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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 - Fiction

Alternative Fiction, Fantasy,
Science Fiction, & Steampunk

Frozen Passage
Legacy of Morevi

  Lone Star Rising
Spirit Deep
A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
To Sail Through Time
 

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Bring It Close
Dragons & DirigiblesNew
In the Time of Worms
Morevi
Pirate Code
The Pirate's Lady
Ripples in the Sand
Steam & Stratagem
Swords of Waar
Ten Ruby Trick
Tides of Avarice


Historical Fiction

Avery's Treasure
Captain Blood
Captain Mary, Buccaneer
Cassandra, Lost
Cayman Cross
Combat with PiratesNew
Cup of Gold
Dead Man's Chest
Eagle's Prophecy
Kingston by Starlight
Long John Silver
Marbeck and the Privateers

Ocean Eyes
The Pirates!
Pieces of Eight
Pirate Haiku
The Pirate Queen
Pirates, Ghosts, & Coastal Lore
Pirates of the Delaware
Prince of the Atlantic
The Pyrates
The Sallee Rovers
The Sweet Trade New
The RB Trilogy
There Were Two Pirates
The Witch from the Sea
 

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At Drake's Command
The Barbary Pirates
Barbary Slave

The Black Corsair

Blood Brothers

Bloody Seas

Buccaneer
Call to Arms
Cinnamon and Gunpowder

 The English Monster

Fin Gall
Flint and Silver
Gather the Shadowmen
Gentlemen and Fortune
Judas Island (The Promise of Gold Trilogy)
The Legendary Adventures of the Pirate Queens
Master of the Sweet Trade
Mistress of the Sea
Napoleon's Gold
The Only Life That Mattered
Pieces of Eight
The Pirate Captain

The Pirate Hunter
Pirate King
Pirate Latitudes
Pirate Rebel
The Pirate Round
The Power & the Glory

The Prodigal
Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem
Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia
Sandokan: The King of the Sea
Sea Robber
A Ship for the King
Silver
Skull and Bones

Surgeon's Mate
Trident
Maritime

Call to Arms
Falcon's Revenge

Floating Gold
Pirate &...Three Cutters
Pursuit of Honor
Run Afoul


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For King or Commonwealth
Hell Around the Horn
The King's Chameleon
The Mountain of Gold
The Patriot's Fate
The Power & the Glory
A Ship for the King
A Ship of War


Modern Piracy

The Chocolate Pirate Plot
Feeding the Dragon

Pirate
A Sword for Pizarro
 

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The Aden Effect
Hawke
The Jefferson Key
Pirate Alley
Pirates of Pensacola
Pirates' Pay
Those in Peril 

Romance

The Bastard
Bound by Decency
Capture the Wind

The Care & Feeding of Pirates

Heart's Safe Passage
The Pirate and the Puritan
The Pirate Hunter
Pirate's Prize
Pirates of Desire
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady

Prisoner of Desire
 The Reliance
Siren
Surrender the Dawn
Wind Raven New

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The Bride and the Buccaneer
Captain Sinister's Lady

The Guise of a Gentleman
A Kiss in the Wind
The Pirate and the Puritan

 The Pirate Next Door
The Ransom
The Redemption
Sea Change
The Siren's Song

Television & Movies

Black Sails & CrossbonesNew


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Combat with Pirates
Cover Art: Combat
            with Pirates
Combat with Pirates
By Harold J. Hovel
Outskirts Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4787-2012-6, $21.95



When Captain François L’Olonnais captures the Grace, he hasn’t a clue as to what fate has in store for him. True to his sadistic nature, he murders all but young Spanish twins when he seizes the ship’s rich cargo of treasure, Africans and indentured servants – all destined for the slave market after the pirates perversely use them – and a menagerie of wild and domestic animals. One prisoner, who joins the pirates, suggests the creatures will bring a tidy profit, so the buccaneers take the animals with them to Tortuga.

Although the captives appear resigned to their situation, there are those among them who are intelligent and skilled fighters. They bide their time until the right moment presents itself. A small dog named Napoleon emerges as their commander, and with the help and talents of the others, as well as assistance from a man forced to join the pirates, the animals and people unite to free themselves and flee Tortuga. But stealing a ship isn’t enough for any of them. They want to vanquish the pirates and make the high seas a safe place for those who sail them. The rescued provide assistance and vital information, while others join Napoleon and his crusaders aboard the Independent Fleet with the express purpose to stamp out evil. Along the way, they confront not only some of the most notorious buccaneers of the seventeenth century, but also the Inquisition, slavers, and whalers as they patrol the Caribbean and coastal waters of Africa. United in a thirst for revenge, the buccaneers will stop at nothing to bring down the little admiral and his colleagues.

Combat with Pirates is not your typical pirate novel. It is historical fantasy rife with an array of pirates, including Pierre Le Picard, Rock Braziliano, John Coxon, and Edward Low. Starting off with one of the most infamous of the buccaneers proved puzzling, since Exquemlin, in his contemporary account The Buccaneers of America, explains the fitting end to L’Olonnais’ life. Hovel, however, provides an equally fitting and inventive version of his demise.

At nearly six hundred pages, the story is a tad long and could have been broken into several books. While the action scenes are high-paced and full of tension, the rest of the narrative doesn’t always pull the reader into the adventure. It’s more like someone is telling the reader about the event rather than allowing him or her to experience it. Every once in awhile modern terms and sensibilities creep in, but as long as the reader remembers this is fantasy, it’s easy to overlook the intrusions. It can be difficult at times to keep track of who’s who, but there is a Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book to help distinguish among them. Maps are also included to help orient the reader to where the action takes place.

As the author writes in the book’s preface:

It might seem strange to think of a force of warriors consisting of dogs, cats, pigs, bears, chimpanzees and other apes, rabbits, rats, whales, sharks, eagles, and dolphins, not to mention men, women, Indians, whites, and Africans. If one lets his or her imagination take over, you can see the real possibilities it opens up.
And he’s right. The unique talents of each animal and person open up a wide range of possibilities, and Hovel expertly demonstrates this. While this may seem like a book written for younger audiences, nothing can be further from the truth. Combat with Pirates is strictly for adults; Hovel pulls no punches in showing readers the true nature of many of the worste torturers and murderers who prowled the sea and walked on land, and even some of the heroes die. In spite of this, hope remains a key component of the tale. If you’re a fan of fantasy, pirate stories, and tales of “caped crusaders” who combine brawn and brains, and you don’t mind gore and violence, Combat with Pirates may be just the book you seek.

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Wind Raven
Cover Art: Wind
            Raven
Wind Raven
By Regan Walker
Boroughs Publishing Group, 2014, e-book ISBN 978-1-941260-02-9, $3.99


Her brother’s letter that arrives at her aunt’s London home tells Tara McConnell to come home. While upset to learn her father may be dying, she’s ready to discard the fancy gowns and other accoutrements that go with being a lady for the breeches and shirts she wears while at sea or working in her family’s shipyard. Being introduced to the ton was never Tara’s idea, but the wish of her dying mother even though her father is adamant that she marry an American. Only two years have passed since the War of 1812 ended and the English killed her youngest brother who was a privateer.

Tara is anxious to reach Baltimore and her father, but her aunt insists she wait until an “appropriate” vessel can be found with a captain her aunt trusts. Ever independent, though, she has no intention of having her freedom curtailed by the maid who acts as her chaperone. Once away from her aunt’s home, Tara convinces the maid to remain in London – just not return to her aunt until the ship is well quit of England.

This voyage will be Nicholas Powell’s last as captain of the Wind Raven. Once they reach Baltimore, he’ll take ownership of a new, more rakish Baltimore clipper. While eager to assume command of his new vessel, he must first heed the Prince Regent’s instructions to make a side trip to Porto Rico to spy on the pirate Cofresí, who has been attacking English merchant ships in the Caribbean. The detour could prove dangerous, so when the niece of the dowager baroness, a friend of his mother’s, steps onto the Wind Raven Nick must accept her request or else face the wrath of his mother. Miss McConnell may sail with him, but he invokes one caveat – she is confined to a small cabin for the duration. And he makes it plain, both through his own attitude and that conveyed by some of his men, that she is not wanted.

When a young seaman falls and dangles upside down in the rigging high above the deck, an unfamiliar figure scurries aloft to rescue him. To learn that the person is none other than Tara and that she’s dressed in men’s attire stretches the bounds of Nick’s patience almost beyond endurance. The arrogance of the English captain riles Tara, but she’s not about to buckle under to his egregious demands. She’s as at home on a ship as he is and she’s just as capable of pulling her weight, which soon endears her to the crew. When she nearly loses her life during a storm, Nick can’t wait to get her off his ship.

The close quarters of the Wind Raven make it nearly impossible to deny the growing attraction between them, but Nick has no intention of marrying a hoyden like Tara and she will not marry an Englishman. A brief respite in Bermuda to repair a broken mast, however, shows them both that first impressions aren’t always correct. They dare to bridge the gaps that separate their worlds, but when the pirates capture their ship, Tara is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the man has stolen her heart.

Wind Raven is the third book in the Agents of the Crown trilogy, but it easily stands alone as historical romance in its own right. From the opening scene of a brawl in a bar to the storm-swept decks of the ship, Walker transports her readers back in time to where a bygone world comes alive. She deftly walks the tightrope between what does and doesn’t work when a woman crosses into a man’s realm during the nineteenth century, which makes everything Tara does believable and Nick’s reactions realistic. Piracy takes a secondary seat to the romance, but the author’s portrayal of a nineteenth-century rogue, rather than those of the previous century who are better known, is both refreshing and convincing. While the danger element could have been heightened, Tara’s choice ably demonstrates just how far a person will go to protect those she loves. Readers who enjoy romance and adventure, tinged with interludes of mayhem and idyllic repose, will enjoy this journey on the high seas.

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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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The Sweet Trade
Cover Art: The Sweet Trade
By Debrah Strait
Smashwords, 2013, e-book ISBN 9781301798490, $6.95
Createspace, 2013, print ISBN 978-1492816409, $14.95


One morning in 1653, Dirk van Cortlandt’s life turns upside down when Spaniards invade the Dutch Isle of Bentyn. At eleven years old, he dreams of adventure and he and his four friends – Mic (12), Baldric (9), and twins Jan and Joost – are away playing pirates, but race home to warn their parents. By the time they arrive, however, it’s too late. Their mothers, fathers, and siblings lie dead or are slaughtered while the boys watch. They themselves barely escape with their lives aboard a boat that washed up on the island earlier.

Guilt plagues Dirk. His youngest sister had caught him sneaking out of the house and wanted to go with him, but he said no. Now little Anneke is dead, and her murder haunts his thoughts and dreams.

Although the boys intend to go to Curaçao, they become lost at sea. Eventually, they are rescued by French pirates, who offer them a safe haven, but actually have something else in store for the boys. And the life they imagined as pirates is far different in reality. Their “saviors” haven’t captured any prizes of significance, so they sail to Tortuga and sell the boys into bond slavery. Before they separate, the boys vow to reunite in seven years at the end of their indenture.

Alone for the first time in his life, Dirk serves a buccaneer, an abusive man who hunts beef then smokes the meat to sell to traders and pirates. It is a hard life, but Dirk learns the trade. But even here the Spanish hunt and slaughter the buccaneers, some of whom befriend Dirk. He endures his master’s beatings until he grows taller and stronger. Seeking revenge, however, comes with consequences; rather than the death he expects, he is sold once again – this time to four men who teach him new skills.

By the time the seven years have passed, Dirk has acquired all but one skill needed to become a pirate – leading men. Aside from reuniting with his friends, one driving force rules his life. He vows vengeance on all Spaniards. The pirate crew they join knows only one way to attack, and eventually their victims learn to thwart their tactics. After Dirk rescues the pirates from one failed escapade, they elect him as their captain. But being their leader comes with its own baggage. As time passes, he and his friends cross paths with the most sadistic of the pirates, François L’Olonnais, and the most successful, Henry Morgan.

This novel spans seventeen years from the Caribbean to New Amsterdam. There are two interludes of romance, one with a distant relative of Dirk’s and the other with the last person he ever expects to fall for. I enjoyed this book, although I felt several times the pace slowed too much. While the majority of the story unfolds from Dirk’s point of view, a few times a scene unfolds from a minor character’s perspective. I found this technique jarring and oftentimes thought the important information that’s revealed could have been done without shifting the point of view. Introducing a second major character in the last chapter also bothered me, and their attraction for each other didn’t ring as believable for me as it should. But these are personal preferences and not all readers will agree with me.

Strait’s depiction of life as a boucanier is spot-on, and she never sugarcoats the danger and hard life they and the pirates endured as they prowled the seas and raided Spanish settlements.  She does a wonderful job with her portrayal of L’Olonnais and his final days, as well as with her depiction of the explosion aboard Morgan’s Oxford.


