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The History of Maritime Piracy

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

Pirate Articles
Pirate Links
Book Reviews
Sea Yarns Galore
Thistles & Pirates

Books for Adults - Fiction

Historical Fiction
Avery's Treasure
Brewer's Revenge
The Butcher's Daughter
Captain Blood

Captain Mary, Buccaneer
Captain Redlegs Greaves
Cassandra, Lost

Cayman Cross
Combat with Pirates
Cup of Gold
Dead Man's Chest
Eagle's Prophecy
Ivory Dawn

Kings and Pawns
Kingston by Starlight

Long John Silver
The Lord of Vík-Ló

Marbeck and the Privateers
MacHugh and the Faithless Pirate
Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age
No Sacrifice Too Great
Ocean Eyes
Open Sea
The Pirates!

Pieces of Eight
Pirate Haiku
The Pirate of Panther Bay
The Pirate Queen
Pirates, Ghosts, & Coastal Lore
Pirates of the Delaware
Prince of the Atlantic
The Pyrates
The Sallee Rovers
The Sugar Sands

The Sweet Trade
The RB Trilogy
There Were Two Pirates
The Witch from the Sea
At Drake's Command
Amber Wake
The Ballade of Mary Reede
The Barbary Pirates
Barbary Slave

Battle's Flood

Belerion Odyssey
The Bermuda Privateer
The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure
The Black Corsair

The Black Ring

Black Tarantula

Blood Brothers

Blood for Blood

The Bloody Black Flag

Bloody Seas

A Bottle of Rum
The Braver Thing

Brewer's Luck

The Buccaneer Coast

 Call to Arms
Captain in Calico

Captain James Lockwood

Captain Tempesta

Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Demon Pirate

Demons & Pearls

The Devil's Wind
The Dragon's Breath

The English Monster

Fin Gall
Flint and Silver
The Flower Boat Girl

Fortune's Whelp
The Further Exploits of the Pirate Queens
Gather the Shadowmen
Gentlemen and Fortune
The George Abercrombie Fox Series
Glendalough Fair
An Inception of Piracy
Jaded Tides

Judas Island (The Promise of Gold Trilogy)

The King or Commonwealth
The King's Chameleon
The Legendary Adventures of the Pirate Queens
Loch Garman

Master of the Sweet Trade
The Midgard Serpent
Mistress of the Sea
Napoleon's Gold
Night Wolf
The Only Life That Mattered
Philip Nolan
Pieces of Eight
The Pirate Captain

The Pirate Hunter
Pirate King
Pirate Latitudes
Pirate Rebel
The Pirate Round
A Pirate's Tale

Pirates: Masterworks of Adventure
The Power & the Glory

The Prodigal
The Pyrate

The Queen of the Caribbean
Raider's Wake
Remarkable Rascal


The Tigers of Mompracem
Sandokan: The Pirates of Malaysia
Sandokan: The King of the Sea
Sandokan: Quest for a Throne
Sea Robber
A Ship for the King
Skull and Bones
Surgeon's Mate
Tortuga Bay

The Traitor of Treasure Island

Tread Carefully on the Sea
True Colors

A Vengeful Wind

The Wrath of Brotherhood

Alternative Fiction, Fantasy, Futuristic Fiction,
Science Fiction, & Steampunk

Captains & Conspiracies
Chambers of the Sea

Dinghies & Deceit

Frozen Passage

Legacy of Morevi
Little Pegleg the Pirate
Lone Star Rising
Pirate Freedom
Sailors & Spies

