Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5277-6
Historical Romance, 2003
Jennifer Ashley’s The Pirate Next Door is a very charming book for the first half of the story. The hero Grayson Finley is very seductive indeed. But the book derails off the tracks in the second half and everybody in the story turns into an immature nincompoop. This is one book that remains in wacky mode for too long.
It all started when a pirate-turned-Viscount, Grayson Finley, moves next door to widow Alexandra Alastair. She overhears a nefarious plot and arrives just in time to rescue Grayson from being fatally suffocated by a noose. His old pirate hunter buddy-turned-enemy James Ardmore wants Grayson dead because of a long-standing feud involving a dead girlfriend that they both wanted (and one that Grayson impregnated) and Ardmore’s dead brother. Grayson is immediately besotted with Alexandra and inadvertently drags the woman into his messy problems. The resulting adventures make up the rest of the story in The Pirate Next Door. Oh, and there’s a daughter, Maggie, because every romance novel nowadays need to have at least one.
Grayson is a very seductive hero. Look up “rogue” under the dictionary and chances are, his photo is in the entry. Some of the things he says and does in this story are truly larger-than-life grand gestures of romance. Alexandra is on the whole a ditsy type – she has her moments of lucidity, but she’s also the usual woe-is-me who-will-want-me my-dead-husband-uurgh type whose personality is almost overwhelmed by Grayson’s larger than life presence. Nonetheless, despite Alexandra’s ditz personality, the sexual tension is really great and the repartee fired between the both of them are of prime romantic comedy quality.
But in the second half of the book, Alexandra lets herself be dragged into the two men’s really stupid games and that’s when I am sorely tempted to throw the book against the wall. It is very well to be charming, but Grayson so far has been charming but he shows very little good husband material. His treatment of the women in his past is quite awful, despite the author’s justification of his behavior by portraying those women as unworthy sluts and bimbos. Grayson keeps calling his stealing Ardmore’s woman stupid, but he seems unaware that his current feud with Ardmore is even more stupid. Yes, people died in those two men’s feud, but the entire nonsense has a schoolyard penis-measuring contest feel to it so I am hard-pressed to be patient with these people. And when Alexandra decides that she must save Grayson by going with Ardmore? Give me a break. Any sensible woman will tell these two idiots to go straight off the plank and don’t come back until they grow some brain cells that they need desperately, but no, not Alexandra, whose martyr complex rises to the occasion. Ugh.
So in the end, while I enjoy moments of irreverent nonsense and male bravado at first, I end up feeling that the author allows her male characters to indulge in immature behavior for way too long. By the last page, I feel as if I’ve sat through a Popeye and Brutus wrestling marathon while Olive Oyl watches in overly dramatic nerve-wrecked hysteria from the sidelines. Yes, Grayson is really charming and sexy when he’s doing his thing, but his lack of common sense and a sorry lack of maturity suggest that he’s more like a pleasant fling material as opposed to being someone a woman will settle down with.
Still, when this book is good, it is very good. Jennifer Ashley has a fun sense of humor that hits with unerring accuracy more than it misses, her pacing is really fine, and the way she brings out the lighter and absurd aspects of her story through humorous dialogues and comedic scenes is really well done. I look forward to see what she has to offer in the future. The Pirate Next Door isn’t a keeper for me, but it’s a book I don’t regret in reading in any way.