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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Marbeck and the Privateers
Cover Art: Marbeck and the
          Privateers
Marbeck and the Privateers
By John Pilkington
Severn House, 2014, e-book ISBN 978-1-78010-517-8, US$24.99 (available 1 June 2014) / £19.99
Print ISBN 978-07278-8372-8, US $28.95 (available 1 June 2014) / £19.99


Horrified, the prisoner watches as three men are impaled alive under the hot sun in an Algerian courtyard. He expects his fate to be the same, but his life is spared if he will betray his country. If, however, he betrays the Spaniard who demands this of him, his father will suffer an excruciating death just as these men have.

Thus begins Martin Marbeck’s third adventure, in which the intelligencer* must ferret out those who wish to sidetrack peace negotiations between the Spanish and Dutch, who have come to London at King James’ behest to bring peace between these warring nations. Some of his countrymen, who still remember the failed invasion of Spain’s armada, can’t abide having Spaniards on English soil. Nor are the privateers happy with James’ desire to be seen as Rex Pacificus (the peacemaker king), for they can no longer legally plunder other ships. Lord Secretary Cecil, Marbeck’s boss, has no intention of allowing anyone or anything to disrupt the peace negotiations.

Barely recovered after someone poisons his food, Marbeck heeds the call to protect the Spanish ambassador. It is an odd assignment, since the closest he can get to the man is the house next door, which just happens to belong to his employer. Marbeck fears the task is either a punishment or Cecil’s way of telling him his services are no longer required, but the Lord Secretary knows Marbeck too well. When a nefarious acquaintance named Simon Jewkes visits the ambassador, who is then shot at, Marbeck’s curiosity is piqued. Instead of following through with his assignment, he tries to track down Jewkes, a difficult task that necessitates discarding his disguise as Cecil’s secretary to pursue the man. Then Jewkes’ name is linked with that of the mysterious Sea Locusts. But delving into who or what they are and trying to connect these disparate threads leads Marbeck down a perilous path that may cost him his life.

Even if you’ve not read the previous titles in this series, you will have little trouble following the story. Pilkington does a wonderful job recreating early seventeenth-century England, and the riveting prologue grabs your attention. Unfortunately, that tension dissipates with the opening chapters of the tale, but once Marbeck forsakes his secretarial role and leaves London, the pace quickens and the permeating evil draws you deeper and deeper into the muck and mire until you can’t escape.  Marbeck and the Privateers is similar to a provocative and intriguing jigsaw puzzle set in a time when spies had only their instincts and knowledge to ferret out the truth.  If you seek intellectual mysteries, rather than those rife with gadgets and gizmos, this third book in the Marbeck series definitely tests your deductive skills.


*Intelligencer is an archaic term from the 1500s, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a person who conveys intelligence or information; specifically an informer; a spy, a secret agent.”

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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

Skull and crossbones

A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
Cover Art: A Tall Ship, a Star, and
          Plunder
A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
Edited by Robert Krog
Dark Oak Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-937035-65-4, $14.95
Also available in eBook (ISBN 978-1-937035-67-9, $2.99) and hard cover (ISBN 978-1-937035-66-2, $29.95) formats


This anthology, edited by Robert Krog, has twenty-four tales going back in time to the Vikings and forward to “Future Space.” Encountered along the way are a dragon, ghosts, princes and princesses, a Kraken, and all kinds of pirates.

One story features a Flying Dutchman kind of ghost ship, but seeing this one does not portend a shipwreck. The other ghost story is more topical since it features Blackbeard and the crew of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

In “Fireflies on the Water” by Michael Krog, we meet a sometime pirate, who drowns his sorrows and becomes an alcoholic. The effect on his spouse and the way she combats his affliction draws to an exciting and dramatic climax.

Another story deals with a sailor whose last horrific experience at sea has him staring into the “Bottom of the Mug” by S. P. Dorning. This tale has definite nightmare potential so beware!

As a former avid reader of science-fiction, I always enjoy any stories involving time travel. Laura Nelson’s “Rosa and the Pirate,” the one with this element, is also the most piratical tale, in my opinion. Actual pirates on wooden ships attacking and plundering any vessel they can chase down. Altogether a great story I’m sure most will love.

Science-fiction stories about airships, space ships, time travel, and even some “deep” sci-fi was difficult to read, yet entertaining at the same time. It’s refreshing to read a bunch of stories that didn’t all start and finish on a wooden ship, although I was disappointed that only a handful of stories included any plunder-taking or pirates acting like pirates. If, in fact, the editor’s mission was to find stories by new authors that were in some way “piratical,” I would say he did a great job.

The Stories

Yo Ho by Melinda LaFevers
Rumble the Dragon by Cidy Vallar
The Princess and the Sea by Sydney Blackburn
Ghost of a Chance by Paula Gail Benson
The Making of a Privateer by Melinda LaFevers
Not I by Jerri Hardesty
Fireflies on the Water by Michael Krog
The Celeste Affair by D. Alan Lewis
The Tale of Tizur the Red by Tom Sheehan
Bottom of the Mug by S. P. Dorning
The Captain's Woman, the Dagger, and the Serpent by Robert Krog
The Gods Must Clearly Smile by A. Christopher Drown
Corey of Steel by Jerri Hardesty
The Jamaican Dragon by D. G. Driver
Rosa and the Pirate by Laura Nelson
The Ghost of Queen Anne's Revenge by M. R. Williamson
Of Wing and Song by Kirk Hardesty
One Way by Herika R. Raymer
Puffystuff the Pirate by Jerri Hardesty
Theft of the Royal Jewels by Kathryn Sullivan
Eighty-Six Pitrell Becomes Dread Admiral by Paul Calhoun
Rasputin's Whimsey by T. A. Riddell
Pirates of Happenstance by HC Playa
Blood is Thicker than Pirate's Gold by Kent Swarts

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Irwin Bryan

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Lone Star Rising
Cover Art: Lone Star Rising
Lone Star Rising: Voyage of the Wasp
By Jason Vail
Fireship Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-61179-235-5, US $16.00 / CAN $19.95
 
In October 1776, American rebels encounter the British army at Harlem Heights. One casualty is General George Washington, and soon after the rebellion is put down. Tennesseans, however, live on the frontier away from the British, and in 1804 they declare themselves a free state. The British don’t respond until four years later; although they gain the upper hand, the remnants of that rebel force move to the Spanish territory of Texas under the leadership of Andrew Jackson. The community of Jacksonville thrives, but the influx of non-Catholics who refuse to heed Spanish laws eventually alarms the Mexican authorities. Andrew Jackson, though, has no intention of surrendering his freedom or power.

After a near-fatal run-in with a Spanish frigate in April 1819 and a double-dealing employer, John Paul Jones II leaves New Orleans and returns home to Baltimore, only to find that his family is dead. Seven months later, an unemployed and cynical Jones is approached by Davy Crockett, who holds a letter of introduction from Jones’ former employer. Crockett hires Jones to find a suitable ship that can be outfitted – illegally and surreptitiously – as a naval warship. Crockett is dubious that the ramshackle vessel will ever amount to anything, but Jones proves him wrong. Hired to sail Crockett and the Wasp to New Orleans, Jones soon finds himself part of the Texas Navy and allied with French pirates. But the captain of the Spanish frigate knows of the rebel vessel and is hunting for the elusive Wasp and her captain.

This alternative history novel, the first in a series, presents an interesting series of what-ifs about the early days of Texas history. Told mostly from Jones’ point of view, the tale is interlaced with excerpts from A Short History of the Republic of Texas and the Free States of America by Victor D. Lautenberg. The problem, though, is that the author tends to lead the reader to an exciting point in the story, then steps back to let Lautenberg tell what happens. As a result, the action fails to rivet the reader’s attention. Even so, Lone Star Rising makes readers wonder about what would have happened had the United States never been, while pirates from Jean Laffite’s Barataria operations assist the fledgling nation of Texas in gaining its freedom.


Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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Bound by Decency

Cover Art: Bound by Decency
Bound by Decency
By Claire Ashgrove
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012, ISBN 978-1477535829, $14.99; e-book $4.99

For two years, Teddy Cathain lives as a successful sea captain in Charles Towne, South Carolina. No one suspects his past life as the notorious pirate Cain. Then, in 1717, pirates flying Cain’s Jolly Roger attack the Virginia Maiden and Teddy finds himself in jail, awaiting his hanging in nine days. Only one man could have betrayed him – his best friend and business partner, Richard Grey, who once served as his first mate aboard The Kraken, a pirate ship.

With the help of the Flying Gang, Cain escapes and sails to England to exact his revenge. The first step in that plan is to kidnap Grey’s fiancée, the daughter of a wealthy and influential shipping magnate. But India Prescott is far from the docile and fragile lady Cain expects. She refuses to reveal Richard’s location, even though she doesn’t love the man her father wishes her to marry. Tempers and pride clash until she strikes Cain and he locks her in his cabin until she confesses.

In the days that follow, Cain repeatedly interrogates her, but she defies him, which only adds to his ire. She refuses to believe he and Teddy are the same person, for Teddy is kind and well-mannered, the man of her dreams and nothing like this fearsome pirate. Seasick and stubborn, India eventually falls deathly ill, forcing Cain to tend her and, in doing so, she reawakens the goodness and decency within him. He ignores his growing attraction for her, because Richard has forever robbed him of his hopes and dreams. India, however, learns the truth of her intended’s treachery and vows to right the wrongs he’s committed against Cain and her.

Noted for her contemporary and paranormal romances, Ashgrove delves into the realm of historical romance with this first entry in The Flying Gang Legacy series. Bound by Decency mixes intrigue, betrayal, revenge, and justice with a healthy measure of romance and dashes of piratical spices that include cameo appearances by some of history’s notorious pirates, who dubbed themselves the Flying Gang.

The story is well written and engages the reader, but the lack of action in the first third of the book, makes the reader feel as if she/he endures the three weeks of sickness from which the heroine suffers. Normally, if a book fails to capture my attention within the first sixty pages, I set it aside and find another title to read. The betrayal and injustice established in the opening pages of Bound by Decency nudged me to keep reading, however, and once the action reignites, the voyage does not disappoint. Even though I expected the happily-ever-after ending – after all, it is a romance – the unforeseen twists latched into me like the barbs of a grappling hook, drawing me deeper into the intrigue and compelling me to journey with India as she strives to free Cain from the hangman’s noose that awaits all pirates.

Meet the author & read an excerpt

Historical Pirates of the Flying Gang


Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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Capture the Wind

Cover Art:
          Capture the Wind
Capture the Wind
By Virginia Brown
Bell Bridge Books, 2012, ISBN 978-1-61194-211-8, $14.95
 

For ten years, Christian Sheridan lived among pirates before his father, the Duke of Tremayne, rescues him. But nothing erases the horrific memories of what he endured during those years – a time when he changed from a boy of six to a man. In spite of his scholarly education and his piratical training in the art of sailing, fighting, and plundering, he has much to learn about women – who frequently betray him.

Angela Lindell yearns to marry Philippe, but when he asks for her hand, her father refuses. With her intended now living in New Orleans, She decides to go there rather than marry the elderly baron her father has selected. Buying passage aboard Sheridan Shipping’s Scrutiny for herself and her maid, Emily, Angela sets in play a series of events in which she must come to terms with their consequences.

The last person she expects to encounter is the notorious and terrifying Captain Kit Saber. But he has a penchant for attacking ships belonging to Sheridan Shipping. After she dares to defy him, she and Emily find themselves tied to the mast as the ship sinks. When Scrutiny’s captain refuses to save the women, Kit brings them aboard a ship full of bloodthirsty pirates – a fact that perplexes as much as it riles him. In spite of his jaundiced views on women, he’s drawn to the plucky Angela. She might intend to wed another, but Kit, rather than Philippe, consumes her thoughts.

To Angela Kit is a pirate, but he and his men consider themselves privateers. Should war resume with France, he will abandon his current pursuit to fight Napoleon. Taking Angela to New Orleans is the last thing he wants to do, until he learns that the elusive woman he has hunted for a decade is there. Only she can answer the burning questions he has regarding the deadly intrigue that killed his mother and landed him among pirates. But repercussions from that journey result in a final confrontation with his father and a farewell to the woman who finally wins his heart.

Capture the Wind is laced with humor and mystery. The chemistry between Angela and Kit unfolds much like a spark ignites gunpowder. This captivating tale of love will delight readers of historical fiction, and the blossoming romance between Emily and Dylan is the icing on the cake. These secondary characters almost steal the show. Capture the Wind is the perfect escape for readers who yearn to curl up in a leather chair before a roaring fire on a wintry day.
 
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Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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Long John Silver (Reviewed by Irwin Bryan)
Cover Art: Long John Silver
Long John Silver
by Bjorn Larsson
Havill Press, 2001, ISBN 978-186046539

When you hear “Long John Silver,” in your mind’s eye you picture a one-legged pirate. Larsson’s tale (Silver’s “autobiography”) begins with the story of how he lost that leg and the events surrounding it.  Silver is painted as a feared and fearless person. Perhaps his most ruthless act ends this part of the story.

