Pleasing the Pirate
Oh, pirates – you are such a wonderful staple in historical romances. Alongside rakes and rogues, they form an important pillar of the genre. There are few things romance readers devour so much as the reformed bad boy hero. I love the moment where we get to see that there is more to them than their public facade – it’s the backstory that does me in every time. And it’s the same here.
The notorious Phin Lockwood has a problem. Normally, being arrested and thrown into Newgate would be enough of an issue for the pirate captain, but the King himself has gotten involved. The Scottish traitor, Grant McFadden, has managed to escape yet again, and rumor has it he is partnering with the French to bring war to British soil. When a British spy, and friend of Phin’s, suggests using the pirate to ferret him out, the King thinks it’s a grand idea. Provided Phin knows exactly what’s at stake – produce McFadden, or die in his place.
Enter one Mairi McFadden. Sister to Grant, she has come to England searching for him, desperately trying to save the remaining members of her former clan. Someone has given her Phin’s name, and together, they are working their way through London to find McFadden. But while Mairi knows only that she has traded her virginity away to the pirate for his assistance, Phin knows that he must betray the woman he has come to care for in order to save himself.
I spent a lot of time wondering if this was part of a series I didn’t know about. The author has written other works, but I couldn’t find mention of an official series. There are, however, several characters that I felt like the reader should already know somehow. Phin’s spy friend seems to have his own backstory, and this book looks like it is in some ways related to The Notorious Lady Anne, which came out last year. Also, on a historical sticking point, the publisher touts this book as a “Rogue Regency Romance” while the King in question is George II, who died about 50 years before the Regency era began.
Those thoughts aside, I absolutely adored Phin and Mairi (but especially Phin.) They both have full stories, with enough things in common they can get past their people’s hatred for one another. Phin steps up past the mantle of pirate and rogue, and shows that he can be a true gentleman, while Mairi works hard to overcome a lifetime of hatred and isolation to realize that you can’t paint everyone with the same brush. There is an amazing amount of embedded hatred and prejudice that she has to overcome, and her struggle against change, and then against what she was brought up with, makes it a fascinating read.
At risk of sounding like an English Lit major, I also have to say that Mairi draws some interesting conclusions about both Phin and Grant. As she spends more time with Phin, and also meets a couple of times with Grant, she sees the similarities between the two, and the very different paths they have chosen. It is fascinating to see this from within the story, rather than just being seen by the reader. It changes Mairi, and changes the story.
I also appreciated how a lot of the story felt realistic. The pain of Mairi’s past, the relations between the different countries, even the descriptions of some of the issues of crimes and criminals, all felt true to the past. The author obviously did research into the time period, and into the history of relations between Scotland, England, and France, and it shows.
I do have to take a moment, however, to to discuss something that may be considered a spoiler by some, but is really just a logical conclusion. Please skip over the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know. The way the plot is set up, at some point Mairi is going to have to choose between her lover and her brother – if the King gets hold of Grant, there will be an execution, but if Phin doesn’t deliver Grant, Phin will be executed. This is how the story is set up to begin with. Mairi spends most of the time thinking that Phin is in this for the reward on her brother’s head, and he never bothers to correct her assumption. He actually tries his best to keep that side of the equation as far away from her as possible. But when she is confronted by this choice, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt, any soul-searching about what she needs to do. I was troubled by that. I felt that all of the build-up to this moment deserved more attention, but instead it was almost as if the author went the “too long; didn’t read” method, and just took out a chunk of the story. It felt like something was missing.
I actually spent quite a lot of time (more time than I’d care to admit) trying to decide on a grade for this novel. In the end, the things I was disappointed with couldn’t overcome the enjoyment I had while reading it. While I may or may not read this again, it’s certainly a fun story, with a steamy couple, lots of delicious sexual tension, and interesting, in-depth characters.