For example, the heroine, in her attempt to reform the world ends up doing more harm than good; at least at first. She is impetuous, stubborn and naive. But over the course of her experiences in Zanzibar, many of which were unpleasant, she learns a great deal about herself and other people's way of life.
The hero ( I almost shudder to call him that), also has to learn the hard way what NOT to do to make a success of himself, not materially because he does very well in that department, but as a person. He however, never claims to be virtuous. So when he makes some VERY outrageously bad decisions, we're disappointed but not overly surprised, especially when you learn his family background. At some point in the story (around page 350) you'll come to a scene behind closed doors which will shock and disgust you (as it should); but I wouldn't give up on the story just yet. I recommend waiting it out to see how it all ends. Sometimes people do change. And even the unforgivable is not necessarily unforgivable.While I would never call this male protagonist "hero material", the book had a gritty realism that is hard to argue with. No one lives in a fairy tale ...
Really, if I was to give this book a theme it would be: NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS
The story deals with many things: shipwreck, slave traders, royal revolt and annual pirates "traders". Also the climax of the book is the most chilling: the cholera plague which ultimately killed over 20,000 people. And the most sobering thing about this book is that most of it is absolutely true.
Bottom line: If you like epic tales of history with plenty of excitement and intrigue, you may love Trade Wind. This can not be called a romance by any stretch of the imagination as it (the romance) makes up so little of the book; maybe 2%. It's primarily an adventure and a character study.
VIOLENCE: Very little. Fratricide is mentioned, and one man is shot through the head as he is carrying the plague.
LANGUAGE: moderate, sprinkled throughout. Mainly D's and B's (fatherless offspring)
SEX: None shown, but there is a rape and you know what happens. Immoral "arrangements" are also spoken of as having taken place by various characters, again, not shown to the reader.
For thematic elements I would rate this PG-13.