My Wicked Pirate by Rona Sharon
(Zebra Debut, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-821-78057-3
***
New author Rona Sharon offers readers a throwback novel with My Wicked Pirate, to the good old days when men were pirates and women tossed their tresses about. The fact that the plot develops into a complex story rich in historical detail lifts this book above the humdrum.

Lady Alanis, granddaughter of a duke, is on her way to Kingston, Jamaica to find her fiancé. Viscount Silverlake has been absent for three years and Alanis is tired of waiting for him. Her ship is attacked and the Italian pirate known as Eros, or “The Viper” captures Alanis. Eros wants Alanis as a ransom for his sister, Jasmine, who is being held on Jamaica by none other than Silverlake.

Alanis and Eros are quickly attracted to one another, but Alanis is determined to wed Silverlake. When they reach Jamaica, they’re both in for a surprise. Jasmine isn’t a hostage – she’s in love with Silverlake, and he loves her in return. That’s not enough to safeguard Eros, though, and after a knife battle with Silverlake in which Eros is wounded, Silverlake announces that Eros will hang. To save him, and because she’s not about to give up her dream of seeing a bit of the world, Alanis helps Eros to escape.

Soon Eros and Alanis are bound for adventure in Morocco and other places. Eros has a secret: he’s not just a pirate, he’s an Italian nobleman who left the treachery of the Italian court for a life of freedom on the high seas. But he can’t outrun his past forever, and when it does catch up with him, the plot becomes considerably more complex.

Eros is presented as a good guy in pirate boots who has had his pick of beautiful women around the world, yet takes one look at Alanis and falls head over heels for her. I might have bought this if Alanis had been a character worth falling for, at least initially. She’s one of those tiresome heroines who vacillate between love/lust and hate, usually when she’s forced to face the strength of her feelings or her own immature thinking. An example in point: Alanis leaves a ball to meet Eros on a beach at midnight and escape the island. After traveling halfway across Jamaica, it seems, she finds Eros and can’t wait to leave and see the world. Then a rowboat full of Eros’s men show up to take their captain to the ship. Alanis takes one look at the men and realizes she’ll be living with pirates (how stupid is this woman?) so she declares she’s changed her mind. Eros, who has had enough of her nonsense, dumps her in the rowboat and orders his men to get going. This sets up the next section, where Alanis spends many pages declaring she “hates, no, loathes” Eros, etc. It’s really just a convenient ploy to delay the sex, and it makes Alanis look like a nitwit.

Which is too bad, because Eros is a decent sort, and certainly a sexy guy. While Alanis is pulling her shrieking virgin act, he’s biding his time. At first he says he’ll return her to England, but when Alanis calms down a bit, he agrees to take her with him to North Africa instead. Alanis refuses to sleep with him and he’s a bit to much of a gentleman to force her, so this gives them time to get to know one another on a deeper level than just bedmates. There will be many scenes of “almost sex”, interrupted by one thing or another, and then the author must have gotten as tired of it as I did, because she shifts gears and focuses on the plot.

Here the novel hits its stride. Eros is battling several truly nasty enemies, and King Louis XIV of France may or may not be on Eros’s side. This historical detail is presented vividly, and the Italian/French setting isn’t one used in romance very often. Even the period – the early 18th century – felt refreshingly unused. I was engrossed in the second half of the book. Thankfully, Alanis starts to grow up from spoiled young heiress to a woman who realizes just what she and Eros stand to lose. Eros, too, must face the depth of his feelings and his suppressed desire to return to his native Italy and set things to rights. The story twists and turns, and as the plot becomes more complex, both characters are forced to mature, becoming far more interesting as they do. They also consummate their relationship, and the sex is quite hot.

I hope Ms. Sharon’s next book has better editing. Not only does she fall into the trap of overdescription, but there’s a bad case of Adverb-itis, as well. These are sometimes combined in unintentionally hilarious sentences, such as “her unbound hair fell glamorously to her waist”. Then there is the anachronistic dialogue. Would 18th century pirates really say things like “Now who would have guessed a blonde would have so much sense in her lovely head?” Guess Eros knows a lot of good blonde jokes. Or Alanis’s grandfather, the Duke, saying, “Put a lid on it, Silverlake!” I don’t think so.

My Wicked Pirate is a decent first effort from an author with great potential. If she can polish her prose to match the complexity of her plot, I have no doubt her future books will end up on many a keeper shelf. If you’ve missed the swashbuckling pirate sagas of the good old days, this one’s a bargain.

--Cathy Sova


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