After this preface, the story begins anew during Silver’s childhood in Bristol. We meet a young lad who gets a good education, complete with learning Latin. A confrontation with the only person he ever feared, his parson, sends him running to the docks and the start of his seafaring life. He is determined to learn his new trade well and is devoted to his ship. The inner workings of his superior mind are laid bare to readers, who already know he ends up as a pirate, but have no idea how or when he makes that transition.

First, a few other adventures in Silver’s life show him capable of loyalty and even compassion and love. These do seem a bit drawn out and only the future references to Treasure Island and Captain Flint give the reader motivation to continue.

By the time Long John’s story takes him to his piratical days with Flint and then Jim Hawkins, Silver the “author” is aged to the point where he’s not sure he’ll be able to finish his tale and things get jumbled up and interlaced with the story of events that come later. Finally with his story complete, he talks of his final days and his life of enforced ease.

All in all, Larsson’s novel seems plausible, but it bogs down a few times and isn’t as entertaining as Edward Chupack’s autobiography of Silver, which is much more action-packed and deals more with Silver the pirate.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Irwin Bryan

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The Bastard
Cover Art: The Bastard
The Bastard
By Brenda Novak
Brenda Novak, 2011, ISBN 978-0615566412, $11.99
Kindle e-book $3.99 / £2.68
 
Driven from her homeland during the French Revolution, Jeannette Boucher marries Lord Percival Borden, the Baron St. Ives. More than twice her eighteen years, he’s ugly, sick, and rich, but she willingly sacrifices her desires to provide for her parents and thirteen-year-old brother. Until Henri discovers that his new brother-in-law is impotent and has arranged for several friends to bed his new bride in hopes of producing an heir. Rather than endure her new husband’s fiendish plans, Jeannette flees to Plymouth. With her husband’s men in pursuit, she has only one way to escape his grasp – join HMS Tempest, a warship bound for London, where she can seek the help of her family’s only English relative. Only after they depart Plymouth does she discover that orders have changed and the Tempest’s voyage will last far longer than just several days.

Born a bastard and fawned off to be raised by an abusive farmer, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor wants only one thing from his mother, Lady Bedford, – to know the identity of his father – but their relationship is adversarial and neither can set aside past hurts for love to heal old wounds. He strives to prove to others that he is a good and honorable man in spite of his upbringing, and he hopes to one day captain his own ship. The Royalist waif that joins the Tempest’s crew, however, tests that honor. When the French boy tries to desert, Treynor steps in and takes the ten lashes meant for the boy. Later, when he learns the waif’s true identity, he demands retribution, but if anyone else learns the truth, Treynor will be cashiered and dishonored.

Better known for her contemporary romances and romantic suspense stories, Novak sets out to write a historical romance – what she started to write when she first wanted to become an author – and her skill at crafting an exciting novel that blends intrigue, humor, passion, and right triumphing over wrong makes The Bastard a tale not to be missed. Her research on the Royal Navy and ships shines through, but never intrudes. For those seeking romance on the high seas, breath-taking action, an entire cast of characters who spring to life and change as the hero and heroine spar and love, The Bastard is well worth the voyage.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Pleasures of a Tempted Lady
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady
By Jennifer Haymore
Grand Central Publishing, 2012, ISBN 9780446573160, $7.99
Also available as an e-book

William Langley, captain of the Freedom, hunts for an elusive smuggler in the Irish Sea. Although Will and his first mate, David Briggs, have uncovered little evidence so far, but they are determined to discover the smuggler’s true identity and destroy his network. When they spot a jolly boat adrift in the water, Will never imagines one of its passengers is Meg Donovan, the woman he loved and lost her after she fell overboard on her way home to Antigua. David, however, is suspicious of the Meg, and believes she may be in league with the smuggler.

While Meg loves William, she dare not tell him about the past two years of her life. To do so would only endanger his life and the lives of her sisters, who now reside in London. Plucked from the Atlantic, Meg expected the captain of the rescue ship to see her safely home. Instead, the pirate imprisoned her and forced her to teach his wife how to be a lady. Emotionally and physically abused during her captivity, Meg has learned to reveal only what she needs to. When Will mistakes the boy in the jolly boat for her son, she allows him to believe this lie, She will give her life to protect Jake, the pirate’s son, from his despicable and sadistic father.

The pirate captain, however, has no intention of letting Meg go. Once he finds her, he will kill her and take back his son. And his brother, who ranks high among the English nobility, is more than willing to assist him. Will Meg learn to trust Will, to believe that he can protect her from this evil, even if he must die in the process? Can Will discover the truth about the pirate captain and succeed in, once again, winning Meg’s heart? Or will the secrets they both keep destroy their love forever?

While the title of this book remains a mystery, this historical romance takes place in the 1820s and combines the infancy of steam-powered ships with vessels propelled only by the wind. Jake, who demonstrates autistic traits, tugs at the heartstrings, and the budding romance between Briggs and Meg’s youngest sister provides wonderful counterpoints to the strained relationship between Will and Meg and Meg and her family. Even though this book is part of a series, the reader need not have read the earlier titles. Haymore writes a captivating tale whose characters rise from the page and share their foibles and strengths until readers find themselves caught in a spidery web of danger and intrigue from which they cannot escape until the story ends.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Heart's Safe Passage
Cover Art: Heart's Safe Passage
Heart’s Safe Passage
By Laurie Alice Eakes
Revell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4412-3602-9, $14.99
Also available as an ebook

While visiting Williamsburg, Virginia in 1813, the last thing Phoebe Lee expects her sister-in-law to suggest is a voyage to England. After all, Belinda is self-centered, spoiled, and pregnant, not to mention the fact that the United States and Great Britain are at war with each other – which is precisely why Belinda must go. Her husband, a privateer, is held in a prison hulk on the Thames, and with the help of a Scottish privateer, she intends to rescue him. That merely confirms Phoebe’s suspicions that no reputable sea captain would agree to such a thing. Rafael Docherty would only offer Belinda this chance if he gets something in return. Phoebe just doesn’t know what.

Even after Belinda confesses that Phoebe must accompany her because she’s pregnant and in need of a midwife, Phoebe refuses. Delivering Belinda’s baby isn’t the problem, Phoebe can do that, but she won’t do it on a ship. Rather than abandon the idea, Belinda has Phoebe kidnapped.

Intent on finding his sworn enemy, Rafe intends to use Belinda to force her husband to divulge the whereabouts of James Brock – the man responsible for the rape and murder of Rafe’s wife at the hands of Barbary pirates. Phoebe’s unexpected presence complicates that plan, in more ways than one. In short order, she discovers the truth about Mel, Rafe’s offspring, that Rafe is bent on revenge, and that he no longer believes in God. Still the attraction they both feel becomes stronger as each day progresses, even though whispers of mutiny circulate among the crew because Rafe refuses to attack enemy ships with the ladies on board. When an accident nearly kills Mel, Rafe discovers there is a traitor on his brig. But who is it?

Heart’s Safe Passage is a spellbinding inspirational and historical romance. It is a tale that sweeps the reader onto the high seas, without drowning the reader with storm-tossed waves of nautical details and language. That’s not to say that Eakes didn’t do her research. She did and her knowledge of wooden ships and sailing shine through, but never intrude. The war is merely the backdrop for the tale and never takes center stage until the final third of the book. When it does, the story becomes compelling and breathtaking.

If there’s any weak thread running through this story, it involves James Brock. For too much of the journey he’s more phantom than tangible. The one episode early on, where the two men confront each other, happens in the blink of an eye and never permits the reader to fully appreciate the character’s villainy. As a result, when Rafe finally confronts his nemesis, the depth is present, but not the power one expects. In spite of this, Heart’s Safe Passage is a remarkable journey of faith that is flawlessly interwoven in a tale where the characters are ordinary people, each with his/her own foibles and strengths, who become lost because of circumstances beyond their control and must find their way back to God. In doing so, they also learn the true meaning of love.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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Prisoner of Desire
Cover Art: Prisoner of Desire
Prisoner of Desire
By Mary Wine
Samhain Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-1-60928-316-2, $15.00
eBook ISBN 978-1-60928-274-5, $5.50

Soon after her mother’s burial in 1831, Lorena St. John discovers she is to ship out on the morrow’s tide for Bermuda where she will wed Commissioner Mordaunt. A strict and frugal upbringing provides her with the stiff backbone to abide by her step-father’s wishes. Inside, she’s devastated, not only by her recent loss, but also because she will be separated from her beloved sisters – her only true family. Still, she yearns to set foot on a ship again, something she hasn’t done since her father died. The strict rules the British captain enforces on her, however, make the voyage no better than a prison.
 
Warren Rawlins, a Boston merchant and captain of the Huntress, comes across a ship in distress. On going to her aid, he discovers she is one of his family’s ships. The British attacked her and imprisoned a number of her crew, including his two younger brothers. Warren sets sail for Bermuda, where he reconnoiters the fort and develops a plan to rescue his brothers before they die from being used as slave labor or from the commissioner’s torture.
 
Within minutes of meeting her future husband, Lorena discovers he is not the man she hoped. Rules and regulations define Mordaunt, and he has worked hard to achieve his current position and to gain a bride whose dowry includes a third share in a profitable shipping business. When Lorena defies him, he slaps her and forces her to remain outside his home through the hottest part of the day without food or drink.
 
Warren’s plan to kidnap Lorena doesn’t go quite as planned and guilt consumes him after he injures her. Once she understands why she’s aboard the Huntress, though, he treats her kindly and she finally experiences the joy of sailing and the freedom denied her most of her life. But with Mordaunt in pursuit of his bride, there’s a good chance none of them will reach Boston.
 
I did a brief search and discovered Anglo-American relations weren’t at their best at this time, but how much fact has been intertwined in the story is impossible to determine since Wine chose not to include an author’s note. Unfortunately, she concentrates so much on the romance, the villain remains one-dimensional and his pursuit of the lovers and the danger they face never seems more than surface. Lorena’s fear that her choices may endanger her sisters is a great enticement, and the story certainly offers the opportunity for sequels, but this book ends without an edge-of-your-seat climax, which is a tad disappointing. Even so, Prisoner of Desire is a fast-paced voyage filled with love and humor that lures readers in and once captured, they will find the book hard to put down.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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The Chocolate Pirate Plot

Cover Art: The Chocolate Pirate Plot
The Chocolate Pirate Plot
By JoAnna Carl
New American Library, 2011, ISBN 978-0-451-23288-5, US$7.99 / CAN $8.99
Also available in hardcover and e-book formats

On a lovely June evening on Lake Michigan three pirates board the boat. They perform acrobatic feats, dance a few jigs, and spout typical pirate lingo, then disappear just as suddenly as they appeared. Since no harm is done and they did amuse, Lee McKinney and her husband, Joe, assume it’s a promotional stunt either for the upcoming production of The Pirates of Penzance or for the hit movie Young Blackbeard starring Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Marco Spear.
 
Only the local theater manager hounds Lee for more details while she’s at TenHuis Chocolade, where she’s the bookkeeper. Then a young girl seeks her help after the guy she’s swimming with fails to surface from the lake. Instead of finding him, they locate the body of another man. Before long Lee finds herself mired in a murder and kidnapping. As she investigates this latest Chocoholic mystery, her tangled tongue causes further problems.
 
Reminiscent of Murder, She Wrote, this is my first introduction to Lee McKinney and the environs of Warner Pier, Michigan. With the chocolate shop serving as the centralized location, readers meet various residents and visitors to the quaint resort town. Interspersed through the story, usually at those cliffhanging moments, Carl provides tidbits about the history and science of chocolate. The pirates provide a peripheral, yet intriguing, twist on this whodunit where past encounters impact the present. The pirates eventually take center stage, but not quite as expected. If you need an escape from the hectic pace of life, The Chocolate Pirate Plot is a satisfying diversion.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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Pieces of Eight

Cover Art: Pieces of
          Eight
Pieces of Eight
By Joshua Blair Delaney
Infinity, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7414-6479-8, US $24.95

In 1715 Eastham, Calvinism retains a powerful hold over the residents. They fear the unknown and those who stray from the strict standards governing the village. This trepidation comes to a boil when three people – a stranger washed ashore after a storm, a girl who dreams of the future, and a Nauset who holds to the traditions and beliefs of his people – cross paths on colonial Cape Cod.
 
Rather than submit to further abuse from the captain of a merchant ship, Samuel Bellamy jumps overboard. He washes ashore, where he is taken care of by John Julian, one of the native people of the island. Eventually, he seeks employment in Eastham, but few will employ him, and he lacks sufficient funds to marry Maria Hallett, a local girl with a kindred spirit. When he crosses paths with Palsgrave Williams and learns of a fleet of Spanish treasure ships wrecked off the Florida coast, he joins Palsgrave’s expedition to salvage some of the gold. But others have similar notions and before long, Sam and Palgrave decide if they wish to gain a fortune, they must turn pirate.
 
Maria Hallett mistakenly told others that she dreamt of her father’s death before news of it reached Eastham. Ever since, whispers of witchcraft have circulated in spite of her weekly attendance at Sunday service. One reason for this is that Maria has a wandering soul, one that longs to visit far off places – a dream no Puritans in the village understand, including her mother and stepfather. When she seeks out an elderly widow who lives alone and has knowledge of plants that can heal people, Maria again falls under suspicions of witchcraft. Such ungodliness is further supported when it becomes known that she has slept with Bellamy.
 