The Second Gate

Spirit Deep

A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
To Sail Through Time

Alias Hook
Black & Mist
The Black Ship

Bring It Close
The Dark of the Moon
Dragons & Dirigibles
Fata Morgana

Fire Aloft
Hook's Tale

In the Time of Worms

Magic of Blood and Sea
Navigating the Storm

Of a Great Deep
On the Account

Pirate Code
The Pirate Raiders

 The Pirate's Lady
Pirates & Privateers

Pirates of the Timestream
Ripples in the Sand
Steam & Stratagem
Summon the Queen
Swords of Waar
Ten Rub
y Trick
The Terran Privateer
Tides of Avarice
Traits & Traitors
A Turn of the Tide
New review
Typewriter in the Sky
When the Mermaid Sings

Modern Piracy

The Chocolate Pirate Plot
Feeding the Dragon

A Sword for Pizarro


The Aden Effect
Daughters of the Storm

Force 12 in German Bight

The Jefferson Key
Manila Harbour
Pirate Alley

Pirates of Pensacola
Pirates' Pay
Storm Swept

Syren's Song

Those in Peril
Vital Spark

Nautical Fiction

Bellerophon's Champion

Beyond Beauport
Call to Arms

Destiny's Tide

Falcon's Revenge

The California Run
Fletcher and the Blue Star

The French Prize

Pirate &...Three Cutters

Pursuit of Honor
Run Afoul
The Sea of Silence

The Winds of Folly

The Admiral's Pursuit
Armada's Wake
New review
Barbarians on an Ancient Sea

Blue Water, Scarlet Tide
Capital's Punishment
The Captain's Nephew

The Crucible of Tradition
The Distant Ocean

Dockyard Dog
Evening Gray Morning Red
(Irwin's review)
Evening Gray Morning Red
(Cindy's review)
Fletcher and the Flying Machine
Floating Gold
For King or Commonwealth
Harbor of Spies
Hell Around the Horn

H. M. S. Barabbas
HMS SeaWolf

How Dark the Night
In Hostile Waters

In Northern Seas

The King's Chameleon
KyddNew review
Larcum Mudge
A Man of No Country
The Money Ship

The Mountain of Gold
Not Self But Country
On the Lee Shore

The Patriot's Fate

The Power & the Glory
The Reaper
SeaflowerNew review
A Ship for the King

A Ship of War
A Sloop of War
The Sugar Inferno

The Sugar Rebellion

The Sugar Revolution
The Sugar Sacrifice
The Turn of the Tide

 The Unfortunate Isles
Upon the Malabar Coast


The Bastard
Bound by Decency
Capture the Wind

The Care & Feeding of Pirates

Echo in the Wind
A Fierce Wind

Heart's Safe Passage
His Pirate Seductress

The Pirate and the Puritan
The Pirate Bride
The Pirate Hunter

Pirate's Prize
Pirates of Desire
Pleasures of a Tempted Lady

Prisoner of Desire
 The Reliance
The Rogue's Surrender
Savage Winds

Surrender the Dawn
What the Parrot Saw

Wind Raven


The Bride and the Buccaneer
Captain Easterday's Bargain
Captain Sinister's Lady

Charity's Cross
Discerning Grace

Duke by Day, Rogue by Night

Fortune's Horizon
The Guise of a Gentleman
In Like Flynn

A Kiss in the Wind
The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk
The Liberty Bride

No Rest for the Wicked

Once a Scoundrel
The Pirate and the Puritan

Pirate Heiress
The Pirate Lord
The Pirate Next Door

The Pirate's Debt
The Pirate's Duchess

The Pirate's Duty
The Pirate's Prize

The Pirate's Secret Baby

The Ransom
The Reckoning
Redeeming the Pirate

The Redemption
The Rogue's Prize
Sea Change
Secret Horizon

The Siren's Song

Summon the Queen
Timeless Treasure

 To Tame the Wind
Within a Captain's Hold
Television & Movies

Black Sails & Crossbones

Chambers of the Sea
Cover Art: Chambers of the
Chambers of the Sea
By Alan Vazquez
Independently Published, 2021, ISBN 979-8512583876, US $4.99

The sea is a place of legends and superstitions, none more so than with the Mary Celeste. The ship floats in a place where no other vessel should be when Captain David Morehouse and his crew first spy her six miles ahead. The closer they come, the more they feel wrapped in a shroud of uneasiness, a bad omen of what lies ahead. John Wright and Oliver Deveau are sent to to investigate. Neither wishes to go, but they must heed their captain's order, even though they find themselves swathes in a dense mist. Once aboard, there is no one to be found and no clues as to what occurred. Only a voice that whispers, "Leave."

