The Pirate Bride
I had the hardest time rating this book. Mainly because I could not decide whether it was supposed to read as a parody of the old bodice rippers, or whether it actually was meant to be taken seriously. If this was meant to be a bit goofy, then that’s one thing. However, if this was supposed to be a serious attempt at historical fiction, it failed abysmally.The Pirate Bride read more like fantasy than actual historical fiction.
Normally when I rate a book so low, it is because it lacks readability. The Pirate Bride was actually a fast, easy read. I didn’t feel like I was pulling teeth just to get from page to page. There are times it is actually humorous. What confused me was whether it was meant to be funny, or if it was just laughably bad. Each section of the book starts with a little random pun or some other nonsense to introduce it. This was one of the first things that threw me because, in a book about Vikings, the chapter headings mentioned things like Law and Order and Johnny Depp. If you’re writing a historical setting and you want to swiftly pull your reader right out of the story, throwing out pop culture references is a great way to do that.
I am as big of a fan as anyone of the old “bodice rippers.” They’re kind of my guilty pleasure. From the description of The Pirate Bride, I thought it might be along the same vein. While it has some of the negatives of those books, it had few of the positives that I loved. I can handle some purple prose and ridiculous euphemisms if I get a great, heart-wrenching story. But while reading The Pirate Bride, I got so sick of the silly euphemisms I could have screamed. Seriously, every other discussion was about “seed”. The women wanted seed, the cows needed seed, and the men were spilling their seed here and there. It was just too much. Besides tiring of the discussion of it, I had some serious issues about how naïve these Viking men were. I say this as someone who is definitely not a historian, and I recognize that this book was set long before the days of Sex Ed classes, but it really seems like procreation had to be the first thing that the human race figured out. Our main Viking, Thork, was the only one of the group – which included fathers – to know how to avoid making babies. It was laughable.
If my previous statement about the discussion of “seed spilling” didn’t tip you off, then I will warn you outright. This book is composed of so much raunchy discussion that a lot of readers would probably toss it away. Between the sex-deprived women and the teenage-boy-like Vikings, half of the book was spent on ribald discussions of every sex act imaginable. At first, it was kind of funny in its absurdity, but by the time I had read about auto-fellatio and beastiality, I was just done with it. The overall tone of the book was so silly and bizarre that, when serious issues actually were discussed, it was disconcerting. The main character expressed that she had been the victim of rape in such a blasé fashion that it made me uncomfortable. She describes a part of what happened in pretty graphic terms and the news is taken without much concern by our leading man. To me it cheapened what she had said and made it just a plot device.
One of the first issues I encountered when I opened The Pirate Bride, is that it takes place on an island of all women. Our lead, Medana, and a collection of maybe one hundred other women have built a community on a hidden island and subsist on pirating. They only interact with men when they go out into towns to get pregnant. If there is an example of this near to Europe, where the story is set, I’d be interested in hearing about it. It sounded so outlandish that it fit better in a fantasy world than historical fiction. Our leading couple meets because the group of lady pirates kidnaps some Vikings to take home for stud. Of course, they somehow ended up with the most virtuous group of Vikings in history who are all opposed to leaving any children behind on the island. Medana is the only woman who seems totally opposed to interacting with the men and our main Viking, Thork, is totally opposed to siring bastard children. Yet, they find each other super sexy and are always being thrown into compromising situations. I’m sure you can piece together exactly how this story is about to go, because it came as no surprise to me.
In spite of all of the issues I had with this book, the final death knell for the rating was the total lack of romance. Yes, our sexy Viking and lady pirate meet. Yes, he coerces her into bed rather quickly. Yes, they have earth-shattering, mind-blowing, out of this world sex with each other from the word go, but there is nothing romantic. They bicker, the jump into bed over and over, and they declare their love, but there was no real emotion. While the idea of kidnapping Vikings and using them for breeding purposes vaguely reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, Prisoner of My Desire, this story had none of that tortured love. There was not a single moment in this entire book that gave me that little romantic twinge. There was copious sex, both in action and talk, but no emotion. In the end, I just couldn’t find anything in this to save the rating and I will have to go looking elsewhere for my tortured Viking heroes.