John Julian spends a lot of time locked in the pillory because of his refusal to follow the Puritans’ faith. With his parents dead and his own people viewing him as someone to be shunned, John spends much of his time alone. He works for a local smuggler, who eventually agrees to sell him land, where he hopes to bring other tribal members to live and practice the ways of their ancestors. The elders of Eastham, however, refuse to honor the smuggler’s ownership of the land, which renders John’s deed invalid and leaves him without purpose to his life.
 
My reservations about this the book stem from the manner in which the author chose to tell the story. After reading the prologue, where the three primary characters are introduced in separate scenes, I expected the author to interweave their stories. Instead, each is told separately – The Tale of Goody Hallett, The Tale of John Julian, The Tale of Sam Bellamy. This style of storytelling can prevent a reader from becoming fully involved in the book, which is what happened for me, especially at the critical phase in each of these characters’ lives. The occasional insertion of minor characters’ viewpoints provides a more rounded glimpse into this time and place, but also draws out the story, which weakened the power of the final two parts of the book where Maria, Sam, and Julian’s stories intersect.
 
In spite of this personal proviso, Pieces of Eight is a unique recasting of the popular Cape Cod legend. Delaney’s intricate tale melds fact with fiction to recreate colonial times. He deftly demonstrates how religion, fear, and prejudice can come together in constructive and destructive ways with profound, and sometimes tragic, outcomes. I enjoyed this recounting of Sam and Maria’s story, and appreciated the introduction of John Julian as more than a side note in history books.
 

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Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
 
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Cayman Cross

Cover Art: Cayman Cross
Cayman Cross
By Jack Scott
Vigilant Publishing, 2011, ISBN 9780615506975, $15.99

On 21 September 1922, nine-year-old Jose Martinez sets out on a new adventure as cabin boy aboard the Juana Mercedes. Sailing differs from his life in the Cuban orphanage, but his faith and the reassurances of Sister Elena give him the courage to try. Angel Perez, the cook, soon befriends him and streetwise Alberto Monson becomes the older brother Jose never had. Now a seasoned sailor at the age of thirteen, Alberto teaches Jose the ropes and helps him fit in with the rest of the crew. The first lesson he learns is not to trust the first mate, a man Alberto calls “The Spaniard” and describes as a dangerous coward. Neither boy realizes just how treacherous the man is or the danger each will face on this journey.
 
Pablo Konig (aka The Spaniard) hears rumors that when the ship reaches Cienfuegos, a stranger will bring aboard a large sum of money. Tired of taking orders and not having the wealth and power he feels he deserves, Pablo enlists the aid of fellow crewman Antonio Rivas and his cousin, Giddy Ebanks, to carry out his plans to take over the vessel, steal the money and cargo, and kill everyone else.
 
Plans rarely go as conceived and the night Pablo sets for the mutiny is no different. Although he and his cohorts succeed in killing the adults, Jose and Alberto manage to escape. But Alberto suffers from a bad head wound and both boys find themselves adrift in the ocean on a stormy night. Will they reach shore? Will they survive? Will they be rescued? And if rescued, what happens? Are the pirates captured and punished?
 
These questions arise during the course of this novel, which is based on a true incident. The author deftly interlaces historical and nautical details into the story and his attention to descriptive detail vividly recreates the locales, transporting readers back in time to Cuba before the revolution and the Cayman Islands before they become a tourist destination. To further enrich the reader’s experience, events unfold at a leisurely pace that captures the essence of this earlier time when technology doesn’t permeate our lives and the pace of life is slower and less hectic. Rather than using a single perspective, Scott spins his tale from a variety of points of view to provide readers with a clear understanding of the act of piracy and subsequent events. Cayman Cross is a fascinating and sometimes poignant tale of treachery and justice, perseverance and friendship, faith and family.

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Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
 
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Pirate Haiku

Cover Art: Pirate Haiku
Pirate Haiku: Bilge-sucking Poems of Booty, Grog, and Wenches for Scurvy Sea Dogs
By Michael P. Spradlin
Adams Media, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4405-0983-4, US $9.95 / CAN $10.99

Long after a ship goes aground on a primitive island three hundred miles from Japan, researchers comb the island for archaeological treasure. They find little of value until they stumble upon a buried box containing gold doubloons, a rusty cutlass, and a journal bound in leather. On further examination this last item belongs to a famous pirate known as One-Leg Sterling, who preyed during the “Golden Age of Buccaneers.” Such discoveries are rare indeed, but this is doubly so because he wrote all his entries in haiku!
 
These haiku are arranged into eight sections, each detailing some aspect of Sterling’s life and adventures.
 
Part One: A Pirate’s Life for Me
Part Two: Rum and Grog
Part Three: On the Spanish Main
Part Four: Wenches
Part Five: In the South Pacific
Part Six: Pirates V. Ninjas
Part Seven: Alone on an Island
Part Eight: Crack On, Mateys
 
The sections are self explanatory, except for the last, which recounts what happens to Sterling when those aboard the Black Thunder, a pirate ship, rescue him from an uncharted island. The subtitle – Bilge-sucking Poems of Booty, Grog, and Wenches for Scurvy Sea Dogs – succinctly epitomizes the rest of the content, which is rich in historical pirate detail mixed with a few myths.
 
With a minimum of words, Spradlin deftly conveys what life was like for a pirate from his earliest days to his last. There is some humor, some raunchiness, but overall this is an entertaining, short read laced with just enough realism to make anyone interested in poetry and pirates realize they’ve unearthed a real treasure.
Special Note: Some content in this book makes it unsuitable for children, so adult pirates should read it before offering it to pirate apprentices.
 
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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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The Sallee Rovers

Cover Art: The Sallee Rovers
The Sallee Rovers
By M. Kei
Keibooks, 2010, ISBN 978-0-557-26719-4, print $18.00, e-book $4.99


Relegated to half pay because of the peace between England and France, Lieutenant Peter Thornton yearns for a ship. He and Lieutenant Roger Perry, his best friend whom Peter secretly loves, make their monthly trek to the Admiralty to check for orders that never come. Until now. Both are assigned to a captured French corvette, Ajax. Her Captain, Horace Bishop, is a prim and proper, by-the-book commander, and it isn’t long before Peter runs afoul of him.
 
Also on board is Achmed bin Mamoud, envoy from the Sallee Republic, and their mission is to convey him to whichever French ports he wishes to visit to confer with officials there. Since the peace between France and England is tenuous, those aboard the Ajax are also to do a bit of reconnoitering to report on French readiness. Achmed soon discovers Peter is a capable officer who is often unjustly punished or reprimanded and so befriends him to elicit information and possibly convert Peter to side with the Sallees.
 
When they happen upon a Spanish galley during a storm, Peter, fourteen-year-old Midshipman Archie Maynard, and several others rescue those in distress. The officers and their men readily go aboard the English vessel, but their captain insists the slaves manning the oars go down with the galley. Appalled, Peter acquires the key that unlocks their chains, then sets about trying to save the ship, the slaves, his men, and himself. While they succeed in this endeavor, Peter lacks the one thing he requires to remain in control – the respect of the men. They heed only one of their own, a handsome and charismatic Sallee rover (Barbary corsair) named Tangle. He deftly assumes control of the galley, a move that endangers Peter, for if the galley fails to elude Ajax, he and his men will be branded pirates.
 
The Sallee Rovers is the first book in the Pirates of the Narrow Seas series. Kei skillfully draws on his own experience as a seaman to craft a historical novel that not only examines the tenuous and tumultuous times in which the characters live, but also reveals how Peter must come to terms with his sexuality and betrayal of his duty to God and country. Occasional odd word choices, some oversights in editing, and a romantic ending that’s a bit too pat are the only elements that mar the flow of the story. While some fans of maritime fiction will object to reading this book because of gay romance that’s intertwined with the story, those episodes are few and what is referred to in industry parlance as “sweet” – no blatant sexual scenes that leave little to the imagination. The Sallee Rovers portrays what life was like in the Royal Navy, and introduces readers to sailing vessels often overlooked in nautical tales. It also exposes readers to how the Barbary corsairs saw themselves and how others saw them.  As the story unfolds, it enigmatically lures the reader into the story, transporting him/her back in time to the period and places where Peter lives and visits.

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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Floating Gold

Cover Art: Floating Gold
Floating Gold
By Margaret Muir
Robert Hale, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7090-9051-9, £18.99

Captain Oliver Quintrell has recovered from his war wounds and desperately wants a new ship, but with the Royal Navy downsizing following the declaration of peace between the European nations, that is unlikely to happen. As he observes a convoy of merchant ships from the beach on the Isle of Wight, his manservant brings news that he’s been called to London, much to the dismay of Oliver’s wife. But duty calls and he goes to Whitehall, where he receives orders shrouded in secrecy.
 
His new post is the thirty-eight-gun frigate, and he and his crew are to accompany a convoy to Madeira. He is not, however, to engage any enemy. Nor is he in command of the convoy, which causes problems when the commodore’s orders directly conflict with those from the Admiralty. Once they arrive at Madeira, he receives additional orders – secret ones that he is not to open until his ship reaches the fifteenth parallel.
 
Breaking in a new crew and not knowing much about the officers who serve under him, Quintrell runs a tight ship. Before they reach their destination, they acquire additional and unexpected hands – Will Ethridge and several others. Will’s knowledge of shipbuilding and carpentry earn him a spot as mate to Chippy, the ship’s carpenter.  When Chippy disappears after a stop in Brazil and two of the unexpected recruits go missing, Will is the first to sound the alarm, but there is little Quintrell can do.
 
The journey to their final destination, a secret place that may or may not exist, is fraught with danger – weather, a leak that was caused on purpose, and others who seek the same treasure as England. Will they survive? Will they find what the Admiralty needs? Will they return safely home?
 
Muir crafts a spellbinding nautical tale that captures the reader’s attention and never releases it until the final page is turned. Her research and attention to detail are impeccable and her experience as a mariner enhances the adventure. Floating Gold whisks readers back to the heyday of the British navy and while the astounding voyage never actually happened, readers find themselves living the life of a sailor and witnessing the awesome beauty and dangers of Deception Island and sailing the seas on a wooden ship in days of yore.



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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Spirit Deep


Cover Art: Spirit
          Deep
Spirit Deep
By Thomas J. Waite
CreateSpace, 2010, ISBN #978-1449566647, $13.69


Set in 1586 and 2008, although the first several chapters take place several years before that, Spirit Deep is a tale of treasure hunting and deadly consequences. The past unfolds from entries in a captain’s log about the capture of a Spanish treasure galleon and the events that resulted in the sinking of that vessel, her crew, and her treasure. The tale begins with Sam Johnson, a famous treasure hunter, and his wife, Taylor, enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation off the Florida coast. While diving, Sam discovers the wreck of a mysterious galleon. The ship should be in a state of disintegration, the treasure embedded in concretions, and the absence of the crew’s remains. But this galleon is in pristine condition, except for the hole in her hull, and skeletons remain where the men died. As for the treasure, it’s as spectacular as the day it came aboard. While these discrepancies with science puzzle Sam, he’s totally absorbed in another find – proof that Sir Francis Drake stepped aboard this particular ship. Sam’s fascination blinds him to the danger lurking outside the ship, which proves deadly for Taylor.
 
Grief at the loss of his beloved wife consumes Sam, and if not for their son, Sam would cease to live. Never again does he set foot underwater, opting instead to retire. In the intervening years between Taylor’s death and the present day, Sam simply tells Bret that his mother drowned in a diving accident. One day, though, he comes across a newspaper article contradicting that story. This revelation, as well as Sam’s rereading of the captain’s log found aboard the galleon, the reappearance of his high school buddy, and the disappearance of a less reputable and competing treasure hunter, force Sam to confront his fears to dive again on the galleon wreck. This time, though, danger lurks not only in the depths below, but also on his ship.
 
Waite weaves the paranormal with reality to create a suspenseful tale filled with intrigue and fascinating discoveries. In spite of the implausibility of the wreck’s condition, the premise works, and Waite deftly spins all the separate threads into a believable story readers of science fiction should enjoy.

 
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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirates!

Cover Art: The
          Pirates!
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon
by Gideon Defoe
Pantheon Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-375-42398-7, $16.95
E-book ISBN 978-0-307-37826-2, $16.95


A shoe-in for the Pirate of the Year Award, at least in his opinion, the Pirate Captain is desolated when he loses to a younger upstart who hands out calling cards. There’s nothing left but for the Captain and his crew to become beekeepers, and the perfect place for this is the island of St. Helena, according to Black Bellamy, who likes to put one over on his fellow buccaneers – and this time is no exception.

