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P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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The Pirate of Panther Bay                    Tortuga Bay

Cover Art: The Pirate of
            Panther Bay, 2nd edition
The Pirate of Panther Bay
by S. R. Staley
Southern Yellow Pine, 2014 (second edition), ISBN 978-1940869179, $11.95
Also available as an e-book for $1.99
After the captain’s murder, Isabella finds herself the new captain of a pirate ship. She has all the qualifications and a good right-hand man in Quartermaster Jean-Michel, but when the vessel they attack blows up, doubt assails her. Combined with her insistence that they take Juan Carlos Lopez de Santa Ana prisoner and the loss of the prospective treasure, Isabella finds herself in a precarious situation. Her men are unhappy, and she is strangely attracted to Santa Ana, a Spaniard – her enemy.

All should go well once they return to Panther Bay, but a group of her men – in league with a villainous pirate captain – stage a mutiny while most of the crew is ashore. Trapped on board her ship, Isabella must figure out how she and Jean-Michel can escape the murderous thugs. Gaining their freedom should end most of their troubles, but instead, they just begin. Someone betrays Isabella to the Spaniards, who imprison and flog her to within an inch of her life before she is scheduled to be hanged. Rescue comes from an unlikely source, and once recovered, she must track down those who betrayed her.

This adventurous tale takes a circuitous journey that remains true to the real world of pirates and Spain’s desire to reign over the New World. The reasons and circumstances for Isabella being captain are plausible, but at times her insecurity and obsession with the past are overdone. Some readers may find the demise of the villainous pirate captain somewhat anticlimactic. While Isabella’s attraction to a Spaniard seems strange based on her life experiences so far, it is rewarding to find a Spaniard who isn’t portrayed as the enemy. Santa Ana faces a perplexing dilemma between his loyalty to his king and his love for Isabella, and the author’s resolving of this conflict may be less than satisfying to the more romantic reader, but these two characters – so alike, yet so different – have no other choice.

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Book Review Copyright ©2007 Cindy Vallar

* This review is of the first edition of the book, which was published by a different publisher. This is the reason for the discrepancy in the dates. *

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Cover Art: Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay

By S. R. Staley

Southern Yellow Pine, 2015, ISBN 978-1-940869-51-3, $13.95

Also available in e-book formats

 StarStarStarStarStar

Isabella, the Pirate of Panther Bay, understands violence and has fought for her survival many times in her young life. She grew up a slave and, in her teens, witnessed death and destruction during a failed uprising. She’s also endured torture at the hands of the Spain before Juan Carlos, a captain in His Majesty’s army, helped her to escape. He accepts her for herself, but their love is a forbidden one since the Spanish king sent him to capture the infamous pirates who prowl the Caribbean in search of treasure.

On spying a Spanish merchant ship, Jean-Michel sets the pirate ship on a course to intercept her. He doesn’t alert Isabella – even though she is the captain – but she is so attuned to the nuances of her ship that she is roused from her sleep. On joining her quartermaster on deck, she peruses their intended prey. Something niggles. Trusting her feelings, she orders her men to slow the Marée Rouge’s progress. As the distance between the two vessels grows, the Spaniard comes to life. More men scurry on deck and aloft. Many gun ports open to show how well armed she is. And, with all sails set, she turns round until the prey becomes the hunter and the hunter becomes the prey.

The pirates survive the ambush, but with a price on their heads, wanted notices spread across the Caribbean, and with the Spanish Viceroy of the West Indies determined to hunt them to extinction, Isabella and her men have few places they can seek safe haven. On their way to Tortuga Bay, they sail to Saint-Domingue, the French side of Hispaniola.

The Spanish viceroy has trouble understanding why Capitán Juan Carlos Lopez de Santa Ana, the king’s most competent soldier, can’t capture a pirate. Every attempt to date has failed, and the viceroy suspects there is a spy in his ranks. Juan Carlos fears the viceroy’s daughter, out of spite for his repeated rejection of her, has told her father what she knows about Isabella’s escape from the bowels of El Morro, the citadel guarding San Juan, Puerto Rico. The viceroy gives Juan Carlos one last chance to crush Isabella and her crew. If he fails, he will either be sent back to Spain in disgrace or he may just simply “disappear” as other men under the viceroy have in the past.

Torn between his love for Isabella and duty to his king, Juan Carlos recommends a daring plan. With a fleet of warships and many men, the Spaniards will blockade the Marée Rouge in Port-au-Prince’s harbor and then marines, led by him, will go ashore and capture her on land . . . with or without the French governor’s permission. As he sets sail he knows the ship brings him closer to an inevitable confrontation that will destroy either him or his love.

But all is not as peaceful as it seems in Port-au-Prince. The war for freedom in the American colonies has re-ignited a desire among the slaves to rid themselves of the shackles binding them to servitude. Their leader is a free gen de couleur, but he is also a manipulator, and while he has aroused the slaves’ simmering anger, he cannot launch the uprising until he can produce The One, a slave girl who will lead the Africans to victory. Who better to fulfill the old prophecy than the Pirate of Panther Bay? Is this the destiny her mother spoke of when Isabella was a child?

This historical novel – the long-awaited sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay – takes place in the second half of the eighteenth century sometime between the Revolutionary War in America and French Revolution and about seventy years after Blackbeard’s demise. The book includes maps of Hispaniola and Port-au-Prince, as well as discussion questions for groups who wish to discuss the characters, the story, history, and pirates.

Tortuga Bay
is a rousing and complex pirate adventure mixed with a Romeo-and-Juliet love affair. Staley breathes life into Haiti and its history through well-rounded, multifaceted characters who tackle difficult situations in realistic ways. I was slightly confused by a few elements, pertaining to voodoo and the prophecy, but my bewilderment may stem from the fact that eight years have passed since I read the first book in this series. Isabella is a unique and compelling character, not only because she’s a woman, but also because she’s an African slave who escaped her bonds to cherish freedom and command a ship of pirates. She endures in spite of hardships and never abandons her comrades or her beliefs.

Meet the author
Listen to Under the Crossbones' interview with S. R. Staley
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Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar


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