A Pirate of Her Own
by Kinley MacGregor
(Harper, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-108711-4
***
A Pirate of Her Own might have received a better rating had the heroine not been such a letdown. Whether or not it is realistic to place independent women in post-revolutionary America, once the plot was in motion, it became a disappointment to see the heroine in a snit cutting up sails to make curtains or, worse, taking coquette lessons in order to snare her man. It works, too, except, that once she gets him, she really is not so sure she should stay with him.

Serenity James's problems begin in 1793 with publication of an article in her father's newspaper, The Savannah Dispatch, regaling the exploits of a ship's captain involved in freeing impressed sailors from the British navy. Since his identity is unknown, for his protection, she refers to him by his acronym, the Sea Wolf, but reveals just enough to cause the subject of her article to believe she knows his identity. Captain Morgan Drake comes ashore and heads for the newspaper office, intent on silencing the reporter. It's her birthday, and Serenity assumes the pirate appearing in the newspaper offices is a joke gift from an associate.

A series of mistakes and the interference of Jacob Dudley, a fearsome fellow ex-pirate and sailor, result in Serenity being kidnapped and loaded onto the Sea Wolf's ship, without his knowledge. The bulk of this book occurs during Serenity's "imprisonment" on the ship.

Jake delivers an unconscious Serenity to Morgan's ship, then stays aboard. In the meantime, Jake's loyal, unrelentingly happy wife, Lorelei, spends the remainder of the book at home tending the hearth and awaiting her husband's return. All in a day's, or month's, work, I gather.

After some time at sea, including a sea battle without real drama, Serenity creates a major disturbance when she discovers her hero is indeed a former pirate. She is horrified and treats him with great disdain. After the ship's arrival at the former pirates' Caribbean paradise of Santa Maria, Serenity becomes best friend and confidant of Morgan's deceased wife's sister, Kristen. While Serenity wavers about what she wants from Morgan, Kristen does not. She sets her sights on getting Morgan and Serenity together for the good of her lonely, former brother-in-law.

A Pirate of Her Own has a few elements which point toward a successful piece of romantic fiction: a very sympathetic hero, an attraction between the hero and heroine which initially makes sense, a big conflict between Serenity's desire for a respectable life on land clashing with Morgan's longtime naval background. Morgan emerges as a savvy male, careful to avoid misleading Serenity, caring about men and women equally.

The book's major flaws are the lack of a credible, sympathetic heroine and a terminal case of bad timing. Set in the decade just following the American Revolution, this is no time-travel fantasy, though sometimes I wished it were, as I attempted to make sense of Serenity's actions. After a very strong opening, once aboard Morgan's ship most of Serenity's actions make no sense. And Serenity and Kristen becoming instant fast friends and using Kristen to train her in feminine wiles is improbable and not very interesting.

After dropping veiled hints about his former marriage, the reality is a let-down. Certainly, it was not a situation that would create a tormented hero, despite MacGregor's efforts to do so. How Morgan winds up attracted to Serenity is difficult to fathom.

A Pirate of Her Own is very uneven, though at times it is a fun read. Perhaps the pirate fanciers among us will appreciate this book more than I did.

--Sue Klock


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