Much to the chagrin of Jennifer and her fellow mates, they are unable to dissuade their Captain from leaving a life of plundering. But St. Helena isn’t exactly the picture-perfect island Bellamy promised. Undeterred, the Captain becomes a beekeeper and hosts parties everyone attends because he’s the biggest celebrity their little island has seen in quite some time. At least he is until an officer in the Royal Navy knocks on the Captain’s door and presents the newest resident, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The little island can’t support two enormous egos, and it isn’t long before the Captain and Napoleon try to outdo each other.  While those two battle it out, the other pirates are desperate to find a way to return to their old way of life. Convincing the Captain of that, while he’s trying to run against Napoleon to be head of the St. Helena Residents’ Association, may prove a tougher challenge than anyone thinks.

It’s rare for me not to know what to write about a book, but this one definitely falls outside the norm. It’s part tongue-in-cheek, part whimsical, and part silly, and each chapter outdoes the one before.  Yet in spite of this, the story works and matters do get resolved. And don’t expect the blurb on the back of the book to prove helpful. It has nothing to do with this particular story. The third in The Pirates! series, this book is for adults who want a fast-paced, humorous read that reminds them of being a kid.

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Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Cup of Gold

Cover Art: Cup of Gold
Cup of Gold: A Life of Sir Henry Morgan,
Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History
By John Steinbeck
Penguin Books, 2008, 978-0-14-303945-7, $14.00

Henry Morgan, a young Welsh lad, craves adventure. He doesn’t want to be a farmer like his father, Old Robert. One night a former helper, Dafydd, visits. His tales of life at sea in the Caribbean spur Henry to follow his dream. Before he slips away, he climbs the mountain to get Merlin’s counsel. The old man, who resembles a Druidic priest, tells him, “You will come to your greatness, and it may be in time you will be alone in your greatness and no friend anywhere; only those who hold you in respect or fear or awe.” Henry considers visiting Elizabeth, but he is of an age where she is “a thing of mystery” and fear prevents him from saying goodbye to her.

In Cardiff Henry befriends Tim, a seaman who promises to arrange passage for Henry aboard the Bristol Girl, for the price of a meal and four pounds. Henry was born to walk the decks of a ship and to feel the ocean spray on his face. It matters not that he must work in the galley with the cook, for when he’s not busy, he learns from the other seamen. Not until they reach Barbados does Henry learn he must serve as an indentured servant to James Flower, “not a hard man, and he was certainly not a very brilliant man.” During this time, Henry learns the skills and self-reliance he needs for the future – the day he will finally become the great man of whom Merlin spoke.

Eventually, Henry makes his way to Jamaica and becomes a buccaneer. Rumors spread through the Caribbean of La Santa Roja, a Spanish woman of fabulous beauty. When the desire to possess her overcomes Henry, he raids Panama, the Cup of Gold, the taking of which makes him legendary. But is La Santa Roja what he really wants? And what of his life once he finally possesses the dream?

Most American readers are introduced to John Steinbeck in English class when they read The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men. But how many English teachers mention that his first novel was about a pirate? Cup of Gold isn’t his best work, and a contemporary reviewer called it “a rather weird” book. When published in 1929, some thought the novel was a biography. Steinbeck did incorporate some history into the story, but opted to use a single source – the English edition of Buccaneers of America, which contained “questionable (and damning) statements about Morgan himself.” (Morgan sued the publishers for libel in 1684 and won.)

This isn’t your typical, modern-day story of pirates. Rather than a strict historical novel, Steinbeck opted to pen an historical fantasy, but fanciful might be a more appropriate description. It’s very readable, but anyone expecting the style of his later works will be disappointed – that was yet to be developed when he wrote Cup of Gold. Eloquence and prose intrudes into the flow of the story, yet anyone who has read stories written in the past should enjoy this pirate tale. Those who are fans of Morgan may not find the portrayal flattering, but Steinbeck chose not to place the legendary buccaneer on a pedestal. His character comes across as a special, yet ordinary, man with very human tendencies.

Learn about the author

Review Copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of the Delaware

Cover Art: Pirates of the
            Delaware
Pirates of the Delaware
By Rupert Sargent Holland
Schiffer, 2006, ISBN 0-7643-2487-X, US $14.95

A bored student. A beautiful émigré. A mysterious Englishman. A sinister stranger. These four people come together on a lovely spring day, setting in motion an adventure of highwaymen, smuggling, piracy, and revolution. Jared Lee studies law under Nathaniel Carroll, a respected lawyer who tends to talk about situations rather than becoming involved in them. Fleeing France, Jeanne de Severac and her father, a marquis, arrive in Philadelphia with few possessions. With Mr. Carroll and Jared’s assistance, she sells a necklace to provide her father with necessary funds. When the Severacs move to a questionable country estate, Jared seeks out his friend, Hal Norroy, an Englishman with secrets, for advice because he’s more worldly than a farmer’s son.

Jared’s first hint at possible danger comes when a rough-looking Frenchman attempts to accost Jeanne on her arrival at Mr. Carroll’s office. Then a highwayman holds up Jared after he leaves a party. When the Severacs’ servant arrives to deliver a message to Jared, they discover Jeanne’s note has disappeared from the man’s pocket. Jared makes arrangements to meet with Jeanne secretly, but is kidnapped by pirates on the way to meet her. While imprisoned at a farmhouse, his friend Luke Hatch arrives and, using his boxing prowess, disables the man holding Jared. Together they escape, only to discover the coach carrying Jeanne and her father to a new residence in Philadelphia has disappeared. Intent on rescuing them, the two men soon find themselves aboard a pirate ship, where the captain’s identity stuns them. And if that isn’t enough trouble to have to get out of, some of the pirates are planning to stage a mutiny!

Originally written in 1925, this mysterious adventure takes place in 1793. While the thrills and suspense aren’t the edge-of-your-seat type and the pirates don’t appear until near the end of the tale, this book has many serpentine twists that require the reader to pay attention to detail. Holland manages to weave his tale with history without throwing it in the reader’s face. Pirates of the Delaware begins slowly, just as any warm, spring day invites us to toss aside our work and enjoy the outdoors, but the first hint of danger soon spurs us to join Jared in piecing together the puzzle even if danger lurks around the corner.

See Inside the Book

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of Desire

Cover Art: Pirates of
            Desire
Pirates of Desire
Book By You Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-894407-06-7, $35.95

Two privileged young ladies of the Count’s court crave adventure. Well, at least one does; her friend tags along. All the heroine wants is to go to sea and have swashbuckling adventures, but two gentlemen upset her plans at the Count’s first public celebration of his birthday in twelve years. Instead of sailing aboard a merchant vessel, the ladies are confined to their room until they learn the proper comportment. Like most rebels, though, they find a way to thwart their punishment. Before long they discover they’ve boarded the wrong ship – one that will be gone far longer than the two days they had been told. It won’t be long before their absence is discovered. Complicating their plight are pirates!

Sea Wolf gained his reputation as a privateer, but now attacks only the Count’s ships. His men follow him without question, even though his clothes and manner are those of a gentleman rather than a rogue. His attack on the merchant ship doesn’t quite go as planned; neither he nor his men expected to find two lovely maidens. That’s trouble he doesn’t need. After all, he already has a price on his head and sooner or later, the Count will demand a reckoning.

Pirates of Desire isn’t your typical romance novel. When you purchase this book, you personalize it by answering questions. This entertaining novel doesn’t require the reader to keep track of who’s who or what’s what, and you’ll probably figure out the romance and truth about Sea Wolf early on. Nor is it the gold packaging that swaddles the book in the mailing envelope that makes this a must read romance. What is special is the principal characters are your creations and you can spend an afternoon escaping from the mundane tasks of life to enjoy a daring adventure with “friends.” The price is steep for a paperback, but Pirates of Desire* is a great gift idea for that special someone.

Read a Preview

*This is but one of the titles in their catalogue, and aside from romances, Books By You also does personalized books for children ages 6-12.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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A Sword for Pizarro

Cover Art: A Sword for
            Pizarro
A Sword for Pizarro
By Tom Ryan
Hold Fast Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9794808-0-5, US $17.95

One might need a road map to follow the twists and turns in Marshall Cross’s life, but that’s okay. He’s a treasure hunter who knows the path to sumptuous rewards is never easy. Nor is this time any different as he hunts for the golden sword once owned by the conqueror of the Inca, Franco Pizarro. While testing his new invention, he’s hunted by Marge, a bull shark named for his ex-mother-in-law. The newspaper prints a scathing review of his archaeology-themed amusement park. Real estate tycoon Denton Barrett has dreams of building a new planned community, the largest in the nation, called Barrettanic, that includes Cross’ land. Marshall and many of the other property owners, however, don’t want to sell, which forces Barrett to give up his dream.

Just as everything seems to be settling down and Marshall can resume the hunt for Pizarro’s sword, news breaks that an asteroid will collide with Earth, causing a massive tsunami that will decimate Florida. Mandatory evacuations are ordered, but Marshall has no intention of leaving. He finally has proof the sword really was aboard one of the ships in the 1715 treasure fleet that sank off the coast during a hurricane. All he has to do is figure out which ship carried the sword, then locate the galleon and the sword before the tsunami forever changes Florida’s coastline. At the same time another puzzle presents itself – why are Barrett and his goons still in the area? As Cross unravels these two mysteries, he finds himself confronting manmade and natural perils that may well cost him his life.

While the premise may seem a bit farfetched, Tom Ryan has craftily written a compelling adventure mystery that never once disappoints or “jumps the shark.” Barrett is the quintessential villain, while Cross is the hero that men wish they were and women wish they knew. The support characters are wonderfully drawn and bring the story to life. There is a reason for each to step onto the stage, and the quirks, habits, and tendencies prove each character is as human as you or me. A Sword for Pizarro has as many thrills as a roller coaster – one you won’t want to leave when the story ends.

Read an excerpt
Interview with Tom Ryan

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Avery's Treasure

Cover Art: Avery's
            Treasure
Avery’s Treasure
by Kate Dolan
Zumaya, 2007
ISBN 978-1-634135-67-9 (E-book), $6.99
ISBN 978-1-934135-66-2 (Paperback), $15.99

New Providence awaits the arrival of the new governor, whose mission is to rid the island of the pirates that infest it. Edward Talbot, captain of the Osprey, wavers between accepting the king’s pardon and continuing to go on the account. Charles Vane, on the other hand, has no such dilemma – he is and always will be a pirate.

Ben Bridgeman sees only trouble ahead with the governor’s arrival and insists that his daughter, Arleigh, seek sanctuary at a convent on French island. While Edward ponders whether to accept Ben’s commission, Arleigh has plans that don’t include living with nuns. Spoiled and greedy, she dreams of locating her father’s treasure and escaping his clutches. Her lack of forethought and planning, however, land her on Charles Vane’s ship. His quartermaster, Calico Jack Rackham, discovers her sex and contrives to obtain the treasure map. When Edward learns Arleigh has fled, he agrees to go after her because Ben is really Henry Avery, a retired pirate who amassed a fortune.

Guilt for pushing Arleigh to run away pushes Rev. Yam to sign on as one of Edward’s crew. Things go awry almost from the start and they end up on an island inhabited only by a buccaneer’s daughter. Dominique wants the intruders gone, but when Arleigh ends up on the island as well, a volatile mixture brews. Dominique loves Yam, but he only has eyes for Arleigh. She wants to be free and secure her father’s treasure. Edward wants the treasure and return Arleigh to her father. Their paths to success, however, are fraught with the unexpected, including a dangerous encounter with Blackbeard.

Dolan’s research into the Golden Age of Piracy is evident throughout this adventure. Pirates abound, and the imaginary situations that bring those from history together are realistically portrayed. Arleigh’s flight is a bit contrived, and her ready acceptance into Vane’s crew doesn’t quite ring true. The true heroine is Dominique, and the melding of her isolation with the world beyond provides the true adventure and romance of the story. Arleigh slowly matures into a more likeable woman once these two women join together to rescue those they love, and it is only in doing so that Arleigh learns the true meaning of friendship and love. Avery’s Treasure is a tale with serpentine twists and turns where dreams do come true, but not always in the ways we expect.

Visit Kate Dolan
View the book trailer for Avery's Treasure

Book Review Copyright ©2007 Cindy Vallar

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The Eagle’s Prophecy

Cover Art: Eagle's
            Prophecy
The Eagle’s Prophecy
By Simon Scarrow
St. Martin’s, 2006, ISBN 978-0-312-32454-4, US $24.95

In A.D. 45 pirates attack a merchant ship carrying an imperial agent named Secundus. In his possession is a chest of scrolls. But these are not ordinary scrolls – they contain information that could devastate Emperor Claudius and the Roman Empire. When the pirate captain, Telemachus, realizes their worth, he demands a high ransom for their release. At the same time, he negotiates with the emperor’s enemies to see which side will pay the highest price for the knowledge contained in the scrolls. Telemachus’ reign of terror on shipping also makes it imperative for Rome to deal swiftly and decisively to retrieve the scrolls and destroy the pirates.

