Title: The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway
Author: Erica Ridley
Series: Dukes of War #6
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: Short novel
Available: Dec 1st
Captain Blackheart leads a simple life of roving the seas, wenching and treasure-hunting. He steers clear of romantic entanglements that could tie him to land. He shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his hands off the gently-bred lady he’s commissioned to abduct—except his cargo turns out to be feisty and passionate! She’d be a prize worth treasuring, if having her aboard didn’t jeopardize everything…
Clara Halton thought the worst loss she could suffer was to be stripped of her family, stricken with consumption, and left to die alone. Then she meets Blackheart. Their attraction is ruinous…and irresistible. When he delivers her like so much plunder, his mission is over — but hers has just begun. She’ll force him to acknowledge their connection, even if she must storm his ship to do it!
Spoilers, Spoilers Everywhere!
(and not a drop to drink – alas.)
Source: ARC from the author via NetGalley
This book is ridiculous. Sorry, but it is. I’ve been a fan of this series right from the start, and since both of these characters make appearance in earlier books (The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower and The Major’s Faux Fiancée) I was really looking forward to this one. Especially as it contained an older couple.
And the first section was just what I’d expect from this author and this series, with Blackheart/Steele travelling to pick up Clara. Her situation is desperate, he proves himself to have a heart beneath his piratical reputation and as they sail back to England together a tentative relationship forms. Sure, the whole idea that he has to share the bed with her every night – without anything actually happening – was pretty tenuous, but it was all sweet and promising.
Then they got home. Once the threads connecting their stories to the other books were tied off this book went bonkers. It didn’t just jump the shark, I think it leapfrogged a mammoth, tap danced across a blue whale, waltzed with a colony of penguins and declared itself King of the World! Because everything that happened afterwards was just… ridiculous.
Firstly, given its name Carlisle Manor is an estate, which normally has a few tenant houses hanging around and maybe a dower house, which would be perfect for Clara to move into. Since that isn’t the case, and her lungs are obviously damaged, why is living in London a good idea? Obviously it isn’t, but if she wants to stay near her daughter, why move down to Somerset? Don’t get me wrong, Somerset is a lovely county, I’m very fond of it, but it’s a fair trek from London, especially in the 19th century. None of those plans made sense. Nor did the fact that she sets off house hunting alone. I know she’s been away for a long while, but I’d have expected someone – a maid, her daughter, perhaps a solicitor or some sort of secretary to go with her. Yes, she’s a widow, but it would have been extremely bold for her to have been travelling alone. And potentially dangerous.
Of course, if she’d had company it would have made stowing away rather difficult, so I guess that’s why. Speaking of that stowing away moment… I know she hides for a bit, but since they’re sailing out of London, that means they have to get down the Thames first. Which was about 30+ nautical miles along a busy stretch of tidal river, until they reached the North Sea. I have to admit I’m not sure where the map actually led them, but I got the impression that they then sailed down the English Channel, which meant they passed the entire length of southern England, and there wasn’t one single place where they could have dropped off the stowaway, rather than take her into a potentially perilous fight with a bunch of pirates?
Apparently not. Instead Clara acts like a fifteen year old, Steele just wants to get her naked and the next thing we know it’s Treasure Island meets Pirates of the Caribbean. I have serious doubts about Clara’s rowing abilities, as a woman with bad lungs and no need for upper body strength, but all that bothers her is that it makes her arms ache. Add in the whole island adventure and I gave up on this book ever making any real sense.
Then comes they childish expectations, the demands, the refusal, the upset, the sudden seeing of the light and immediate u-turn on all previous thoughts. And then the enemy is sighted in Whitby. Whitby? When did the Crimson Corsair turn into Dracula? (No offence meant to Whitby, but it’s not quite the first place I associate with pirates. Well, not since the Vikings anyway.)
Also, was I the only person who was distracted by the ship’s name – Dark Crystal? I kept expecting Fizzgig to show up and bite someone. Which would definitely have improved everything for me. I also had my doubts about just how easily that ship sailed everywhere. He’s supposed to be a pirate! Yet he swans into London without a care.
As I said, ridiculous. The idea that Steele is a pirate is completely unbelievable from the start – then again, a real, genuine pirate isn’t really romance material. I never quite understood how he turned from a press-ganged lawyer into a privateer with his own ship either. The sailing happens in an eye-blink without any kind of weather getting involved, Clara has moments of really irritating childishness, the action is farcical, the romance is pretty boring and the whole Crimson Corsair plot line is a massive disappointment that doesn’t actually go anywhere.
Which all makes me kind of sad. The rest of the series has been fun and enjoyable, a little silly here and there perhaps, but romantic and sweet. This was just too silly for me, especially after it started so promisingly. If you’re looking for an adventurous romp that’s more fantastical than historical and definitely takes its idea of pirates from a certain Johnny Depp/Disney franchise, then you’ll probably enjoy this. There is adventure here and romance, but the silliness of both undermined the whole thing and it barely held my attention let alone won me over. Sorry, but I think I’ll be glossing over this one in future while I enjoy the rest of the series.
The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway is out December 1st.
Visit Erica Ridley for more details.