Into His Arms
by Paula Reed, historical (2004)
Zebra, $3.99, ISBN 0-8217-7723-8


Yes, you read right: this book costs $3.99. Zebra is hoping that the low cover price of Paula Reed's debut Into His Arms will boost this author's career. To be honest, Zebra has such a bad reputation among readers - many of who stubbornly refuse to buy Zebra and LoveSpell/Leisure books even as they keep moaning about the homogenous state of Avon's romances - that I'm not sure whether this plan will work even if the book is sold at $1.99. Still, it's a nice effort on Zebra's part. It doesn't hurt that I've paid only $3.99 for this book as the disappointment isn't as acute as it would be if I've paid $6.99 for this baby.

This book isn't that bad, to be honest, but it's nothing to get too excited over either. Into His Arms is a standard pirate romance where the heroine stows away at our privateer's ship and the usual overdone antics ensue, from predictable "Where should I sleep?" issues to tedious commitment issues.

Our Puritan heroine Faith Cooper is in a dilemma. She is about to marry Aaron Jacobs, but she isn't too keen on doing so as she is holding out for love. How nice of her. The new minister Owen WIlliams also has his eyes set on her, however, and he is pressing her parents for her hand in marriage. Her parents, being Very Good Puritans, accepts Owen's suit even if that man is obviously someone who will make a cruel husband to their daughter. Faith feels that she has no choice but to stow away on a privateer's ship so that she can find her aunt in Jamaica.

Our hero Geoffrey Hampton discovers Faith nearly expiring in his ship. That silly woman is dying of thirst, scared of rats, starving, and terrified of the dark - I wonder why she doesn't just run off to Mexico instead. Because Geoff's men want to have their turns at her, Geoff is forced to keep her in his cabin at all times, using the Captain's Rights thingie as an excuse to keep them at bay. Geoff's Very Kind Second In Command stereotype buddy wants Geoff to make sure that Faith is pampered and mollycoddled. Geoff is crazy about her. She wants to sleep on the floor because she doesn't like the idea of sleeping on the same bed with a man. Yeah? She should have thought of that before she runs and hides in a ship filled with rough men.

Into His Arms develops in the same manner as too many pirate captive/shipboard romances tend to do, making this a very predictable read. It tries to bring up the issue of religion (the heroine is Puritan, after all) but the author ends up instead using religion as an excuse to introduce some contrived conflicts to make sure that the couple remains in conflict after they have done the wazoo. At the same time, Faith and Geoff are stock Pirate and Virgin characters but they are also curiously chemistry-free, with the sexual tension in this book at a very low level. The plot is already too much on the predictable side, the characters are dull, and the lack of sexual tension doesn't improve matters one bit.

Still, Ms Reed has a nice voice and the story moves along to a closure that's satisfying on the whole. There are some well-written scenes, particularly some strong emotional scenes late in the story, that suggest that Ms Reed can have some powerful cards hidden up her sleeves. The trick here is her using those cards well. Into His Arms suffers from a dire state of predictability and low-key sexual chemistry between the main characters, but I won't be too adverse to reading more books by this author.

Rating: 74


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