When Patricia's father dies, Patricia was left with with a single hope, to get to Barbados and to the estate her father promised her would be her dowry. Unfortunately, she has no way to pay her passage so, proper British lady that she is, she decides to stowaway on a Merchant ship. When she is discovered, she becomes indentured to the ship's surgeon who begins to teach her about medicine. Though the surgeon, Anaeus MacPherson, seems to value her as more than an assistant, Patricia is drawn to Brian Dalton, a sailor who has little to offer her and who is below her in station. As Patricia crosses the sea, she vacillates between following her heart and doing and what is practical.
Linda Collison describes life at sea in fascinating detail...some of it fairly gory detail as the sailors succumb to disease and injury. This book reminds me a bit of Pirates by Celia Rees as Patricia must deal with the maddening injustices of women's status in the 18th century.