The Diamond King
by Patricia Potter, historical (2002)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13332-9

Oh, poor, poor Jeanette "Jenna" Campbell. No husband, a bluestocking, plain, and branded in the arm with some scar-like thing - now all she needs is a herbal pouch and she'll be the newest target in my Kill A Stereotype dart game. When her father finds her a husband from distant Barbados, what can she do? She packs up, brings along a loyal companion, and loses her chaperon when said chaperon encounters an accident. Now all we need is a pirate to hijack her ship.

So here comes Alex Leslie. A Scottish ex-Culloden survivor who spends his time saving Scottish kiddies and finding them new homes, he soon find himself playing privateer and plundering English ships with his royalist French second-in-command.

Needless to say, if you're British and you wish that for once in fiction that an English accent isn't equivalent to automatic villainy, stay far away. When the French, hitherto the only race lower than the British in the hierarchy of villains, band together with the Scots to pee all over the English, you know things can't get worse.

Wait, how about kids? Yes, two annoyingly upbeat kids who keep hiding in our hero's ship and causing lots of trouble? Precious kids who sound like matchmaking grannies or fraggle rock bastard spawns, whichever suit the author's whims? Meet Meg and Robin, two evil creatures who deserve to spend eternal torment in the worst of Dickensian industrial hells.

On their own right, Alex and Jenna are actually intelligent people with decent chemistry and sympathetic backgrounds. Sure, they deserve a romance to last a lifetime. But I can tell you, they can do better than this story that barely manages to rise above the same old humdrum plot blahdom. If I cheer The Diamond King to the finishing line, it's because those two lovebirds are pretty decent people who deserve better. This story? Ask me in two days time and I doubt I can remember much about it.

Rating: 78

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