Every fall I look forward to the latest installment of the adventures of Bloody Jack. This year, it was Viva Jacquelina!, L. A. Meyer’s tenth book about the irrepressible Jacky Faber.
Jacky has, in her various adventures, been a British Navy sailor, a merchant captain, a pirate, a member of the British intelligence, and sometimes even a fine lady. As you might guess, this installment takes Jacky to Spain. It begins on the battlefields of the Napoleonic wars, before Jacky is sent on a spy mission to Madrid. Separated from her friends, she finds work at an artist’s studio, learning painting, posing as a model, and flirting with the local boys. Jacky’s adventures go on to involve bull-riding, the Spanish Inquisition, and a band of gypsies. In other words, it’s the usual Jacky Faber fare.
Jacky is still the charming, undaunted, ever-cheerful and ever-resourceful girl we’ve met in nine previous books. She’s grown more confident but no more cautious or sensible. The adventures come fast and furious here, which is good and bad. The book keeps moving along at a quick clip and there’s never a dull moment–but sometimes I did wish it would slow down and give us more depth and more detail.
It strikes me that we’ve entered an interesting place with these later books in the series–they’re still enormous fun, I still love the characters, and I still can’t resist reading on to find out what happens next. At the same time, the books are starting to lose the depth and the originality of the early ones in the series. In some ways this book reminded me a bit of the second one, Under the Blue Tattoo, in that Jacky spends some months settling (relatively) quietly into a town and a household. But this book racketed along at a much faster pace than the second book, and we never delved as deep into the characters or developed a plot that was as complex.
Jacky is also beginning to seriously grate on my nerves when it comes to her constant flirtations. In the span of this one (relatively slim) book, she gets into pretty serious sparking with five men–all while her heart belongs to her one true love Jaimy, of course. Jacky’s always been a bit free with her affections, but I feel like in this book she went farther faster and with greater numbers, and never seems to grasp that any of these men might take her seriously. When her attitude starts to become, “ho-hum, another one swearing undying love,” it gets just a little annoying.
But I do still love Jacky–only I’m starting to feel like her best friend, Amy Trevelyne, who is frequently apt to sigh and wish Jacky would learn some restraint. On the other hand, it is kind of fun that Jacky turns on its head the cliche of the roving man with a girl in every port.
All in all, I’d say this book isn’t up to the brilliance of the earliest ones in the series…but it’s still a very enjoyable read. I wouldn’t suggest starting the series here, but if you haven’t read Bloody Jack, I do recommend picking it up! This is a wonderful series to explore.
Author’s Site: http://www.jackyfaber.com