Alas, My Love

The Cad

The Challenge

The Chance

The Choice

The Conquest

The Devil's Bargain

Gypsy Lover

How to Seduce a Bride

The Return of the Earl

A Regency Christmas

To Tempt a Bride

To Wed a Stranger

 
For the Love of a Pirate
by Edith Layton
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-075786-8
****
Edith Layton can always be counted on to tell an entertaining tale, and For the Love of a Pirate is vintage Layton: two endearing characters, a spicy romance, and characters who linger in the mind long after the reading is over. This is one to savor.

Constantine Wylde, Lord Wylde, is ready to marry and get on with the business of a family. Heís been hotly pursued by any number of debutantes, and to that end, he proposes to Miss Charlotte Winchester, a proper, if somewhat icy, young lady of good breeding. Constantine was raised by his dour, straightlaced uncle to prize propriety above all else, and since love isnít involved in this match, heís quite contented.

Constantineís satisfaction is shattered by the arrival of a pistol-waving man who looks as though heís just stepped off the deck of a pirate ship. Captain Bigod, while not a pirate, has some bad news for Con. It seems that Conís late father, contrary to what his uncle taught him, was actually a rather hotheaded young man who fell into a career as a highwayman, and was killed during a robbery. Before his death, heíd promised that his infant son would someday wed the daughter of his closest friend, Bigodís son Jeremy. Jeremy eventually died as well, leaving behind a small daughter, whom Bigod has raised. Lisabeth is ďengagedĒ to Constantine, and what does Con intend to do about it?

Constantine reluctantly agrees to visit Sea Mews, Bigodís seaside estate, and explain to Lisabeth himself why they cannot wed. Surely sheís some plain-faced spinster who canít catch a man; else why would she have agreed to such a ludicrous scheme? Con is in for another shock when he discovers that Lisabeth Bigod is a lovely, vibrant, independent young lady with a keen intellect and a ready sense of humor. She also makes it clear that Constantine is a dull, straightlaced prig in her eyes, and she wouldnít have him on a platter.

So thereís the setup, in Laytonís clever fashion: a handsome, wealthy peer, used to female adoration, finds heís intrigued by a beautiful woman who thinks heís rather ridiculous and doesnít hesitate to let him know it. Con tells himself he really needs to get back to London, but he canít seem to tear himself away, especially when the villagers begin to share details of his fatherís life. Then there are the portraits of his father and great-grandfather that hang at Sea Mews. Seems that great-grandpa actually was a pirate, and Lisabeth is half in love with the dashing buccaneer in the painting. Constantine doesnít have that flair, that free spirit, that sense of devil-may-careÖor does he? As their attraction grows, Con finds that the man underneath his own proper exterior may be someone he doesnít recognize Ė but very much wants to set free.

Constantine and Lisabeth are memorable. Both are products of their upbringing, which sets the stage for the conflict. Lisabeth has been raised on a remote sea coast where smugglers ply their trade and people mostly turn a blind eye; her freedom to ride astride if she chooses and take to the sea in fishing boats (which may be difficult for some readers to accept) stand in sharp contrast to Conís formal manners and ton exterior. Heís shocked by her freedoms; sheís put off by his rigidity. Yet they sense the person underneath, and itís this attraction that Layton builds with skill.

The major character change is, by necessity, Conís to make. Lisabeth does try to fit herself into the world of London society, but freedom is not easily relinquished, even for love. Lisabeth knows this; Con discovers it. Thankfully, both act like adults and readers are spared tired plot contrivances like Big Misunderstandings. They do that most welcome of things, talk to one another.

Lisabeth may feel a tad too modern for some readers. If, however, you can accept that aspect of the story, For the Love of a Pirate is a wonderful romance about falling in love with someone who helps you find your true self. Lisabeth and Constantine are going to remain with you long after you close the pages of this book.

--Cathy Sova


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