RB: The Widowmaker
RB: The Widow Maker is the first book of a swashbuckling pirate romance trilogy set in 1720. The story of this hero and heroine is told through the course of all three books, so this is just the first chapter. It’s got a rather Woodwissian sort of style. It also has annoying characters, a lame plot, and quite a few grammar and punctuation errors. I found it amusing only sporadically.
Aubrey Malone is an extremely innocent and timid nineteen-year-old English orphan who is in the custody of her abusive uncle. Uncle is trying to wash his hands of her by forcing her into marriage, so Aubrey runs away. She buys a ticket on a ship going to Africa. (It’s not going to Algiers or Cape Town or Mombassa or Djibouti. It’s going to Africa. And what she imagines she will do all by herself when she gets to this unnamed part of Africa, I have no idea.) Little does Aubrey know that a mysterious man named Jean Luc Priere has fallen in love with her from afar and is, um, stalking her. Jean Luc is a pirate, and he makes sure that she books passage aboard a ship which he and his fellow pirates are planning to capture. But Jean Luc’s plans go awry, and Aubrey becomes the love-slave, not of Jean Luc, but of his captain, Rene Black. (I don’t know how Jean Luc thought he was going to get the girl instead of the captain. Perhaps love muddled his thinking.)
Captain Rene Black is a sinister Frenchman who takes possession of Aubrey’s virginal yet nubile person. She trembles, cringes, and cries for mercy. “Please take me to Africa,” she begs. Rene installs her in his cabin, kisses and fondles her, but immediately backs off whenever she protests. Weeks go by and Aubrey is still in possession of her maidenhead. What the heck kind of pirate is this? We’re told that Rene is pining for his lost love, Mala, but that doesn’t keep him from consorting with prostitutes, so his reluctance to bed Aubrey is mysterious. Nevertheless, Rene is insanely jealous of Aubrey, slaps her around, treats her as a possession, and has her tattooed with his initials. His behavior gets more and more cruel as the book goes on, and there’s no question that he plans to rape her one of these days.
Meanwhile, Jean Luc loves Aubrey but makes no effort to rescue her from Rene. Even after Jean Luc and Aubrey become lovers behind Rene’s back, and she piteously begs him to save her from Rene, Jean Luc does nothing and seems to have no plans to. “Rene is my friend,” he says. After one passionate tryst with Aubrey, he wonders, “What would he do when Black came back on board? His time with her would surely be ended then.” That’s the spirit! In the climactic scene, timorous little Aubrey displays more courage and spirit than Jean Luc ever does in the entire novel. Jean Luc is impotent in every way except the literal one.
There are several smaller problems that also nagged me. For instance, the author seems to have no idea how large the ocean is. Someone will say, “Captain, a ship has been spotted,” and five minutes later they’re engaged in a battle at sea. Either the lookout is not paying attention, or those are some fast ships. The latter seems to be indicated when the sailors watch a nearby ship apparently disappear in a few moments: “Gone! Out of sight, as if she had never been there! . A ship to move that fast had to have a captain with a cunning and calculating mind.” Are you serious? To vanish over the horizon that quickly, the ship would have to be supersonic. Also, it irritated me that nine-tenths of the conversations of this book center around Aubrey’s mealtime habits: she’s not hungry, she doesn’t want to eat, people urge her to eat, people ask her whether she’s eaten, etc. Geez.
As this book ends, Aubrey and Jean Luc are tragically separated, Rene’s fate is uncertain, and Rene’s true love, Mala, is apparently not dead after all. I do not feel a powerful urge to snap up the second and third books to see how it all turns out. (I’m guessing that the book’s title, RB, refers to Rene’s initials; the trend of the plot suggests that his romance with Mala is going to become an important plotline. As if I cared whether Rene, an irrational, slave-owning drunkard, gets a happy ending.)
After having said all this about this book, why did I give it a D instead of a lower grade? Because, although I think it’s really bad, I also occasionally found myself enjoying it. I giggled aloud over such lines as this one:
“Non,” he said demonically.But that’s an exception. I emphatically do not recommend RB: The Widowmaker. But if you have $25 to spare, and if you think the best book you ever read was The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, you might have fun with it. I personally wouldn’t spend money on it, but chacun son goût, as Rene Black might say.
I have one more thing to add before I go. (Ahem.)
The fiction industry is divided into two separate yet equally important parts: the authors, who have the creativity and discipline to write books; and the editors, who bring those books in line with correct English usage. It’s okay if an author doesn’t have a perfect grasp of grammar and punctuation, because the copyeditors at her publishing house will correct any errors. Judging by the state of this book, PublishAmerica doesn’t copyedit, and doesn’t care if books are riddled with errors. I’m not saying I’ve never seen copyediting mistakes from a large New York publisher – far from it – but I’ve never seen a New York publisher release a book with this many problems. Authors, if you go with this company, you owe it to yourself to take care of the copyediting before you submit the book. Oh, and if you have a character who peppers his speech with French phrases, you definitely should have someone check the French.