gentlemanly manners, and a handful of actors, sailors, and ne’er-do-wells with questionable motives.

If you enjoy the Veronica Speedwell mysteries by Deanna Raybourn or the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, Cat is the YA heroine for you. An adventurer with moxie, she’s a cosmic cousin to Veronica and Phryne, minus the cocktails and sexual escapades.

Our destination of Kingston sat on one side of a natural harbour, a settlement of brightly painted houses, fringed by lush mangroves, set against the backdrop of the Blue Mountains of the Interior. Across the bay on a protective spit of land lay Port Royal, a naval base and centre of shipping. The bay was a thicket of masts as ships waited to off-load the ‘black ivory’ of slaves and take on cargoes of sugar, coffee, tobacco and other plantation goods. Small boats plied the water between the sea-going vessels, offering fresh goods for sale. The sea sparkled blue under a cloudless sky; the wind was warm and spicy. — Julia Golding

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