The Pirate Hunter
After reading The Pirate Next Door, I knew that I had to read the sequel featuring James Ardmore’s story. But even though I tore into The Pirate Hunter right as my copy arrived, I soon realized it could have used stronger editing; the tale is rougher than that of its predecessor and at times Ardmore’s strong character gets a little lost.
As the novel opens, Ardmore, the infamous hunter of pirates everywhere, is washed up on the shore of Haven Island. As it turns out, Diana Worthing, a woman he once kidnapped, lives on Haven with her father, a retired admiral. When they find Ardmore on the island, they take him in, along with a British lieutenant who washed up from the same shipwreck.
Diana is considered a scandalous widow in the eyes of proper society and she has retired to Haven with her deaf daughter to lead a quiet life. To say the least, finding the man who once kidnapped and almost seduced her does not please her, though she is very drawn to the man despite herself. As Ardmore recovers, he and Diana begin to engage in attempts to seduce one another almost from the start.
The first half of the book is set almost entirely on Haven. The lust-fest between Diana and Ardmore is basically fun, slightly campy writing, but it almost seems to come out of nowhere. It is obvious that these two have met before, but the circumstances are vague. From the time that Ardmore awakens on Haven, the reader almost feels as though she has been catapulted into the middle of a story – something which is a bit disconcerting.
In addition, Ardmore seems to be a different person here than he was in The Pirate Next Door. In the first book, even though Ardmore is semi-nefarious, he is sardonic, sharp-witted, oddly charming, and probably one of the most intriguing and enjoyable villains I’ve found. In this book, he maintains his supreme self-confidence, but much of his bad boy appeal is not in evidence until close to the end. While The Pirate Next Door is a light comedy and The Pirate Hunter obviously meant to be a more dramatic tale, Ardmore loses much of the quick wit and charm that distinguished him in the first book. There are still some entertaining flickerings of the old Ardmore in evidence here, but much of the time he seems to be simply a generic hyper-horny Alpha male.
However, in spite of my misgivings, there are parts of this book that really work. Even though the novel is not as much of a comedy as her earlier books, Ashley maintains enough of her trademark tongue-in-cheek purple prose to showcase the unique voice that makes her books campy and quite fun to read. The author also does an excellent job of involving the primary couple from the prequel to this novel who, instead of being used as two-dimensional props, instead play an important role in the story.
Diana and Ardmore also have some good moments of their own, and thankfully, lightness and wit are not entirely absent here. The initial “I just want to tear my clothes off and jump on you” scenes seemed a bit out of place at the very beginning of the book, but scenes later in the story between the two showed them in a better light. Diana is a pleasantly strong heroine and Ardmore’s sharp intelligence – so intriguing the first time around – becomes more evident further into the book.
While the plotting was far too jumpy for this to be my ideal vision of Ardmore’s story, The Pirate Hunter still had its fun moments. The story is a bit closer to being merely average than I had hoped, but I am still glad I read it. Those who have not read The Pirate Next Door may feel a little lost as you jump into the middle of the action, but the rest of you will probably find some moments to enjoy in your latest journey on Ashley’s high seas.