by Fabio, historical (1993)
Avon, $4.99, ISBN 0-380-77046-6
I have to confess: I have no idea who Fabio is, except for the fact that he's on a gazillion old Johanna Lindsey and Laura Kinsale covers and every romance reader seems to think he's the most irritating joke on Earth since Barney. Fair enough. I've read only one book written by him (or rather, I suspect, by Eugenia Riley, his "collaborator") called Champion and the experience was as fun as poking myself in the eye with a blunt pencil. But never let it be said that I don't give authors a second chance. I read Pirate, and well... it's not bad.
That is, if one can get over the irritating and condescending I know you adore me tone of the back blurb, inside blurb, and that awful centerfold thing in the first page. No wonder people think romance readers are fat, chocoholic, sexually frustrated housewives. This book treats me as if I have nothing to do than to ovulate at the mention of the name Fabio.
Okay, the story. Our hero Fabio... er, sorry, Marco Glaviano is the feared, notorious pirate that commands the most polite pirate crew I've ever seen. One September 1742 evening, they raid a ship for plunder, but they also get two souvenirs for their trouble: pretty girl Christina Abott and her protective nanny Hesper (Marco, our noble hero, couldn't bear to leave this pretty child to the hand of a bloodthirsty, evil, rape-mad Spaniard pirate crew). Soon, Christina grows up and, besotted with Marco, sets to woo him. Marco, having to juggle between making pots of money, wenching, and handling a treacherous former crew's nasty antics, doesn't know what hit him.
Pirate isn't too bad for an undemanding candy floss read. The one-dimensional lead characters and secondary characters don't offend, they don't do anything stupid (or smart either), and every comfortable and predictable cliché and plot device is placed here liberally. It's autopilot reading, but it's a pleasant one.
And there's great humor too, although much is unintentional. Talk about narcissism - every page has lots of fancy descriptions of our hero - billowing hair, broad tanned muscular chest, and (let me check) ooh, tightly-muscled thighs that stretch the fabric of his tight breeches. It's so obvious how the author is following some rigid guidelines to make sure there is nothing objectionable about our Golden Hero. Marco is a pirate, but honey, he's kind, he speaks perfect English, he smells great, he has great hair, he is a great Lover Of Women, he has tree trunk thighs, and his crew can teach Polite Manners 101 to Emily Post. And they're pirates?
Pirate is bland, but it's not a bad sort of bland, really. It's inoffensive to the sensibilities - at the end of the day, Pirate may not be the Grand Epic it aspires to be, but it's a pretty pleasant way to spend the afternoon when there's nothing but soap opera on TV.
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