Amber Quill Press, $7.00, ISBN 1-59279-500-5
Historical Romance, 2006
Darlene Marshall’s latest historical romance, Captain Sinister’s Lady, could have been a very good addition to the dying pirate romance subset of the genre. It features an intelligent and determined heroine, an adorable pirate hero with dreams of respectability, and plenty of nudge-wink injokes about the formula of the pirate romance.
Our heroine Amanda Stephenson is a widow. Her husband, who hadn’t been very successful in his business ventures, died leaving Amanda with no choice but to pull up her roots and head over from England to America with dreams of starting her own toiletry business. The women in Amanda’s family come from a long line of perfume and soap makers when they weren’t being mistresses to the King or Regent, and Amanda has inherited the recipes that have been improved on throughout the generations. She will stay with her late husband’s people for a while in America until she has convinced a few of them to invest in her planned ventures.
However, her dreams have to be postponed when her ship hits a reef in the Florida Strait and starts taking in water just when she is this close to reaching America. The state of the ship attracts the attention of the Zephyr, the ship of our hero Morgan Roberts. Morgan and his men are pirates, privateers, or scavengers, depending on who you ask. Morgan likes to believe that he and his crew have gone legit now and therefore they are scavengers, thanks for asking. So what they will do now is to “scavenge” the “ruins” of the ship that Amanda happens to be on. In his attempt to break down the door to the cabin that Amanda has barricaded herself in, Morgan tries to avoid being shot by her and ends up accidentally causing her to be hit hard in the head. He feels obligated to take her along with him and his men until she recovers. He then decides that since he’s already getting on with the years and he wants to take a decent woman to wife and all, and Amanda is also getting on with the years and not only that, she seems like a sturdy woman of strong constitution, so… why not court her?
Unfortunately, Morgan is truly a seafarer in every sense of the word. He has started to learn how to read and write a while ago and while he can now write decently, barring some glaring spelling mistakes, he’s not Cyrano de Bergerac. Luckily for him, heh, he has been reading all those romance stories of his time that feature daring pirates that make women swoon!
I really like Amanda as a heroine. She wins me over from the first page when it’s clear that she has a workable plan when she sets out to America. She’s a refreshing change from those stupid nitwits that board a ship after they spent the last of their money on the fare only to wander around like witless fools on a distant shore with no plan and no money. For a long time, she keeps her wits around her and acts like an intelligent, sensible heroine. Morgan can be high-handed at times but his bluster hides the fact that he is socially inept when it comes to women that he wants to woo and marry. He’s an adorable mix of the arrogant alpha-male and the mushy beta-hero.
However, while the main characters have a pretty good repartee system and decent chemistry, Ms Marshall has a problem with sustaining the momentum in her story. This is probably something that she and her editor have to work out in the future, but there are many moments in this story that has the author dragging out a scene unnecessarily for too long. A good case in point is how the story could have ended on a high note when Amanda accepts Morgan’s proposal but Ms Marshall furthermore drags the story on to include some gratuitous love scenes and some chit-chat moments that don’t do anything for the story. A little more judicious self-editing to cut out all those unnecessary scenes would have helped made Captain Sinister’s Lady more enjoyable!