The Diamond King
In general, pirate ships duke it out with harems for the Most Implausible Setting award, so it’s refreshing to read a pirate romance that seems a little more in touch with reality. Unfortunately, the reality of pirate ships seems to be long stretches of tedium interrupted by short bursts of activity. While it’s nice that the events in the book harken to many real-life events of the time period, at no time did I find The Diamond King difficult to put down. The hard part was picking it back up again.
Alex Leslie is a Scotsman with a grudge. He’s been on the run since the battle of Culloden, and he despises the British and their Scottish allies, especially the Campbell clan. After guiding a pack of orphaned children through the mist to new homes in the safety of France, Alex accepts an offer to become a privateer against the English. Unfortunately, the distinction between pirates and privateers is a fine one, and won’t matter at all as soon as England and France sign an impending peace treaty. Despite the risks, Alex agrees. He plans to take any profits to Brazil to purchase the newly discovered, undervalued diamonds found there.
Jenna – you guessed it – Campbell has problems of her own. Born with a large red birthmark on her arm, Jenna has been treated like a pariah for her “devil’s mark” all her life. Now her uncaring father has finally found a husband for her in Barbados. Jenna’s life has been so miserable that the idea of leaving it all behind doesn’t bother her overmuch. What does bother her, however, is that her unscrupulous father may not have informed her husband-to-be of her birthmark.
Alex sets sail with his crew while Robin and Meg, the oldest children in his care, stow aboard. In the fight to capture Jenna’s ship, Meg is badly injured. Despite Alex’s mistrust, Jenna quickly makes herself useful by tending to her. Meg is wounded about 50 pages in, and her health continues to be Jenna’s main preoccupation for at least 120 more pages. When they aren’t fretting over Meg, Jenna and Alec stew over their mutual attraction. Unfortunately, they discuss these feelings with everyone but each other. This feels like a book full of Long Separations even though Alec and Jenna spend most of the story on the same ship.
While I usually like books that are introspective, not action-oriented, it really depends on the quality of the introspection. Alex and Jenna spend far too much time inside their own heads, and it just isn’t an interesting place to be. This isn’t a horrible book, just a pleasantly dull one. There are no glaring problems that actively annoyed me – the characters are likable, the prose is fairly smooth, and the story seems well-researched. But moving through the book was like swimming in syrup: nothing ever inspired me to speed up to find what would happen next. There are definitely worse books out there, but there are better ones, too. I would like to see this author take bigger risks with her characters in another story. Even if the effort wasn’t entirely successful, it would be much more interesting, and if there any titles on her backlist that take those risks, I’d like to know their names.