Implicated in the death of a fellow Centurion, Macro and Cato are in Rome awaiting the outcome of the investigation. Narcissus, the imperial secretary, offers them a way out of their troubles: Retrieve the scrolls and his agent (if possible). If they succeed, the investigation disappears; if they don’t, both will die. To complicate their mission, they must appear to be part of the force assigned to wipe out the pirates. The leader of this task force is none other than Vitellius, a power-hungry man who is also Macro and Cato’s enemy.

Vitellius plans to establish a temporary base closer to where the pirates operate, but the fleet is attacked at sea. Ships are lost and many Romans die. It soon becomes apparent that there’s a traitor amongst the Romans. Then Cato discovers that Vitellius is intent on betraying him and Macro before they complete their mission. Will the two centurions recover the scrolls and live to fight again? Will they unmask the traitor before it’s too late? Or will Vitellius’ vanity and thirst for prestige and power bring about their downfall, as well as that of the empire?

The Eagle’s Prophecy is the latest installment in a series about the Roman army, but those who haven’t read the previous five books will easily find themselves drawn into this adventurous tale of intrigue and betrayal. Scarrow’s portrayal of life in Rome vividly contrasts opulence and poverty, drawing the reader in until he/she walks (and sometimes runs) along the streets with the Centurions. His depiction of the hunt for the pirates and the battle scenes subtly ensnare until the reader hears the clang of swords and feels the spatter of blood. Few authors write about ancient pirates, but Scarrow’s portrayal of them is historically accurate and eye-opening. They are as fully developed as his Roman characters, and combined with the action and his attention to detail, he brings alive a time long past.

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Book Review Copyright ©2007 Cindy Vallar

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Feeding the Dragon

Cover Art: Feeding the Dragon
Feeding the Dragon
by S. Dan Smith
Stone Garden, 28 February 2007, ISBN 1-60076-009-0, $11.95

Tamayo runs a network of pirates, whose purpose is to steal specific ships and/or cargoes that will aid him and his colleagues in masterminding a war. The goal is to fund a revolutionary coup in the Philippine Islands and establish a satellite from which Communist China can rule the trade routes, including the busy Malacca Straits and South China Sea. Tamayo’s most notorious pirate is John Henry, who is wanted for piracy and the kidnapping of girls to sell into slavery.

While some attacks take place in territorial waters, as is true of most piracy today, others occur in international water. This brings SEAPAC (Southeast Asian Piracy Alert Center) into the picture. Commander Wright, the US Navy advisor to SEAPAC, and his informants are following the money trail in an attempt to bring down Tamayo. When word of an impending pirate attack reaches him, Wright requests help from the navy. John Wilson, the new captain of the USS Chancellorsville, and his crew interrupt their Christmas holidays to track down the pirates. But a traitor within SEAPAC and the Philippine revolution spell trouble for world stability, unless Wilson and the Japanese can thwart the pirates and prevent China from bringing their plans to fruition.

This fast-paced thriller closely mirrors the fears and realities of modern-day maritime piracy. Smith weaves complicated subplots together to create a novel that tells a good story laced with well-researched facts. His host of characters displays good and bad traits just as people do. The only weak element of the tale comes when Tamayo turns the SEAPAC representative into a double agent – it happens too easily, which makes the traitor’s succumbing less believable. Smith’s service in the US Navy is evident from his knowledge of shipboard life and the frequent use of acronyms.* Naval personnel and fans of maritime thrillers will enjoy Feeding the Dragon.

* The publisher informs me that they have addded an appendix to explain the jargon.

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Captain Blood

Cover Art: Captain Blood
            CD
Captain Blood
by Rafael Sabatini
Blackstone Audio, 2006
ISBN 978-0-7861-6791-3, $55; 0-7861-6583-9, $19.95
Presented by The Colonial Radio Theatre
Playing Time: 7 hours on 6 compact discs

Dr. Peter Blood, a peaceable surgeon who goes to the aid of a wounded rebel, finds himself on trial for treason against the English king. Transported to Bridgetown, Jamaica, Blood becomes one of Colonel Bishop’s slaves, but rather than toil in the field, he ministers to the sick citizens, including the governor. This incursion into the profits of the two doctors already on the island causes them to abet Blood in his attempt to escape the island. A Spanish raid interrupts their plans, but ever resourceful, Blood and his mates turn the tide on this new enemy – rescuing the town while capturing a better ship to begin their lives as pirates.

He names their ship after Arabella Bishop, the colonel’s niece. In quick order Blood establishes a reputation among the brotherhood, but a partnership with another equally infamous pirate turns to deception and death. Twice he rescues damsels in distress, but the second one – Arabella – spurns his love because he is a pirate. He eventually accepts that fate has dealt him a hand he never expected, nor wanted, but the ouster of the Royal House of Stuart and war between England and France might just change his mind.

Many years have passed since I first read Captain Blood after seeing Errol Flynn bring Sabatini’s character to life on film. This Colonial Radio Theatre production is true to the original book, so listening to them dramatize the novel was like visiting an old friend. Sound effects make the action real, while the actors bring the characters to life, enhancing this historical romantic adventure that is the epitome of a swashbuckling tale. Fans of Sabatini will want to add this to their collections, and those only familiar with Flynn’s interpretation will want to meet the real Captain Blood. The price is steep, but well worth the investment. Blackstone Audio does, however, offer rentals of the audio for $14.95.

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Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Run Afoul

Cover Art: Run Afoul by Joan
            Druett
Run Afoul
by Joan Druett
St. Martin’s, 2006, ISBN 978-0-312-35336-0, $23.95 / CAN $31.95

Wiki Coffin, half-Maori/half-American, serves as a linguist for an expedition to Brazil overseen by the United States Navy. Soon after their arrival in late 1838, Assistant Astronomer Grimes takes ill. With his dying breath, he accuses Festin, the ship’s new cook, of poisoning him. Since Festin is already under suspicion for a previous murder, he’s immediately arrested, and Wiki finds himself embroiled in another mystery. His father, a sea captain, is also in port and one of Captain Coffin’s Brazilian friends invites Coffin, Wiki, and members of the expedition on a scientific mission that has them visiting various plantations. At their last stop, one of the men is killed and Captain Coffin is arrested. Wiki must unravel the threads that surround the two murders to discover the true killer’s identity, but it is a mystery that remains puzzling until the final solution.

Run Afoul is a subtle mystery, rather than one where you figure out who-done-it halfway through the story. Secrets abound and the reader is never quite certain the characters are as honest as they seem. Ms. Druett deftly weaves her knowledge of shipboard life and Maori customs into a scientific expedition while depicting the world of 19th-century society in Brazil and the American navy.

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Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate & the Three Cutters

Cover Art: Pirate &
            the Three Cutters
The Pirate & The Three Cutters
by Captain Frederick Marryat
Trafalgar Square, 2006, ISBN 1-84588-205-9, $9.95

The Pirate recounts the story of twins separated at a young age during a storm at sea. Neither knows the other lives, but one is raised in a comfortable lifestyle in England to become an officer in the Royal Navy. A notorious pirate captain raises the other as his own, but Francisco abhors his father’s cruelty and welcomes marooning. Fate intervenes to draw these two young men together and there in lies the adventure, romance, revelations, and mutiny – all on the high seas.

The Three Cutters is a short novella that follows the paths of three vessels on an intersect course. The yacht belongs to an aristocrat who’s brought along some friends for an outing. The second vessel belongs to smugglers. The revenue cutter patrols English waters in search of the smugglers. One tries to outrun the other, only to have the third interfere. But who wins the day?

These two stories first appeared in 1836, and therefore, the style is far different from today’s rousing high seas adventures. This does not, however, detract from the intrigue and exploits of what were then pioneering novels that recounted tales at sea. The reader may surmise certain elements of the story prior to the author revealing them, but there are tidbits that remain elusive until the author wants the reader to know the truth. The stories flow much like the ebb and flow of the tide, and that pacing soon draws the reader into the story. A welcome reintroduction to Captain Marryat, who wove his knowledge and experience of a life at sea into rousing escapades.

Meet the author
Life and Works of Captain Frederick Marryat

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate's Prize

Cover Art: Pirate's Prize by
            Lena Nelson Dooley
Pirate’s Prize
by Lena Nelson Dooley
Heartsong Presents, 2005, ISBN 1-59310-609-2, $4.95

Having spent the past few years living with her grandparents in Spain, Angelina de la Fuente Delgado is eager to return home to Florida to see her father. French pirates attack her ship, however, and she finds herself at the mercy of their captain, Etienne Badeau, who wants to make her his bride. The Angelina Star’s crew is murdered and the ship destroyed, so no trace of her will be found. Badeau imprisons Angelina in his home in the far reaches of Louisiana, where he attempts to woo her. Angelina does whatever she can to protect herself and her aunt, but wonders if it will be enough.

Brian O’Doule comes to Spain to fetch Angelina home at her father’s request. He secretly loves her, but she is too much a lady for the likes of him. His passion for her, however, interferes with his duty as the ship’s lookout, which allows the pirates to sail so near that the Angelina Star can’t escape. Racked with guilt, Brian pleads with God to give him a second chance and let him save Angelina. His ability to speak Spanish, when Badeau doesn’t, saves Brian’s life. As translator for the pirate, Brian has daily contact with Angelina, and as he waits for the opportune moment to put his rescue plan into effect, their friendship blossoms. He only hopes that one day she will forgive him.

Contrary to the normal pirate romance, Lena Nelson Dooley portrays pirates as they truly were rather than as romantic heroes. Instead, she chooses a hardworking man who believes in God to assume that role, and she accomplishes this with adeptness. Brian has his failings, but never loses his faith and even if he might never marry the woman he loves, he intends to save her from the peril they face. Adversity strengthens Angelina, and she matures into a woman who finds comfort in the Lord while she awaits her rescue. One minor problem with the story is that it unfolds in Spanish West Florida rather than Louisiana, which Spain ceded to France in 1803. The realistic portrayal of pirates and the prominence of the power of love, both God’s and man’s, make this an easily overlooked flaw. This is a heartwarming historical for readers who enjoy inspirational romance.

Meet Lena Nelson Dooley
Read an Excerpt of Pirate's Prize

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Frozen Passage

Cover Art: Frozen Passge by
            William S. Smith
Frozen Passage
by William S. Smith
PublishAmerica, 2006, ISBN 1-4241-1006-8, $17.95

When William Casey signs aboard The Angel of Death as ship’s carpenter in 1590, he expects to return home to England. It isn’t until they are at sea that he learns he’s on a pirate ship. After they capture a Spanish galleon laden with gold, they sail to an island to party. The captain and his handpicked men ferry the treasure ashore to hide. William, who abstains from drink, follows the captain and witnesses the pirates secreting the gold inside a cave and the captain murdering his men. William returns to the ship without anyone being the wiser and records the location of the treasure in his journal. At dawn, the pirates set sail, but a fierce storm blows the ship far off course. Before they can escape, they freeze to death.

In 1994 geologists explore the Arctic Circle to locate the best place to drill for oil. When their initial finds unearth a wooden sailing ship, archaeologists are called in. They discover that not only is the ship intact, but so are her sailors. The billionaire the scientists work for decides to unfreeze them, using technology based on cryogenics. He enlists the help of experts in various fields, including Dr. Cherlye Landan, a professor of Forensic Science and Ancient Civilizations. She finds herself drawn to one particular sailor – William Casey. His return to life centuries later make for humorous incidents as his world collides with hers. As the other pirates thaw, their piratical tendencies surface and with the help of a traitor, they kidnap Cherlye and again pillage the sea.

Science fiction isn’t my forte, but the science in Frozen Passage certainly seems plausible, if not now, sometime in the future. Although the writing style and formatting need some editing, this is a suspenseful tale that explores a fascinating what-if scenario. For sci-fi fans who crave pirate stories, this is one adventure to consider. The love story between William and Cherlye will appeal to romance readers, as well.

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Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Siren

Siren Cover Art
Siren
by Cheryl Sawyer
New American Library, 2005, ISBN 0-451-21377-7, US $6.99 / CAN $9.99

Léonore Roncival intends to carry on her father’s work as a privateer sailing the Caribbean. Then Jean Laffite invades her island sanctuary. Sparks fly between these two headstrong people, but both bide their time to achieve their goals. In the end, it is Léonore, with the help of her faithful followers, who hands Laffite an ignominious defeat, and he departs vowing never to return.

Jean Laffite, a notorious gentleman privateer from New Orleans, finds himself strangely captivated by the mysterious woman often called Madame Ching. He doesn’t expect their paths to cross, but before long he finds himself matching words and wit with the lady as they negotiate who gets what prize after the privateers capture two vessels. Then he spies her on the streets of New Orleans, and before long, love blossoms.

Theirs is a stormy affair, fraught with distrust and interference from friends, enemies, and a mysterious masked woman. To complicate matters, relations between America and Britain are on the verge of war, and rumors abound that the English or the Spanish intend to claim Léonore’s island for their own. Can their love survive betrayal and war?

