by Cheryl Howe, historical (2003)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-5274-1
Cheyl Howe's debut, After The Ashes, is a very readable Western romance. Her follow-up, however, is a very disappointing clobbering together of pirate romance clichés. If I take into consideration that the Puritan heroine exhibits very little actual behavior that reflects her beliefs, this book sinks even lower in my estimation.
Our Puritan heroine, Felicity Kendall, decides to travel to Barbados to help her father there in the bookkeeping when her brother gets married and she is suddenly rendered redundant in the scheme of things. Daddy's business is on the rocks, and Felicity has big plans to save it. How she is going to do it, I have no idea. Upon her arrival, she discovers that Daddy has a new business partner, Lord Christian Andrews, whom she pegs as a repulsive scoundrel at first sight. Then he kisses her and she goes, well, he can't be that bad after all! (I'd expect a religious woman to pray for strength against temptations of sin instead of justifying the sinful thoughts, but hey - we're talking about a romance heroine. Enough said.)
Meanwhile, a nasty pirate has murdered Daddy's previous partner and Christian knows that this pirate is after him. He decides to sail away from Barbados for everyone's sake. Felicity however sneaks on board the vessel and discovers that Andrew here is actually "Drew Crawford" and from the evidence in her hands, Drew may be a slave trader and pirate to boot. Before she can do anything, the vessel has sailed and she's stuck in a pirate romance cliché. From the Native Silent Sidekick/Second-in-Command Ex-Slave Freed By Our Hero Fellow to the predictable deck antics to the usual "man, she's throwing up and our hero gets so turned on watching her" nonsense, The Pirate And The Puritan is only pure in how it is untainted by nothing out of the ordinary and formulaic.
But I must commend Felicity: she must be the only self-professed pious Puritan that spends nearly the entire story without saying a single prayer to God. Even towards the end when she's forced to choose between her life and her father's and the hero's and she laments that she is pathetic because she can't betray the hero, not once did any prayer escape her lips. Ms Howe talks a little about Felicity's feelings of trepidation when she gets all hot and bothered about sex and other carnal thingies related to Drew, but Felicity's thoughts come off more like typical heroine rantings instead of genuine religious confusion. It's hard to put on a pious air when God never seems to figure in the heroine's actions or thoughts. If the author doesn't want to offend anyone by inserting religious elements in her story, why then make a big fuss about the heroine being a Puritan? Why not The Pirate And The Petulant Missy?
The Pirate And The Puritan is a readable book if one can overlook the very predictable and formulaic story and characters. Readers looking for story featuring characters with strong faith, however, should look elsewhere. Compared to the author's emotionally charged debut, this one is a real let-down in every way.
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