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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults ~ Historical Fiction: Pirates & Privateers


Cover Art: A Pirate's Tale
A Pirateís Tale: The Sea Fox
By Gary Robert Muschla
Booktango, 2014, e-book ISBN 978-1-4689-4373-3, US $2.99


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Upon returning to England after a successful commercial venture, Jon Norstrum and his father hear of the uncovering of a plot to kill the king. Since some conspirators were Jesuit priests, all Catholics, including Jon and his father, are suspect. Protestant nobles who covet Catholic land and property make the most of this opportunity, accusing innocent people of treason and, thus, adding to their own holdings. Such a scheme results in the death of Jonís father and Jon being wanted for the murder of his fatherís killer. At twenty-two, he finds his world turned upside down; instead of heading to Oxford to further his education, heís shanghaied before he can escape his homeland. When he awakens, he finds himself bound for the Caribbean in 1678.

While her father sails their ship, laden with contracted cargo, to foreign ports, Katharine (Kath) Ellis manages the familyís shipping business. Stephen, her brother, fritters away their hard-earned money with his drinking and gambling, including the money that will pay their debts when news arrives of the loss of their father and ship during a storm. Stephenís answer is for Kath to seek out Edmund Stanton, but he is the last person she will go to for help. He might be the richest man in the Caribbean, but his business practices are questionable and something about him makes her skin crawl. When moneylenders refuse to provide her with funds to pay her debts, Kathís only other option is to sell her motherís jewelry, but that is stolen. Facing the possibility of debtorís prison, Kath acquiesces to her brotherís suggestion, but Stanton wants more than just control of Ellis Shipping. He wants Kath herself. She faces the grim reality of her situation and reluctantly agrees to marry him in one year.

The ship on which Jon serves belongs to Stanton, and conditions aboard are a far cry from those of his fatherís. One crew member warns him to obey orders and keep quiet. When that man is washed overboard, Jon refuses to let him die. Since he disobeys the order to ignore the drowning man, Stanton keelhauls Jon. He survives, barely, and his fellow seamen nurse him back to health. Their loyalty shifts to him because he was willing to sacrifice himself for them. Shortly before they arrive in Port Royal, Spanish pirates attack the ship. Jon devises a plan to save them, and once he captures the pirate vessel, he refuses to take any more orders from Stanton. The crew follows his lead and, knowing they are now wanted men, they go on the account. Jon's actions earn him two powerful enemies: Stanton and the Spanish pirate captain, both of whom vow to kill Jon.

Time passes and the day arrives when Kath must fulfill her end of the bargain. On her way to the Caribbean pirates attack her ship. She is surprised to find Jon among them, and wonders how a man who once saved her brother from a Protestant mob could have ended up a pirate. When his men learn she is Stantonís intended, he has no alternative but to hold her and her brother for ransom. They return to Tortuga, where Jon and Kath renew their acquaintance and love blossoms. Not everyone is happy about this, and betrayers bide their time until they can hatch a plot to outwit Jon and return Kath to Stanton. At the same time, Sir Henry Morgan arrives with a suicidal proposition that may allow Jon and his men to erase the past.

Set during the age of buccaneers, A Pirateís Tale is fast-paced, spiced with romance, and reminiscent of Captain Blood. One puzzling aspect pertains to how Stanton knows Jonís last name when the only time itís revealed occurs after Stanton is locked below deck once his crew mutinies, but this is a trifling mystery that in no way detracts from the story. Jon has a delightful knack for extricating the buccaneers from impossible situations, and Pox and St. William, two fabulously drawn minor characters, add depth to the story. Morgan, who is the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, shows why he was a masterful buccaneer, rather than a drunken has-been, which is a refreshing portrayal. Fans of cinematic swashbucklers of yore will enjoy this piratical adventure.

Review Copyright ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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