Niamh’s WLW Book Recs: The Unbinding of Mary Reade

The Unbinding of Mary Reade is a young adult lesbian fiction book published by Sky Pony. It’s inspired by the true tales of Anne Bonny, Mary Reade, and Calico Jack. But here we follow the queered version of the story through the eyes of the lesbian protagonist, Mary.

Check out this #wlw book rec of The Unbinding of Mary Reade by @McNamaraMiriam Click To Tweet

About the Author:

Miriam McNamara was born in Ireland, raised in the Southern United States, and now lives in the Midwest. She has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has never flown a biplane, but she loves to dance. She is the author of two queer historical novels, An Impossible Distance to Fall and The Unbinding of Mary Reade. She lives in Minneapolis, but also calls Asheville, North Carolina home.

Follow on Twitter: @McNamaraMiriam

Lesbian Main Character: ✔️

Mary is the central character. She is a queer woman who disguised herself as a man. Although there is some questioning over her gender it is clear that she is a lesbian who feels comfortable presenting as a man rather than a trans guy.


A clever, romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.

At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.

The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.

Breathlessly romantic and brilliantly subversive, The Unbinding of Mary Reade is sure to sweep readers off their feet and make their hearts soar.


This is not an historically accurate biography of the two very real female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Reade. McNamara has take their story as a jumping off point for her own retelling and thus any fans of the real pirates may find themselves a little frustrated at the turn of events.

But for those who are willing to take the adventure for the thrilling pirate escapade that it wants to be, then there is plenty to enjoy here. Not least are the queer characters who are going through a lot of internal confusion, struggling with their sexuality and their gender. I can see why this story is so loved by so many readers!

What the Critics are saying: ★★★✰✰

Fantastic, unique, and inclusively diverse young adult fiction . . . You had me at ‘queer pirates.’ grabby hands


“Canonically queer pirate girls? Yes, please.”

Nicole Brinkley Barnes & Noble Teen Blog

Full of potential but unfortunately never quite finds its sea legs.

What the audience is saying? ★★★★✰

A book I wish had existed when I was a young adult!” – Amazon Customer

Such a compelling, resonant historical read” – Amazon Customer

Sexy pirates, strong female characters, and tons of adventure” – Amazon Customer

You’ll like this book if you like:

Adventure, swashbuckling stories on the high seas, stories that examine the idea of gender.

Overall: Would recommend for pirate lovers!

If you like swashbuckling pirate adventure and women who love women, then you need to check out 16 Great Reads for Lesbians and Queer Girls who Love Pirates! (Plus a FREE Bonus)

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