MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1878-1
Historical Romance, 2016
What is with the author’s covers these days? The guy on this one doesn’t look like a buccaneer at all, and while I’m all for breaking stereotypes – who says only brawny dudes with eye patches can be buccaneers? – this guy looks like he’s posing for the cover only because his mother threatened to burn all his sexy lingerie and film the whole thing to be put up on YouTube if he didn’t comply.
A Buccaneer at Heart is written to be as stand alone as much as possible, but the plot takes off from The Lady’s Command, so it may be a good idea to read that one first. Both books are similar in that they are both heavier on the mystery than romance, so if you don’t like that one, you may have a hard time getting into this one as well. Still, this one is a bit better than the previous book, if that’s any consolation.
We are still looking into the racket of slave traders in Freetown, which is a town in West Africa. The white people are the ones missing, which is why you see the colonists scrambling to stop the traders and calling London for help, snort. Because his brother got married in the previous book, Captain Robert Frobisher has to take over the investigation. You know how it is – despite the earth-shattering urgency of the fact that someone is kidnapping white people, oh the horror – it is more important to stay home and spawn as many future heroes as possible with one’s new wife. So, Robert goes off to Freetown with his crew of capable bobbleheads who are very well-trained in nodding at everything he says.
Meanwhile, one of the white people that went missing is our heroine Aileen Hopkins’s brother. She comes from a family steeped in maritime legacy, and all her brothers – captains and such – are currently too far away in a land called Plot Contrivance to come to help. It is up to Aileen to look into the matter. She’s a capable, take-charge type, however, so she feels that she’s up to the task. When she hears that Robert is investigating the matter on behalf of the Crown, she wonders whether he’d make a good ally. Alas, he on the other hand has been ordered to send her packing to somewhere safe…
The hero and the heroine only meet on page 149. I’m just letting you folks know. Interestingly enough, for me at least, the story is actually picking up steam when the hero and the heroine are both working separately – the whole thing deflates once they meet, and I feel like we have gone from the original The Powerpuff Girls to the hideous recent reboot. It’s the romance – the whole thing is so perfunctory, it’s not even funny. Really, the whole thing goes from hissing and spatting to “Surprise! Kiss!” and then it’s all love. Also, while I know the overprotective whackjob hero thing is the author’s shtick, it’s tiresome to follow Robert and realize that he never really respects Aileen’s admittedly admirable capabilities in a way that feels genuine. His first reaction, for too often, is basically telling the woman to run off to somewhere safe so that the big boys can wave their big sticks around. The robotic, going through the motions romance kills a story that is otherwise shaping up to be an interesting tale that comes complete with atmosphere and scenery. The story is still readable all the way to the end, but much of the magic has gone, leaving behind a story that always seems to be missing that special something kind of feel.
Amusingly enough, it is Robert’s constant underestimation of Aileen – assuming that she’s a shallow, hee-hee help-me kind of person just because she is a woman – that causes him to take a longer time than he initially expected to track her down. Alas, he doesn’t learn from that. As with all the other heroes from this author, he is often determined to push the woman back into the kitchen for her own good to the point of idiocy at times.
Also, be careful of the repetition. I suspect that there is no need for this book to be slightly over 500 pages long if the author had cut down on her characters’ repetitive mental babble. For example, Aileen will say early in the scene that she needs to trail a suspect to locate her brother, she has no other good option. Subsequently, every time she does something in that scene, she’d tell me that it is something she has to do, to locate her brother. When she has finished doing whatever she is doing, she would go, good, she has to do that, you know, because it’s the best way to locate her brother. Ugh. It’s the same with Robert and various other secondary characters. They can repeat the same things so often, to the point that I wonder whether this book has even been edited. On the bright side, at least the love scenes don’t go on for millions of pages of fragmented short sentences. One step forward, two steps back.
Anyway, A Buccaneer at Heart is, as I’ve said, readable, and it has a capable heroine that is actually quite charming. The mystery is fine, although there are still more books to go in this series, so don’t expect closures so soon. But the romance is join-the-dots-go-1-2-3 material, and the author’s writing here can get on some readers’ nerves. It has its charms, but it also has its share of flaws – thus, it being the epitome of a three-oogie read.