Once A Pirate
by Susan Grant, historical/time-travel (2000)
LoveSpell (Timeswept), $4.99, ISBN 0-505-52364-7

I have heard a lot of this book, and I really did try to scale down my expectations. I don't want a repeat of my experience queuing up for Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (now that's a story for another day). But it's hard, so maybe whoever reading this should take into account of my (unrealistically, perhaps) heightened expectations about Once A Pirate.

Fighter pilot Lt Carly Callahan is flying her F-18C in a borderline daredevil style - her own way of exorcising a bad boyfriend, I guess - when her plane goes out of control. Down to the oceans below she goes. She is rescued by some crazy idiots dressed up like pirates. Sure, the "pirate captain" Andrew Spencer looks like a gift from heaven to help her overcome her bad-ex blues, but first, let her at the radio, will ya?

Imagine Carly's horror when she realizes that these men aren't rich spoilt brats playing at recreating pirate scenarios. No, she has somehow traveled back to the early 1800s.

And Andrew has an Agenda. You see, bad cousin Richard has framed and set him up for a nasty Plot, and he wants revenge. And he mistakes our heroine as the intended, dim-witted bride-to-be of his repulsive cousin. So what to do?

Once A Pirate boasts several must-have things any pirate romance wishing to assimilate into the crowd, well, must-have:

1. A wise shipmate who immediately notices that she's "the one" for our captain and starts matchmaking.
2. Polite, well-mannered crew, except for one nasty scumbag who tries to rape our heroine. Don't ask how he ends up with the crew.
3. Hero with a commitment problem, yet he just can't stop aching for her. It's the hair, you see.
4. The obligatory revenge plot on a singularly one-dimensional ugly, bloated pig of a man. Who tries to rape our heroine too.

I am quite disappointed to see that Once A Pirate doesn't try much harder than to follow the formula of Pirate Romance 101 strictly. There's little plot twist I haven't read before. Sure, the excitement of swashbuckling yee-ha's are plenty, but without the emotional intensity needed to carry a romance, I can't really get involved in Once A Pirate.

But I must say I'm pleased with the character development of Carly. She starts out a typical Contemporary Heroine - bad ex-boyfriend, mistrust of men, weepy-eyed over emotional things which is passed off as a virtue nowadays, ugh. But she soon transforms into a capable, clear-headed woman as befits her role as a heroine. Now that's a fine thing, I must say.

The author clearly has an ability to create great characters and poignant romance, if the occasional glimmers of originality in the story are of any indication. Once A Pirate is an above-average first book, but nonetheless, it's still just one of the many almost indistinguishable pirate romances out there.

Rating: 77

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