Perils of the Heart

The Pirate Next Door

The Pirate Hunter
by Jennifer Ashley
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5280-6
James Ardmore is a legendary pirate hunter who is considered an outlaw in England and wanted for numerous crimes against the Royal Navy. During his exploits the year before, he had abducted Diana Worthing for a couple of days to get some information about her husband, Sir Edward Worthing, one of the most famous captains of the Royal Navy. The abduction ended with a passionate kiss between the two before James abruptly let her go. Now, James finds himself lying facedown on a beach after the ship on which he was held captive sank. One of the ship’s crew, a young lieutenant, was kind enough to loosen his chains so he could escape. James returned the favor by saving the lieutenant when he saw him floating unconscious in the water just moments later.

It turns out James and the lieutenant (whose name he doesn’t know) are on the shore of Haven, the elusive island James has been looking for. It just happens to be the island where Diana lives with her father, Admiral Lockwood, and her young daughter, Isabeau. Too much of a coincidence for my taste, especially when Diana herself finds James lying face-down on the shore with a terrible injury that’s still bleeding. Diana isn’t happy to see him, however. She’s still considerably angry over the abduction a year ago.

Diana nurses James and the lieutenant back to health, with the help of a couple of servants. The young lieutenant doesn’t remember anything prior to being found on the beach and they end up calling him Lieutenant Jack. James has found himself quite attracted to Diana since their kiss the year before and doesn’t hide his desire for her in the least. But, Diana and her father are hiding a secret on the island that James has had a suspicion about for some time (hence the reason he had been looking for Haven). James is determined to crack the secret of the island, but is worried when he does Diana will hate him. Not that she doesn’t already.

Diana is a bit strange. She denies the attraction she feels for James because she hates him. So she does what any woman in this situation would do and pulls a gun on James and makes him drop his pants at the first chance she gets. I can understand how some dislike for a person can be paired with mild desire. But sheer hatred, in my opinion, would negate any attraction there might be. So it was difficult for me to accept the fact that Diana kept falling into near-naked embraces with James during the first half of the book, only to break away violently moments later because of her abhorrence of him.

The story and romance are both complicated by several interesting characters, one of which is Diana’s now-dead husband, Sir Edward Worthing. Just about everyone, including Diana, shared a complete dislike for this man who, although he’s dead, is still a major character in the story. Diana’s daughter, Isabeau, also complicates things. She is a seven year old who is deaf and can only speak in signs. She likes James even though Diana doesn’t. And, Lieutenant Jack plays the role of a competing love interest for Diana. Even though he doesn’t remember who he is or what his name is, it’s obvious by his nature that he is an honorable and kind person who seems to adore Isabeau. Diana’s father would love to see her marry him.

The story is very slow to get moving. The first half or so takes place entirely on this small island. Nothing of any real importance or interest happens until James and Diana leave the island, when the real action starts. From that point the story takes a turn for the better and becomes exciting enough to keep the reader interested until the end. Toward the end there are a couple of surprise twists that are completely unexpected.

Overall, The Pirate Hunter is an acceptable read if you’ve read the previous book, The Pirate Next Door and are interested in what the characters are up to now. Otherwise, I’d pass it up for something better.

--Tracy Merritt

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