Lady Pirate is one of those books with a little bit of everything: Slapstick humor, blood, revenge, adventure on the high seas, mystery, mistaken identity, cross dressing, and even steamy sex with bondage. What it doesn’t have are characters a reader can connect with, and towards the end the author just seems to be throwing stuff in at random for effect.
The story begins with the heroine, Valoree, covered with blood and dressed as a man, fighting to avenge her murdered brother. When she and her fellow pirates (who all think she is a man) attack their first ship, their adversaries believe that Valoree is her brother returned from the dead. They all jump ship in fright, and Valoree earns the nickname “Back from the dead Red.” The nickname serves her well, and Valoree and her crew spend the next several years profiteering. Eventually they return to England, because Valoree is actually the daughter of a nobleman who is supposed to inherit an estate. When she finds out that in order to inherit she must marry and have a child, she almost turns around and heads back out to sea. But although her men look like extras from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, they all really want to settle down and farm in England, so they vote that Valoree should marry.
Valoree reluctantly acquires some gowns and attends some ton events, with disastrous results. She has been away from England for quite awhile, and she has no desire to engage in ladylike behavior. Finally she decides to let the biggest gossips in town know that she is rich and looking for a husband; she figures she can avoid future soirees and let fortune hunting gentlemen come to her.
At this point she has already met the hero, Daniel, who is Lord Thurborne. Daniel also must marry in order to inherit his fortune, and he immediately turns to Valoree. But Valoree wants nothing to do with him, because she can tell he is a strong-willed man, and after being in charge of her own ship for such a long time, she would rather not hand over control of her life to anyone. So she interviews other prospective suitors. To make a long story short (too late) she eventually marries Daniel and has mind-blowing sex in a secluded cove. After interminable waiting, they hash out the details of their marriage, and several secrets are revealed.
When I picked up this book, I thought it would be funny or exciting, but it is neither. I have heard Lynsay Sands mentioned as a funny writer, but either she is moving in a different direction or her humor is totally lost on me. I think some of the dialogue was supposed to be amusing, and we are supposed to laugh when the heroine needs cosmetics and improvises with cooking supplies, but the humor fell flat for me at every turn. Similarly, there is action, but none of it is terribly interesting. Valoree suffers several suspicious “accidents,” but the subplot to which they relate appears and disappears seemingly at random.
Most of the book centers on Valoree trying to decide how to fit back into life as a lady after years as a pirate captain. If Valoree had been a more likable character, this might have been engaging, but it is very hard to sympathize with her. Her behavior borders on offensive and vulgar, and she isn’t particularly nice to anyone. At first I wondered why her years at sea had erased every memory of appropriate behavior, since she was in England until she was thirteen. Late in the book we are told that Valoree remembered how to act but was behaving badly on purpose, but some of her actions are so out of line that this was hard to believe. My fundamental dislike of her was cemented toward the end of the book when she treats Daniel in a way that is unforgivable – and makes no sense for her character. Daniel is a pretty good guy, but I couldn’t see what he saw in Valoree, except perhaps for her body and the mind-blowing sex.
The love scenes here just miss a rating of burning, which may attract some readers, but otherwise I would give this one a pass. Skip Valoree (and her pirating cohorts with names like One Eye and No Nose) and check out the friendlier, more lifelike versions at the Magic Kingdom.