The novel is based on the true story of the gallant Mary Ann Patten, wife of Joshua Patten. Joshua Patten is the captain of the clipper ship Neptune's Car in 1856. When her husband gets down with sickness, and she's the only one who can navigate (having learned it as a hobby). She brings the ship around Cape Horn from New York to California with the help of Hare, the ship's Second mate, all the while caring for her husband and being burdened with her unborn child. She also has to continually conduct a power struggle with the First mate Keeler.
Tropes present in this work:
- The Captain: Joshua is a captain in name and his wife Mary is a captain in practice. He's out of commission and she learned ship navigation as a hobby. Commanding a ship and bringing around Cape Horn is no easy feat for anyone, but Mary deals with it just fine.
- Determinator: Mary's force of will brings the crew to their destination.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Captain's Wife is about a ship captain's wife.
- The Protagonist: Mary Ann Patten; the book is narrated from her perspective.
- Hidden Depths: Few guessed Mary knows how to navigate or handle a first mate who doesn't want to follow her lead.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Hare has Unresolved Sexual Tension with Mary but lets her be happy with her husband.
- Jumped at the Call: Mary is ready and willing to take command.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Joshua is a ship captain and a great man.
- Pregnant Badass: While commanding a ship and controlling a power hungry first mate, Mary is pregnant.
- The Smart Guy: Mary who does her job because she can navigate a ship.