The abandonment of the Mary Celeste is perhaps the best-known sea mystery. In the winter of 1872, the Dei Gratia comes upon the derelict. Vazquez takes what is known about this event and spins a haunting psychological tale. Once spooked, a domino effect occurs, giving rise to tricks that the mind plays in order to make sense out of that which is unfathomable. What works against this are the formatting and grammatical errors, poorly worded sentences, misspellings, and missing letters or punctuation. Several italicized passages interrupt the story's flow. Although the tension level could be higher, this is a yarn for curious readers seeking more than just the facts. Vazquez includes an epilogue, which reveals what happens once the ships and crew make port.

Review Copyright ©2021 Cindy Vallar

Skull & crossbones

Cover Art: 1805
By Richard Woodman
McBooks Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-4930-6091-7, US $19.95
Also available in other formats

Captain Nathaniel Drinkwater and his crew sail in search of the Channel Fleet. They are to help with blockading the French, preventing the enemy from leaving their home ports. It is a tedious duty, but essential. It prevents Napoleon from invading England. There are interludes where Drinkwater’s participation in the blockade is interrupted, episodes that make his life more interesting and dangerous. One involves conveying a high-ranking French duke into enemy territory. Another requires him to rescue a British agent who may be behind a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

A third instance involves a meeting with the prime minister and Lord Dungarth, who heads the Admiralty’s intelligence network. They seek Drinkwater’s thoughts on a French invasion, something that has been occupying his thoughts of late. Evidence shows that the French are embarking troops, and should the French fleet join with Spain’s, he is certain they will attack. But the invasion won’t be a direct one. He believes they will come through a backdoor, which will provide them with a slim chance of success.

Gales provide the French with the perfect opportunity to elude the British blockade. Although Drinkwater cannot stop their emergence into open waters, he is determined to keep sight of them. But that is easier said than done, especially when he must battle enemy ships at sea during a snow storm. When word arrives that France and Spain have combined forces as he feared, Drinkwater must warn his superiors.

This sixth book in the Nathaniel Drinkwater series is divided into three parts: Blockade, Break-out, and Battle. It opens in 1804, when a midshipman rouses Captain Drinkwater from the depths of sleep just as HMS Antigone is about to wreck on a dangerous shoal near St. Michael’s Mount, and ends with the Battle of Trafalgar. Maps are provided to orient readers. Sea battles are riveting, while scenes aboard Drinkwater’s vessel provide vivid snapshots of life at sea. What makes this tale different from others that depict this victorious, but tragic affair, is that Drinkwater is not aboard a British ship at the time of the battle. Instead, he is a prisoner aboard a French ship of the line and the battle is poignantly experienced through senses other than sight.

Review Copyright ©2021 Cindy Vallar

Skull & crossbones

Captain Redlegs Greaves
Cover Art:
                  Captain Redlegs Greaves
Captain Redlegs Greaves: A Pirate by Mistake
By Juliet Haines Mofford
Touchstone Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-946920-67-6, US $16.99
Also available as an e-book

Victors inflict harsh changes on those who lose. Such is the fate for more than 7,000 Scots – men, women, and children – following the Battle of Worcester in 1651, when they are transported to Barbados. Although the law guarantees them light at the end of seven years, a dead Scot is far better than a live one and they are treated so harshly that few of these exiled Royalists – who become known as “redlegs” – ever regain their freedom. This is the tale of one who did.