Siren begins as a historical romance, but ends as historical fiction. The majority of the tale unfolds prior to the War of 1812, and draws the reader into the fiery passion of two people attracted to each other. Once the War of 1812 begins, the reader is kept at a distance because the author tells rather than shows the events. Ms. Sawyer weaves the known facts about Jean Laffite with the legends, creating a realistic portrayal of a man whose past is shrouded in mystery. Two minor historical inaccuracies place the jail that imprisoned the Baratarians underground when in fact the cells were located behind the Cabildo, and steamboats weren’t a rarity in 1814 since they had offered passage to citizens between Natchez and New Orleans for two years. The comparison of the heroine to Cheng I Sao, the legendary Chinese woman who commanded nearly twenty thousand pirates, is a stretch. At times the use of pronouns instead of characters’ names makes it difficult to know who says what. For those readers with an interest in Jean Laffite and women who stepped outside the bounds of normal society,Siren will entertain and take you to a time and place long ago.

Cheryl Sawyer’s Website
Read an Excerpt
Read more about Jean Laffite

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Kingston by Starlight

Cover Art: Kingston by
            Starlight
Kingston by Starlight
by Christopher John Farley
Three Rivers Press, 2005, ISBN 1-4000-8245-5, $13.95 US/ $21 CAN

Since her first appearance in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates by Captain Charles Johnson in 1724, Anne Bonny has intrigued people interested in Caribbean piracy. Not only was she a female pirate, but she disappeared while in a Jamaican jail, never to be heard from again. In Kingston by Starlight, Anne tells her own story from her childhood in Ireland to her pirating days with Calico Jack Rackham and Mary Read to their capture and her life after prison.

One startling difference between this novel and others is the lyrical language and literary tone of the book. Most recent novels portray pirate life with more realism and grittiness. While essential elements of Anne’s story lay the foundation for this novel, the author interprets her life story differently from what readers may remember. For example, Bonny was not Anne’s last name originally. She was Anne Cormac until she married James Bonny, but he never appears in this story. Some readers may object to the sexual elements in the story; others may find themselves kept at arm’s length from Anne rather than being at her side as events unfold. Readers who favor literary books and the lilt of poetry, however, should enjoy Kingston by Starlight.

Reading Group Guide for Kingston by Starlight
Read an Excerpt from Kingston by Starlight

Book Review Copyright ©2005 Cindy Vallar

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Pursuit of Honor by Joseph O’Steen

Cover Art: Pursuit of
            Honor
Pursuit of Honor
by Joseph O’Steen
JADA Press, 2004, ISBN 0-9761110-9-8
$13.95 US / $17.25 Can / £7.25

Commander Nathan Beauchamp of the British Royal Navy returns in a new adventure to thwart Irish rebels and Caribbean pirates. Black Caesar, a nasty pirate, has discovered a vast quantity of gold in a Spanish shipwreck. Irish rebels intend to use the gold to fund a war against the English government. To prevent the traitors from carrying out their plans, the navy converts a former Dutch merchantman into a pirate raider. With a specially picked crew, Nathan sails to the West Indies to prevent the retrieval of the gold without incurring the wrath of Spain, an ally rather than an enemy in 1803. Unbeknownst to Nathan there are spies aboard who have no intention of allowing him to complete his mission.

This is a fast-paced naval adventure that combines suspense with intrigue and romance. It is not meant for those readers well versed in naval yarns of the Napoleonic Era. Rather it introduces new readers to the world of wooden sailing ships and life in the Royal Navy. The pirates play a minor role in this tale, but the spies and traitors keep readers interested from start to finish. A good read in spite of the lack of copy editing.

Review of Book One in the Series
Visit the Author
Read the Prologue and a Chapter

Book Review Copyright ©2005 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates, Ghosts, and Coastal Lore by Charles Harry Whedbee

Cover Art: Pirates,
            Ghosts, and Coastal Lore by Charles Harry Whedbee
Pirates, Ghosts, and Coastal Lore: the Best of Judge Whedbee
By Charles Harry Whedbee
John F. Blair, 2004, ISBN 0-89587-295-1, $13.95

Before books, people told stories that were passed down from one generation to the next. Sometimes these tales were told around campfires at night, when the listener’s imagination conjured up pictures of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Those with the gift of storytelling captivate their audience and impart vivid portrayals that haunt long after the story ends. Judge Whedbee was such a storyteller.

This collection features thirteen of his memorable stories, tales of the Outer Banks of North Carolina he first heard as a child. The pirates include Blackbeard, Edward Low, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. The ghosts feature Virginia Dare and the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island, fishermen from Portsmith Town, a cemetery with a bleeding arch, and the daughter of a pirate who disappears on her wedding day. The other stories concern a porpoise turned pilot, a slave who fights for America’s freedom, a flaming ship, the sand dollar, and a Tuscarora brave who saves his enemy.

As you read these tales, it is as if Judge Whedbee stands before you telling them himself, painting eerie pictures of times long ago, of restless spirits forever caught between the world of the living and that of the dead. Entertaining, spooky, thought provoking, endearing. A delight for young and old alike.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Ocean Eyes by Amy Hoff

Cover Art: Ocean
            Eyes by Amy Hoff
By Amy Hoff
Writers Club Press, 2001, 0-595-18723-4, $16.95

Sir Joseph Bruce is a Scot in the English army during the struggle between the Royalists and the Puritans. His closest friend is an Englishman named Anders, a man noted for his dalliances with women. Joseph prefers to write poetry until one night in a tavern where he meets an exotic dancer who turns out to be the notorious and legendary Captain Angel d’Auteville, a bloodthirsty pirate unlucky in love. When his countrymen intend on betraying Charles I, Joseph and Angel form an alliance to safeguard the King. Joseph almost dies while Angel and her men leave empty-handed.

Thinking Joseph dead, Angel returns to her wicked life after a brief respite with friends in Ireland. A disillusioned Joseph turns his back on his military career, befriends a historian rumored to be a vampire, and returns home. After some of Angel’s men betray her to the Spanish Inquisition, those who remain loyal set out to find Joseph, for they require his assistance to effect her rescue.

Ocean Eyes is a compelling novel that doesn’t embellish or romanticize piracy. The characters and their foibles draw the reader into the story. Joseph has trouble coming to terms with both his royal heritage (his ancestor was Robert the Bruce) and loving a woman who walks on the wrong side of the law, but time and again events force him to overcome these uncertainties. Past lovers have jaded Angel where men are concerned, and her anger is a driving force behind the viciousness that makes her legendary. Yet it is Joseph’s memory that sustains Angel during her torturous imprisonment. A multitude of secondary characters spices this story that circumnavigates the globe. Beware, the ending is fitting but will haunt the reader long after the final page is turned.

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Book Review Copyright ©2005 Cindy Vallar

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The RB Trilogy by C.C. Colee

Cover Art: RB: The Widow MakerCover Art: RB: The EnchantressCover Art:
            RB: The Game
By C.C. Colee
The Widow Maker: America House, 2001, 1-58851-378-5, $25.95
The Enchantress: America House, 2000, 1-59129-065-1, $34.95
The Game: Publish America, 2003, 1-59286-135-0, $24.95

After her parents’ deaths, Audrey Malone lives with her uncle. He’s determined to make a good, and profitable, match for her regardless of her thoughts on the matter. His final choice leaves Audrey with little choice--submit to a brutal and unhappy marriage, or run away. She opts for the latter and ends up aboard a ship bound for Africa and “rescued” by pirates. This is the premise of the first book in the trilogy, The Widow Maker. Audrey becomes the property of Captain Rene Black, but she falls in love with his quartermaster who protects her from Black and other pirates up to no good.

Book two, The Enchantress, finds Audrey aboard another pirate ship, captained by a woman, after the Royal Navy destroys Black’s ship. Captain Mala and Audrey think Black is dead, but he resurfaces and takes over Mala’s ship, which causes more problems for Audrey, for he brings with him a particularly nasty pirate intent on raping Audrey. In the meantime, Mala’s quartermaster attempts to convince Mala that only he truly loves her. All this turmoil inevitably leads to many showdowns, sometimes with tragic results. The final book, The Game, involves Black’s attempts to locate Mala before his arch nemesis, Captain Alexander of the Royal Navy, carries out his threats against Mala.

Unlike many series, this trilogy requires readers to begin with book one and continue to the end. The individual titles do not stand alone. Nor is this typical romance, for there is far too much domestic brutality and darkness even though love is an underlying theme throughout the books. Readers looking for pirate adventure will find this trilogy fits the bill, and while it provides a more accurate depiction of pirates and life at sea than many novels, there are still some historical inaccuracies. The Widow Maker is the most absorbing of the three books, and ensnares the reader into finding out what happens to Audrey and the other characters. All the characters are well drawn and easy to envision. Audrey matures from timid lady to daring pirate by the end of the series.

Unfortunately, there are several drawbacks of which readers should be aware. The Widow Maker and The Enchantress are poorly edited. This isn’t a major problem in the first book, but the second is too long and includes too much repetition of incidents, which may annoy the reader. While The Game is better edited, the suspense and tension in rescuing Mala never succeeds and is over far too soon. This leaves at least a third of the book devoted to tying up loose ends. It is also the least accurate historically, which may leave the reader feeling cheated or disappointed after reading all three books. In light of these problems, readers may find the high prices of these books a deterrent.

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Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser

Cover Art: The Pyrates
By George MacDonald Fraser
Lyons Press, 2003, ISBN 1-58574-800-5, $16.95

Put every swashbuckling movie ever made into a bowl shaped like a pirate ship. Stir in one suave and daring hero, a beautiful and spoiled maiden in search of a husband, and one antihero who’s either at the wrong place at the right time or the wrong time at the right place. Spice this concoction with four notorious pirates of varying degrees of evilness and one depraved and masochistic Spanish don hellbent on ruling the world. Decorate with a gold crown encrusted with gemstones, cannibals, deserted islands, damsels in distress, dungeons, and conniving merchants.

This hilarious and outrageous novel crosses the boundaries of time to extract juicy tidbits from various historic time periods and incorporates elements from the twentieth century to entertain and pay homage to the buccaneers of yore. Every time you think it can’t get any better, or worse, the characters lead you down another path you don’t expect. Within these pages you’ll find King Charles II, Samuel Pepys, Calico Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny, as well as references to Errol Flynn, Xavier Cougat, and Dracula. As crazy as it sounds, Fraser spins a seamless tale where every character and setting seems perfectly natural. Pirated from history and our daily lives, the elements that make up The Pyrates provide a rollicking adventure from the royal halls of England to the pirate haven of Madagascar to the Caribbean where pirates hunted their prey.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Cassandra, LOST by Joanna Catherine Scott

Cover Art: Cassandra, Lost
By Joanna Catherine Scott
St. Martin’s Press, 2004, ISBN 0-312-31942-7, $24.95

Just before her eighteenth birthday in 1793, Cassandra Owings of Maryland elopes with a Frenchman of whom her father disapproves. Benedict van Pradelles takes his new bride to France to help his parents flee Paris. When Cassandra and Benedict arrive, his mother is too ill to travel and Benedict must reclaim their wealth and property in the country. After escaping the revolutionists who imprisoned him, a wounded Benedict returns to Cassandra, who must now nurse him and his mother while she herself is pregnant. Confined to the two rooms where they live, she feels like a prisoner within the walls of the townhouse, for the streets are unsafe and the servants seem ready to harm them if given any excuse.

During this time Cassandra meets and befriends Jean La Fitte, a young lad who helps his father and Benedict in their secret affairs. Eventually she joins Jean in his work, which allows her to escape from her prison and experience adventure. Jean’s father’s arrest and the deaths of Benedict’s parents force them all to realize they must leave France or face the guillotine. When Jean decides to search for his brother Pierre rather than accompany Cassandra and Benedict to America, she gives him a locket with her picture in it and they promise that someday they will meet again.

This well-researched novel about Cassandra and her life in Paris and New Orleans is based on fact. Not enough is known of her real life, for she had no contact with her family after she eloped just before the boat she boarded disappeared soon after it sailed in 1815. Whether she had an affair with Jean Laffite can’t be proven with any certainty, although he apparently knew her. Laffite was a master at illusion and misinformation, and the author does a commendable job showing this penchant for secrecy. She portrays him as a complex character, charismatic yet iron willed, traits necessary to his trade as privateer and smuggler. She deftly weaves the facts and legends about Laffite, providing plausible explanations for the stories we know of him.

If Jean Laffite were not a character in this book, would I have read it? Probably not, for I had several major problems with the story. First, much is told rather than shown to the reader. This technique keeps the reader at arm’s length from the action rather than allowing the reader to “participate” in the story. Perhaps a greater flaw, though, is that Cassandra is not a likeable heroine. She’s childish and self-centered, and has a skewed definition of love. She never becomes more than a one-dimensional character, whereas Benedict and Laffite do. Even William Claiborne, the governor of Louisiana, is better drawn, although the reader may think the familial relationship between Claiborne and Cassandra contrived, and the author doesn’t confirm in her author’s note whether they were cousins or not.

