Loose Id, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-546-3
Fantasy Erotica, 2007
“By all that’s holy, it is you,” Adam breathed. He’d been hoping the legends were merely that — legends. But they were real. Wonderfully, terrifyingly real.
“Not very holy, mate.” The pirate spoke with the rounded vowels of the South Seas. Full lips curved in a mischievous smile, teeth gleaming white in the darkness. Gold glinted in his smile as well. Adam tried in vain to find breath to speak to the apparition before him. He hadn’t been this nervous the first time he’d ordered men to battle.
“Who is it you think I am, then?” the pirate asked, setting his hat on the cot beside him.
“Captain Jaden Fox of the Grey Lady,” Adam forced the words out. He studied the pirate’s clothing and face, searching for something, anything, to tell him he was wrong.
“Ah,” the pirate said, coming to his feet. “It’s like that, is it?” He prowled close to the bars. “They’ve realized who they’ve got and sent you to parlay, eh?”
Adam drew in a breath, expecting to smell stale sweat and unwashed human, and perhaps things even less pleasant. Instead, a sharp, crisp breath of sea air filled his lungs. Surprise broke through his shock at meeting this man. “Not exactly. My father and brother have no idea who you are, nor would they believe me if I tried to tell them.” Just like they dismissed talk of the capricious sea Goddess Marita, who he was certain had sent the Grey Lady and her captain on this deadly errand.
“Then why are you here?” Fox asked, sprawling back on the cot like a sun-drunk cat.
“I’ve studied the legends, learned the lore, the oaths crews swear to their captains. I know about Telmarston, swallowed by the sea when those oaths were broken.” Adam licked his lips, tasting salt. “I wanted to tell you that only a handful of men know of the betrayals my father has ordered.”
“Including you,” the pirate said, tossing his hat back onto his foot.
“I found out tonight. Believe me, I’d have tried to stop them if I’d known.” He’d been hurting, unable to sleep and in search of brandy to help numb the pain when he’d overheard the conversation between Arthur and their father. Pain forgotten, he’d listened in growing horror as their plans had become dreadfully clear.
They were paying men to pretend to be pirates and get taken on as crewmembers, lying to the men that an oath given to the Drover’s Guild would protect them from breaking their oath to the ship’s captain. And it might have, if the oath wasn’t sworn on and witnessed by the sea Goddess Marita. It was an oath no one broke, so the pirates didn’t look for treachery. The Goddess showed no mercy to those who foreswore her.
The false pirates carried magical signs in their blood, letting guild mages track them. Guild ships would surround the pirate vessel and demand the surrender of the captain, promising to let the crew go unharmed. But as soon as the captain and the spy were onboard the guild ships, the pirate ship was shelled, sunk with all hands on board. It truly was a perfect plan. With no pirates to raid merchant vessels, Ralston was rapidly becoming the South’s premier port. Most of the imported goods were shipped inland, keeping the Chandler’s wagons busy, and allowing for three price increases in the past year alone. The Chandler family was becoming richer and even more powerful, and the only cost was the family honor. Though, if Adam was correct, that was about to change.
The piling of betrayal on top of betrayal had brought the crimes to the attention of the Goddess, and She’d apparently sent the Grey Lady and Captain Fox to claim vengeance. The ship and crew had been sent to the bottom of the ocean during a similar betrayal more than two hundred years ago. They hated oathbreakers.
The pirate spoke, jarring Adam from his memories. “You’d have stopped the guild from killing the pirate brethren?”
“At the very least, I’d have seen to it that the townsfolk knew what was going on.”
Fox laughed, a harsh, ugly sound. “And you think the good people of Ralston would rise up and tell the guild to stop?”
“Truthfully?” Adam asked, resting his shoulder against the bars in a vain attempt to relieve some of the strain on his left leg. When the pirate nodded, he continued, “I think some of the people would be angry, some would think the guild was right, and most wouldn’t care one way or the other, as long as they had food to put on the table. But at least they’d have made the choice.” He let more of his weight rest on the bars, almost hoping Fox would grab him and use him in an ill thought-out escape plan. He wouldn’t mind being wrong about the man’s identity, not if it would save lives.
Well, that was too quick… for a short 72 pages I better not write too long a review then.
I really wanted to like this book. I love me some butt pirates and there simply are not many, if any, gay pirate romances out there really. So here I was ready to love love love this book for all its pirate goodness. Add to that the fact the sexy hero of this story Captain Jaden Fox is a stand in for Jack Sparrow and baby we are cookin’ with gas.
The problem for me was not Jaden, our hero, or the pirate packed action story itself, but the real weakness for me was Adam Chandler, the young lame guy who tries to save Jaden’s life only to put his own at great risk. I had problems with him because he is presented to us at the beginning of the book shocked by his attraction to our handsome pirate captain.
The fact that in seconds of their meeting they were kissing each other just did not help make it at all believable. I mean there were more than enough places in this far too brief story that the author could have slowed the book way down and allowed the characters to fully ease into this relationship. It would have been highly understandable for Adam to be wary of our pirate’s intentions and uncertain about his own responses to Jaden.
There could have been several days added to the part where Jaden is waiting for his execution to allow more discussion and more time for Adam to not only decide to take the substantial personal risk to help the pirate but also to come to terms with his own strange feelings of attraction for Jaden.
After Jaden escapes and Adam is then rescued there was yet another point where the author could have spent more time showing us the pirate ship, the Grey Lady, and it’s crew of 53 by way of Adam’s exploring and getting to know his surroundings. Instead, Adam immediately jumps into a bunk with Jaden and throws his legs in the air, which again did not make much sense.
All this rush rush rush, from the first kiss to the first sex scene. I kept wondering how Adam, who had always seen himself as straight and admits to hearing nothing but degrading things about gay men and gay sex, could handle such a quick wham bam instant man on man relationship. There is no build or anticipation or real character development or small indications of some type of transition here. I felt I was missing Adam’s POV and scenes that would let me know his reactions to all of this and how he came to terms with the unexpected changes. Adam kept coming across distant, bewildered, and almost cold even when he is miraculously cured of his incapacitating injuries. The few things we did learn about his growing feelings were mentioned after the fact, in summary, not shown to us at the time of the events.
The dastardly villain was fun and sufficiently threatening and the world building was top notch. The story had many twists all combined nicely but the frantic pacing and the lack of chances to catch our breath and see how the characters handled these twists before the next round really hurt the romance for me.
I’ll give this butt pirate romance a C and hope Jill Knowles gives this unique world full of promise another spin only with maybe a bit more of a slow hand and some finesse.
I still recommend this for a quick but unfortunately very rare butt pirate fix.