The concept of liberty is foreign to fourteen-year-old Daniel Greaves, who has only known servitude, but freedom is a dream that his father refuses to surrender. This is why the pair are on the run when the story opens in 1663. The hope is to get aboard a ship that will take them to Scotland. But plantation owners are notorious for not surrendering property, especially the cruel and heartless Reginald Pickett. When caught, Daniel suffers ten lashes. His father’s punishment is far worse, for this is his third escape attempt, which means he is branded a fugitive traitor in addition to being flogged. Infection sets in, which combined with the loss of hope, leads to death. Before his father succumbs, Daniel promises to one day gain his freedom. He keeps a low profile, while watching and waiting for that day to come.

Fortune shines on Daniel when Pickett sells him to a new owner. William Chandler, a kind man in need of an apprentice for his shipping business. Daniel is treated more like an adopted son than a slave, and he becomes adept in his new trade. As he comes of age, he falls in love with Clarissa, Chandler’s daughter. He also befriends a cabin boy from a mysterious ship that sometimes visits the island. Daniel teaches him to read in exchange for learning to tie knots. When a tragic loss leads to debts which leads to more tragedy, Daniel learns he is to be sold back to Pickett – a situation he cannot and will not tolerate. Left with no other choice, he bids a poignant farewell to Clarissa, who promises to wait for him, and flees the island. But the ship on which he stows away isn’t a merchant ship. Nor is she bound for Scotland. It is the cabin boy’s vessel and when the mean-spirited captain, who is often drunk, discovers him, Daniel can either be thrown overboard or join the pirates.

This biographical novel tells the story of Captain Redlegs Greaves, a gentleman pirate who is an ancestor of the author’s husband. Greaves has a moral compass that influences his choices as a pirate and eventually leads him to retire a rich man, who takes the king’s pardon. Before then, he finds himself embroiled in a mutiny, commanding a pirate ship, facing the hangman’s noose, experiencing the sea quake that decimated the first settlement on Nevis in 1680, and serving aboard a New England whaler.

The author achieves her goal of depicting a pirate tale based on fact rather than romance. The epilogue reads more like an author’s note, letting readers know what happens to Greaves after he reunites with Clarissa, but fails to identify what elements of Daniel’s story are fact and what are fiction. The reader isn’t always fully engaged in the story because information dumps occasionally interrupt its flow and the dialect in dialogue is sometimes difficult to decipher. No explanation is given as to how Greaves manages to meld back into society while retaining his real name throughout his life. Clarissa also seems to get over her horror of his piracy too easily.

In spite of these shortcomings, Mofford’s depiction of what Greaves endures and how he overcomes the hurdles he encounters is commendable. She pulls no punches, yet entwines a thread of hope compelling readers to keep turning pages. The potency of this tale that makes it intriguing is her use of a pirate protagonist often overlooked in histories of Caribbean piracy. This book may be fiction, but it is based on facts that have rarely been shared with others, which is why it is worth reading.

Meet the Author

Review Copyright ©2021 Cindy Vallar

Skull & crossbones

The Second Gate
Cover Art: The
                  Second Gate
The Second Gate
By Brian Wyvill
Thunderchild, 2018, ISBN 978-1719243773, US $12.99 / CAN $17.25
e-book US $2.99 / CAN $3.83

Crossing a secluded area at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Sarah Malette notices a man following her. He is the spitting image from a childhood nightmare. The experience rattles her, but she chalks it up to his being homeless and hurries on her way. Instead of finding Professor Duncan in his office, she encounters his teaching assistant. (Annette is like a sister, since she and Sarah grew up together after Annette’s mother disappeared.) Together they marvel at the nautical artifacts decorating Duncan’s office. They all date from the late eighteenth century, which makes sense because of his fascination with the Napoleonic wars; what is odd is that they look brand new, even though it’s 2015. They also discover a door, hidden behind a coat rack, leading to an empty room.