There are several factual errors in the story, although they are minor ones. Bluebeard is twice portrayed as a real pirate when he’s actually a fictional one. The reader is left to wonder why the author didn’t just use Blackbeard as the pirate in question, as he really lived and residents of Maryland would have known of him, for he was a legend in his own time. The author’s claim that polite society didn’t accept Laffite is half right –Americans didn’t, but Creoles did. Also, she doesn’t have him deny that he’s a pirate when Cassandra asks this of him. In fact, Laffite’s contemporaries say he vehemently denied ever being a pirate. Lastly, the author spells his name as “Lafitte,” whereas he always signed his name “Laffite,” as evidenced in several extant documents.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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There Were Two Pirates

Cover Art: There
            Were Two Pirates

By James Branch Cabell
Wildside Press, 2003, ISBN 1592240836, $15

Each year Florida celebrates José Gasparilla, King of the Pirates, who established his kingdom on Gasparilla Island toward the end of the eighteenth century. Legend says he was a Spanish naval officer who turned to piracy. He’s reputed to have captured and sunk thirty-six ships in eleven years, amassed a fortune in treasure, murdered seamen who refused to join his ranks, and imprisoned the women passengers – including a Spanish princess, who was eventually murdered. Rather than face capture by an American warship, he wrapped the anchor chain around himself and jumped into the sea. Whether José Gasparilla ever lived or not is a mystery.

In 1946 James Cabell published this fantasy adventure purportedly based on Gasparilla’s diaries. Love for a woman and a lack of wealth convince Gasparilla to become a pirate with the solitary goal of amassing sufficient funds to wed Isabel and retire to a cozy villa to raise many children. As he nears his goal, however, he faces the problem of how to return to society now that he’s a wanted man. Then he captures the Santa Clara. Aboard is an elderly gentleman who suffers from rheumatism, Don Diego, Isabel’s husband. Don Diego offers Gasparilla a way to achieve his dreams and after careful negotiations, the deal is sealed. Gasparilla will become an honorable citizen and marry Isabel, but how?

The subtitle of this book is “A Comedy of Division,” yet there is little humor in the story. Gasparilla is egotistical to a fault, yet naively unaware of how he affects others’ lives, especially those women who have the misfortune to cross his path. There is little action in this tale; instead Gasparilla recounts his motivations and experiences. Fans of Gasparilla and fantasy will enjoy this tale, but for pirate aficionados seeking a rousing adventure, I recommend looking elsewhere.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate and the Puritan
Book Cover: The Pirate and
          the Puritan
By Cheryl Howe
Dorchester, 2003, ISBN 0-8439-5274-1, $5.95

Betrayed by a man she thought loved her, Felicity Kendall retreats into the religion of her mother and becomes a prim and proper Puritan, denying all her passion and dreams. Her temper and penchant for interfering, however, remains strong. When she meets Lord Christian Andrews at her father’s shop in Barbados, he immediately triggers her wariness. He’s a fop up to no good. Her father doesn’t know when to avoid people who might bring him to ruin, so Felicity intends to rescue her father and force Andrews to sever his business ties with her father.

Whenever he visits Barbardos, Drew disguises himself as Lord Christian Andrews. It’s 1721 and pirates aren’t looked on kindly in the West Indies. Felicity infuriates and intrigues him, but in spite of her thoughts about him and his intentions, his plans don’t include hurting Mr. Kendall. Drew searches for the man who murdered their business partner and his wife. Rumors say it’s the work of El Diablo, a barbarous pirate, but Drew knows this to be false. Thinking he might find clues to the murderer’s identity, he sets sail for New Providence, a pirate haven.

While searching for the proof she needs to convince her father to make a clean break with Drew, Felicity becomes locked in the wardrobe aboard his ship and is knocked unconscious. Drew’s unexpected discovery of Felicity complicates matters. If she values her life, she must remain locked in his cabin, for having a woman aboard violates the pirates’ code of conduct and no woman is safe amid these ruffians. He intends to set her ashore where she can find safe passage back to Barbados, but the capture of another ship changes everything. Those aboard bring news. The real Lord Andrews has come to Barbados and the authorities have arrested Felicity’s father for piracy.

This historical romance takes place in the waning years of the Golden Age of Piracy. Woodes Rogers has yet to take the severe measures that will rid New Providence of pirates. Although the story begins slowly and the characters seem one-dimensional at the start, this changes after Felicity regains consciousness aboard Drew’s ship and the reader becomes acquainted with more of the characters’ background. Sparks fly between the hero and heroine as they struggle along the precipice between hate and love. In the end love and justice triumph, but not without a few missteps and misdirection along the way to pique the reader’s interest. Beware of Hugh! Although this gem of a cabin boy appears in only a few scenes, he steals every one of them.

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Book Review Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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Falcon's Revenge

Cover Art: Falcon's Revenge
By By Joseph L. O'Steen
Trafford Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-4120-0505-1, $19.95

In 1803 Britain declares war on France and recalls young naval officers with experience from their postings in the Caribbean to fight Napoleon Bonaparte. One such gentleman is Lieutenant Nathan Beauchamp of His Majesty's Royal Navy. Having missed the mail packet that would have taken him to Portsmouth, Nate becomes Acting First Officer of the HMS Sampson, a weatherworn, aging ship with a leaky hull bound for England. With her captain ailing, Nate assumes most of Dexter's duties as well. A storm at sea worsens the leak below the waterline, and Nate decides their best chance of survival is to careen the ship on a nearby island to effect repairs. Their problems mount when a French privateer intercepts them, but Nate's ingenuity saves the day. After transferring crew and cargo onto the captured Bateuse, he learns that she sails with another privateer, anchored on the far side of the island, that has captured the pay chest of the Royal Marines stationed in Jamaica.

Thus begin Nathan Beauchamp's adventures in the dangerous waters of the Caribbean. While not a rousing tale of pirates, Falcon's Revenge follows the tradition of maritime adventures set during the age of wooden sailing ships. Like Horatio Hornblower, Nate Beauchamp is intent on rising in the ranks of the Royal Navy. He faces whatever trials he encounters, and does so knowing each time may mean his death, yet never lacking in courage and daring to accomplish the task set before him.

Falcon's Revenge is the first book in a series of six that will follow Nathan Beauchamp through his naval career and his fight against French privateers and Napoleon Bonaparte. It shall be interesting to watch Nate mature and aspire to greater heights as he matches wits with formidable foes to come.

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Read an Excerpt

Book Review Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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To Sail Through Time

Cover Art: To Sail
            Through Time
By Jayme Evans
Wings Press, 2002, ISBN 1-59088-075-7 (e-book), $6
ISBN 1-59088-959-2 (paperback), $11.95

The eerie Caribbean storm threatens to ruin Dr. Bethany Henry's well-deserved vacation with her twin brother. She tosses aside the pirate romance she's reading to help Bryce secure everything before a waterspout engulfs them. After the terrifying funnel passes, they encounter a wooden sailing ship manned by authentic-looking pirates captained by a handsome swashbuckler named Joshua Blackmon.

Although Joshua understands little of what Bethany says, he realizes she and her brother are from the future. Bryce's T-shirt says 1999, but the year is 1814, and Joshua and his crew are privateers. A superstitious lot, his men will think Bethany a sorceress if he doesn't protect her. To that end he locks her in his cabin and imprisons Bryce in the brig until he can convincethem that he and his men aren't re-enactors and that the twins have traveled back in time.

Bethany's an independent woman who rails at captivity, but she fears the captain's crew more and she won't jeopardize her brother's life. She scoffs at Joshua's hypothesis, until he forces her to watch a bloody sea battle unfold. If Joshua dies, what will become of her and Bryce? Will they ever return to their own time? If not, how will she adapt to living in a time when women lacked the independence and freedom of her century?

This fast-paced story portrays pirates with realism often lacking in historical romance. Discovering a tie-in with Jean Laffite was an added treat, and while Bethany shares her knowledge of what will happen to the Baratarians, Ms. Evans neatly weaves the facts into the story without allowing Bethany's knowledge to alter history. Adventure, mutiny, danger, and love combine to make this an intriguing what-if tale of pirates and privateers.

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Book Review - Copyright ©2002 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Queen
 

Pirate Queen
                    Cover Art
Pirate Queen US
                    Cover Art
 HarperCollins Australia 2003 
ISBN 0-7322-6828-1
 New American Library
January 2006
ISBN 0-451-21744-6
By Alan Gold

If not for Irish bards and poets and occasional legal documents, we might not know about the legendary pirate queen who threatened the English treasury or the patriotic chieftain who defied English attempts to subjugate the Irish. Men attempted to write her out of history, but Alan Gold takes the facts and spins a wonderful tale about Grace O’Malley, who grows up aboard her father’s ships rather than pursue a more womanly education. She is a natural mariner and a skilled trader, and her exploits--legitimate and otherwise--bring her wealth and notoriety.

Grace’s path in life contrasts with that of another prominent woman, Elizabeth I. Her tale is also deftly woven within these pages to create a tapestry that culminates in a meeting between these two queens. Their lives follow different paths, but both are fraught with perils. When Elizabeth’s henchman in Ireland takes Grace’s youngest son hostage, the pirate queen dares to venture into the enemy’s court and meet the Virgin Queen who would have her head.

Through language and action the characters unveil their strengths and weaknesses, their similarities and differences until these two extraordinary women, who stepped outside the bounds of traditional female roles and took center stage in the world of men, come to life before the reader’s eyes. Gold succinctly provides the complex historical and political background against which Grace and Elizabeth lived their lives. He also provides an intriguing, enlightening, and believable glimpse into a historical meeting about which no clues exist as to what transpired.

Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, August 2003
Book Review - Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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The Witch from the Sea

Cover Art: Witch from the Sea
By Lisa Jensen
Beagle Bay Books, 2001, ISBN 0-9679591-5-2

Far from the glamorous and romanticized portrait often found in pirate tales, The Witch from the Sea provides a glimpse into the world of sea robbers almost a hundred years after the Golden Age of Piracy. Ms. Jensen deftly shows the monotony and dangers of living outside the law, especially at a time when society no longer condoned privateering and was intent on running to ground all pirates. She breathes life into her characters, making them human beings tortured by their pasts, accepting of their present, and hopeful for the future even though they know death – in battle, from sickness, or at the end of a hangman’s noose – await most of them. This is a bluntly told tale that spares no one from the truth, yet readers will enjoy Tory’s adventure and romance as she and her fellow pirates deal with the changing world in which they live.

Originally reviewed for Ivy Quill Reviews

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Dead Man's Chest: the Sequel to Treasure Island

Dead Man's Chest by Roger
            Johnson
By Roger L. Johnson
Paradise Cay Publications, 2001, ISBN 0-939837-45-5

John Paul, a Scottish sea captain, finds his life turned upside down after he kills the mutinous cook aboard his ship. At Kings Town he enters Silver Jack’s Tavern and meets David Noble, the son of a shipping magnate, and Jack Bridger, a retired pirate better known as Long John Silver. Silver has waited a long time to regain treasure buried on Dead Man’s Chest, and with John Paul Jones’ appearance, he hatches a plan to achieve that goal. If successive, the American colonies will possess what they desperately need – cannon for their new navy – and Long John Silver will be rich. Yet obstacles abound, for Silver isn’t the only pirate eager to gain the treasure and these pirates fly the jolie rouge – the red flag that means ‘no quarter given.’

This sequel to Treasure Island explains what happened to Long John Silver, Ben Gunn, and Jim Hawkins. It is a seamless weaving of fiction and fact that draws the reader into a world of wooden sailing ships, fomenting rebellion, and cutthroat pirates. Spellbinding twists and plenty of action keep the reader guessing until the last page. Those who dare to tread amongst pirates and rebels will discover a treasure rich in intrigue, mystery, adventure, and romance.

Originally reviewed for Simply E-Books

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Captain Mary, Buccaneer

Cover Art: Captain Mary
By Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay Books, 2000, ISBN 0-9679591-7-9

When most people think of pirates, they think of men, but some women--Anne Bonny and Mary Read, to name two--dared to thwart convention by turning to piracy. Captain Mary is a fictional composite of these two women, and she is just as ruthless and daring.

When the story begins in 1721, Mary is already a legendary pirate hunted by the navies of several nations. She commands her own ship (the Fury), has created a financial empire, and has established a safe haven for all pirates on Cache Island. Freeing a traitorous doctor from a captured French ship and having an affair with him complicate Mary’s life. She must evade the French who hound her, while keeping her crew from mutinying.

This is a well-researched tale that paints a harsh and dangerous way of life. At no point does the author glorify or romanticize piracy, a refreshing change from most pirate tales. Some readers may find the violence a bit too gruesome. Others may be uncomfortable with Mary’s choice of lovers, who also include a former slave who’s now her pilot and a woman who was a hostage but now runs an upscale brothel. This isn’t a story where the reader will warm up to any of the characters. Captain Mary, Buccaneer is for those seeking adventure on a rolling ship, the thrill of the chase and sea battles between the hunter and the hunted, or to be pirates in search of treasure.

Originally reviewed for Historical Novel Reviews, May 2001
Book Review - Copyright ©2001 Cindy Vallar

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