The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-79747-X
In the mood for a romance that can only be described as "fun"? Then check out The Pirate Lord. This book reminds me of taking a driving trip to Chicago. You know what's at the end of the line, but sometimes unexpected things happen along the journey. Delightful things, things that make you smile. Things that make you glad you didn't take a plane.

Sara Willis, stepsister to the wealthy Earl of Blackmore, feels no place in Society fits her. Instead, she has followed her heart and her mother's example and become a reformer. Sara's target at the moment is the terrible conditions found aboard transport ships, those that carry female convict off to Australia. Sara, in order to get the full story, decides to travel "incognito" aboard one of the ships as a missionary schoolteacher for the convicts and their children.

Although her brother tries to stop her, he eventually relents when Sara presents her case. He does, however, secretly enlist the aid of a servant named Peter to travel aboard as a sailor and keep an eye on Sara.

All is well at first. The prisoners, while suspicious, accept Sara readily enough and even begin to learn a few things. Then the unexpected happens. The ship is boarded by pirates, the crew is forced to leave, (except for Peter, who stows aboard) and the pirates kidnap the women. This is the work of the dreaded Pirate Lord, Captain Gideon Horn.

Gideon has an unusual purpose in mind. He's tired of life on the high seas, and his men are of a like mind. They have plans to settle an uninhabited island and create their own retirement colony, where nobody will bother them. Trouble is, the men want wives. And who is going to want to marry a pirate? Only a woman whose future looks even more bleak, Gideon reasons. A woman being transported to Australia and a life of work or prostitution… that might be the ideal candidate.

Of course, Gideon didn't count on the fiery Sara being aboard. When she institutes a mutiny of sorts among the women, Gideon is nonplussed. It doesn't help that he's beginning to realize she'd make an ideal wife – for him.

Please don't dismiss this book on the basis of the plot premise, which may seem a little, um, light. I admit, when I first got the book, I thought, "Pirates? Kidnapping a ship of women? Because they want wives? " But I was charmed. This is the type of romance that gives me a big inner grin.

Sara is a strong character, as she should be. The author outlined her carefully and then never deviated from the plan. She's bright, courageous, and has a good deal of common sense, which she uses. I liked her. Gideon is a little harder to get a handle on, perhaps because we don't meet him until a little later in the story. His bewilderment at finding himself saddled with an unexpected guest and his determination to find a way to make Sara his wife are believable and endearing.

My only quibble was with the ending, which wrapped things up as neatly as a Christmas present. There were a few too many conveniences for me, and long-time issues are resolved within a few pages. Sort of like hitting rush-hour traffic in Chicago. It's an irritating way to end a pleasant journey.

But overall, The Pirate Lord is lighthearted fun and a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to most readers. And if you enjoy it, I sense a spin-off in the works.

--Cathy Sova

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