The Pirate Lord, by Sabrina Jeffries

>> Monday, February 26, 2007

The Pirate Lord (excerpt, etc.) is the first in Sabrina Jeffries' Lord series. I've read the other two (in fact, the book after this, The Forbidden Lord, was the one to send me on a Jeffries glom), but this one was a bit hard to find.

book coverA Splendid Opportunity

A shipload of women-theirs for the taking! Pirate captain Gideon Horn couldn't be more delighted. His men are tired of wandering the high seas and want to settle down with wives on the uncharted island paradise they've discovered. And the women are bound to be grateful to be rescued from the life of drudgery awaiting them in New South Wales . . . Lord, he's so clever!

A Splendid Passion

Married? To pirates? Sara Willis couldn't be more appalled. First she demands proper courting-at least a month. The darkly handsome pirate lord gives them two weeks. Then Sara insists the men vacate their huts for the women-Gideon demands her kisses in return. As the demands heat up, so do their passions-and soon Sara can't remember just why she's fighting the devilishly seductive captain so hard...
This was entertaining and smoothly written, and mostly fun, but I just don't feel the excitement and wonder I felt when I read The Forbidden Lord. I don't know if it's the book that isn't as good as the other, or simply that I've changed and am now looking for something a bit different. Still, a B.

Sara Willis is the step-sister of an Earl, but she hasn't let this turn her into a society lady. Her mother was always a reformist, always very concerned about improving the lives of those less fortunate, and Sara has followed in her footsteps. Over the objections of her brother, Jordan (hero of TFL), Sara's next project is sailing to Australia on a female convict ship. She'll note the awful conditions on the ship, the abuses perpetrated by the sailors and the people on the other end, and when she goes back, she'll use her first-hand experience to try to press for reform.

Sara thought she was ready for the privations and problems she'd face on the journey, but what she wasn't ready for was an encounter with a pirate ship. But pirates would just be interested in stealing the valuables on the ship, so Sara and the convict women she's so determined to protect shouldn't come to any harm, right?

Wrong. This is no ordinary pirate ship, but one under the command of Gideon Horn, The Pirate Lord, a man known for hating the aristocracy and always making a point to annoy the lords he encounters on the ships he steals from. But this time Gideon and his men aren't looking for booty. Or rather, they are looking for booty; simply another kind of it, because their whole intention in boarding the convict ship is taking all the women.

Don't worry, they're not bent on rape and pillage, these men want wives. See, after all those years plundering rich British ships, they've got rich enough to retire from piracy. They've settled on a hard to find tropical island, and decided to start a kind of paradisiacal, utopic colony, one in which life will be better and fairer than where they all come from. But of course, to start a colony that can actually develop they need wives, and the women they meet in their regular ports aren't really that anxious to move to the middle of nowhere.

When Gideon hears of the convict ship, he sees a golden opportunity. These women are in a desperate situation, so they'll obviously be happy to be snatched from their ship and taken to a place where they'll be valued, rather than abused and forced into servitude. But Sara doesn't see it that way, she hates the arrogant way in which Gideon and his men refuse to give the women any choice other than marriage to them, and when she accidentally goads Gideon into taking her, too, she takes her fight right to him. But she's not just fighting for the convict women, she's fighting for herself, too, because she's not exempted from the orders to marry one of the men, or else, and Gideon seems to be determined to seduce her into compliance.

I loved the book at first. Sara was an interesting, very admirable character, and I was fascinated by her struggle to make the penal system fairer and expose the truth about what went on in those ships. I admired her courage in undertaking that mission, and after being taken by the pirates, her courage in fighting for better conditions and at least a degree of choice for her women, even if she wasn't able to change Gideon's mind completely.

Gideon... well, I usually finding myself saying just the opposite in romance novels, but this time the hero was definitely not as good as the heroine. In fact, he came across as a bit of a dolt. His plans evinced a total lack of knowledge of human psychology, and then there was his thing about hating all things even peripherally connected with British aristocracy. Hating an entire group of people because of a bad experience with one person who happens to have that nationality is pretty stupid. It's a mark of ignorance, and I just don't find willful ignorance attractive.

Still, at first I was very involved in the growing romance between Sara and Gideon, but aroung the half-way mark, the book lost steam, and their relationship just wasn't that interesting. Or that sexy, either, which was a surprise. Oh, it was nicely sensual, and there was some good chemistry between the two, but this is supposed to be an extremely sexy book. I remember finding TFL incredibly intense in that respect, and was assured that TPL was even more so, but I guess I've been desensitized by erotic romance, because for me it was nice, but nothing particularly remarkable.

Anyway, once the spell was gone, I couldn't help but see the simplistic, almost Disney-like cheesy touches, and that induced some major eye-rolling. What do I mean? Well, for instance, Gideon's pirates are all improbably nice and kind, not one rotten apple between them, and of course, all the women convicts are good, too. If they did commit a crime, it was a trivial, understandable one (stole a trifle, and only to buy medicines for their sick mammas, at that, or stabbed their employer, but just because he was rapist scum). I know, I know, obviously, if they had commited truly heinous crimes they would have been hanged, not transported, but still! After a while, I was half-expecting them to break into song and start dancing with animated teapots or something.

The ending was something that didn't work for me, either. I think I would have liked it better if Gideon didn't get this too-neat reworking of his history. It would be a spoiler to say more, but I'll just mention that it was reminiscent of One Perfect Rose.

Hmm, I've been awfully negative in this review, haven't I? Well, it's not a bad book; after all, I'm giving it a B. For all the flaws, it was a smooth read, one that I didn't feel tempted to put aside and read something else (and after my experiences this month, trying to make a dent in my TBR and trying all kinds of new authors who are often awkward and whose books get bogged down, that's something I have to appreciate).

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