I’m currently working on a story that is partly set at sea. It’s not a huge part, and I grew up on boats so it’s not an unfamiliar setting, but I’m struggling on writing a squall that nearly capsizes the ship. It’s not the mechanics I’m having an issue with so much as the pacing, so I thought hunting down some other scenes of near-shipwrecks might help me. Since I’m writing romance, I figured Robinson Crusoe wasn’t going to quite get me there, either. No, I had to break down and get some good ole Fabio-rocking-the-cover pirate romance.

I found this little gem on Google Play (it’s available on Amazon, too, but I get free credits on Google so that’s my go-to). Its cover is…less than amazing, but its few ratings were excellent and its price, $2.99 on sale for $2.51, was right what I wanted to pay for an experiment that would probably be fruitless.

A curate’s daughter with an iron will to survive. A ruthless pirate with a secret identity. Bronwyn Barlow and Captain Jon Stag clash wills aboard the Black Adder. With the life of Bronwyn’s little brother at stake, a deal is struck–join the pirate captain in his bed at six bells every night that the Black is at sea. Set against the backdrop of a mad king and a revolutionary war in a far-off land, Bronwyn and Jon enter into a sensual world of discovery that leads to love and heartbreaking separation. 

Goodreads description for The Pirate Lord

On the research side of things, it was fruitless. No capsizes, no shipwrecks, no rough seas. Also, I get the feeling after reading this that I may not have any luck with this endeavor. I’ve got a couple other books I may check out, but I’m thinking most romance authors don’t want to waste the time figuring out the mechanics involved in flipping a schooner so far over the mast hits the water before righting itself. It’s a nearly-impossible task in the real world.

What did pleasantly surprise me is I really enjoyed this book. I’ve been doing a lot of ARC reading for indie authors lately, and it’s been…a chore. The Pirate Lord is well-written, the copy is well-edited, the plot is interesting and not entirely predictable. Most important to me? The characters are believable.

I know the romance genre thrives on archetypal characters, and readers get mad when characters break from those molds–even though archetypal actions aren’t realistic. I don’t care about that.

Bronwyn does something I considered reprehensible in the beginning and shows no remorse despite being a good and relatively moral character with a noble mission. It made me mad–and elated. I want more characters like that. Jon shows no mercy in a situation where he could have and probably should have. He suffers no repercussions for it, and that’s life.

Despite a heavy usage of the deception trope, its outcome is atypical. Spoiler alert: there’s no how dare this person lie to me (with good reason) moment from it. Since I’m completely and utterly over the relationship difficulties stemming from miscommunication thing, I’m totally here for that. I don’t know about you, but when my loved ones lie to me, I assume they did something dumb, not something nefarious. And then I talk to them about it instead of stewing on it while both our lives fall apart because something terrible has happened between us.

My one gripe with The Pirate Lord is a minor but potentially devastating one. You know that thing where steamy romance authors add a teaser prologue at the beginning that takes place right before the main characters hook up for the first time? As though to promise the reader there will, in fact, be sex? Lloyd does that. I’m not universally opposed to this–honestly, though, I don’t think it has any benefit. In this case, it worked against the story. If I hadn’t picked this up for a specific reason (and hadn’t already been softened by some bad ARC reads) I might not have continued past that first chapter.

The good news for you: You have me to tell you to skip that prologue. Skip that prologue. It brings no value to the story.

I’m not going to pretend this is any sort of literary masterpiece. It’s a trashy romance in a genre of trashy romance that was once beloved but has since fallen by the wayside. But if you’re looking for some retro pirate romance–and maybe a new author, although I can’t vouch for any of Catherine Lloyd’s other works–I recommend this trashy retro pirate romance.

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