Desert Isle Keeper
The Pirate and I
The Pirate and I is a delightful, romantic and utterly charming novella set in between books two and three of Katharine Ashe’s current Devil’s Duke series. Our reluctant pirate is Charlie Brittle, and his true love is Esme Astell, a perfumer whom he once knew in another – better – life. Fans will recognize Charlie – of Brittle and Sons, Publishers – and a few other characters who make cameos in this story, but it isn’t necessary to read the earlier books to enjoy it. Although they are all EXCELLENT, and I recommend you read them anyway. Stat. Just saying.
As the story opens, Esme Astell is happily reflecting on the opening day of the Society of Perfumers annual meeting. She’s worked in a London perfume shop for the past four years and despite helping the shop increase its sales by 400%, her employer has refused to increase her meager salary. She’s spent the majority of her life’s savings to get to the meeting in Edinburgh, and is determined to gain the attention of a pre-eminent Parisian perfumer and earn an apprenticeship with him. The first day doesn’t go quite as planned – she broke three bottles of scent – but she’s happy, confident and enjoying her walk home when she’s startled by the sound of footsteps pounding up behind her. A man runs past with a group of policeman hard on his heels. She’s frozen in place as she watches the man circle back and then squeeze into a hiding place directly across from her. The unlikely duo stare at each other and as they hear the policemen returning, the man, using only his eyes, seems to implore Esme not to give him up. For reasons she’s reluctant to examine too closely… she doesn’t – and she’s startled (and thrilled) when the man then grabs and kisses her. But even more shocking? Is the sudden realization that she recognizes his scent. It’s Charles Brittle, the book publisher she pined after for years – and who vanished without a trace two years ago.
Charles Brittle didn’t mean to kiss his savior but couldn’t seem to help himself. When she whispers his name as he’s running off, he’s shocked to recognize her voice – it’s Esme Astell, the woman he secretly pined after for years while he worked for his father in London.
Esme can’t believe Charlie is alive. She secretly mourned him after his disappearance two years ago, but when he surprises her a second time that night – climbing in through her window, telling her he needs help – her happiness at seeing him again is tempered by her irritation over his presumption and casual reappearance with no explanation for his absence. She immediately goes on the offensive, but Charlie doesn’t give her any answers and instead tells her to meet him later that evening. The chemistry between them is intense – Esme can’t stop looking at Charlie and admiring his new, muscular body, long hair and beautiful eyes, and Charlie can barely keep his hands to himself and not kiss his beautiful Esme all over again – but he reins himself in, climbs out the window and waits for her to arrive for their meeting. She doesn’t come.
Charles lies in wait for Esme when she departs for the meeting the following morning and after a ‘spirited’ conversation about her non-appearance the previous evening, negotiates with her for her help. Esme wants to know where he’s been for the past two years, and when he surprises her by promising to tell her, she agrees to meet him later that night. Esme spends the afternoon focused on perfumes, determinedly not (ahem) thinking about Charlie, his muscles or THAT KISS, and Charlie bides the time honing his plan and determinedly not (ahem) thinking about Esme, her beautiful lips and body, or THAT KISS. The rest of The Pirate and I unfolds much like that first twenty-four hours: Charles mistakenly assumes Esme will do what he asks, she invariably does something different, Charlie gets frustrated but can’t help admiring her sense of adventure and independent spirit, and then they both spend time apart longing for each other.
When they finally meet, Charles sketches in only the barest details about his past and how he became a pirate – much to Esme’s disappointment. She asks questions, but because there’s nothing happy or romantic about his past two years, he deftly dodges them. Eventually Charlie reveals why he needs Esme’s help: it’s slightly bonkers and strangely charming, but Esme can’t resist the prospect of adventure in the company of this new version of Charlie and can’t help being amused by his helpful band of mini-pirates.
This is such a delightful and sweet pairing! Esme is bright, beautiful, wise and wonderful. She left her beloved family behind to find a position in London, and works diligently to pave the way for them to eventually join her there – or in Paris. Confident in her talent, brave and loyal, she secretly longed for Charlie for years, and finds herself even more deeply attracted to him now. She’s also very aware of her physical response to him and more than willing to take advantage of his inability to resist kissing or touching her. And Charlie – oh reader! He’s delicious. Quiet and reserved on the outside, he’s chock full of lust and wicked, naughty thoughts whenever Esme is near. He’s a kind and attentive father figure to his band of ragtag pirate/helpers, and the perfect foil to Esme’s impetuous, mischievous side. There are twists, shenanigans, secret hotel rendezvous and tearful goodbyes – and also some of the hottest and sexiest love scenes Ms. Ashe’s has ever written.
I love romance novels largely because of the happily ever afters, but I think the resolution of this darling novella is one of my favorites. It’s all a bit too neat and tidy BUT I LIKED IT ANYWAY. Ms. Ashe masterfully delivers all that you hope for – and more. It’s a romantic fairytale that I never wanted to end.