Annette, who is French Canadian, also has a keen interest in the same time period. Her focus and thesis are on the year 1798, particularly on a single event: the Battle of the Nile. She believes that had Admiral Brueys won the engagement, rather than Admiral Nelson, all of Canada might be French, rather than just Quebec. When Sarah mentions the homeless man, Annette is also troubled. Could this be the same man who terrorized her and her mother when she was younger? Is he looking for her?

Ken DiPalo, a friend and fellow classmate of Sarah’s, is infatuated with Annette, who thinks he’s more of a class clown, who’s always shirking his schoolwork. To demonstrate otherwise, he shares charts and maps stored his smart phone with Annette and Sarah, who are also working on the same 1798 project. He also mentions that one 1720 resource discusses a man named Masthead Duncan – the same name as their professor. Sarah reveals that she has also come across a Royal Navy lieutenant with the same name in 1757. Another source places Duncan in 1798 on Malta. The unusual first name puzzles them because they can’t possibly be the same man given the activities mentioned and the ages of each man. It’s a coincidence they might query their professor about, but no one has seen or heard from him since he turned up at a local hospital with a knife wound.

Further discussion reveals several other oddities, one of which involves the hidden room in Duncan’s office. Ken comes up with a theory based on the evidence, which seems almost impossible to believe – time travel. The answer may be in the professor’s office and Ken just happens to have a key. Sarah is reluctant to break into the office, but Annette believes this may be her only chance to find her mother and perhaps provide Admiral Brueys with the necessary information to change the outcome of the battle. After acquiring the key and Ken’s smart phone containing the maps, she eludes the others to locate the gateway that will take her to Malta in 1798. Having a duplicate key, Ken and Sarah attempt to stop her, but she’s vanished by the time they get to the office. The only thing they can do now is follow her through the gateway to find Masthead Duncan and stop Annette from changing history.

Going back in time may sound like fun, but it’s fraught with danger. Aside from stability issues with the gateway, their adventures include encounters with Barbary pirates, mutineers, kidnappers, galley slaves, and a sheik seeking a new bride. Rock climbing, safeguarding treasure, trekking across the desert, and participating in sea battles add further excitement to entice and engage readers. The love scene between two of the characters lacks the smooth flow that is present throughout the rest of the story. There are a few places that may puzzle readers – the delay between the time the French officers find the phone and confront Annette, for example – but Wyvill crafts a believable and compelling time travel that provides startling answers to the questions of what if France had won the battle at Aboukir Bay and how does a single misstep in the past affect the future. The Second Gate is the first book in a new series and promises some intriguing future adventures for the characters we meet within this volume.


Book review Copyright ©2019 by Cindy Vallar

 Skull & crossbones

The California Run
                  Art: The California Run
The California Run
By Mark A. Rimmer
Penmore, 2018, ISBN 978-1-946409-54-6, US $19.95
Also available in ebook formats

Harry Jenkins has two particular skills – wooing women and acquiring their valuables. Of course, his latest victim came with a father who’s now intent on reclaiming his daughter’s honor. That necessitates a hasty escape from Ireland, which is how he comes to be in New York. One might think Harry has learned his lesson. Alas, such is not the case. He needs to increase the distance between his vengeful pursuer and that requires money, so a new target is needed. Much to his chagrin, Lady Margaret Thompson seems immune to his charm. Then miracle of miracles, she suddenly pursues him and helps him acquire a ticket to San Francisco.

The past eight years were pure torture for Sarah Doyle, lady’s maid to Lady Margaret Thompson. On the eve of their voyage to New York, her employer postponed their trip and on a whim, Sarah appropriates her identity and luggage and sails to America. Nor has she taken this chance only to be duped by Harry Jenkins, so she separates him from his ticket and baggage and, for good measure, convinces two strangers to waylay Harry so she can board the California-bound clipper as Mrs. Harry Jenkins.

If told to kill someone, Gideon has no problem doing so. He’s not a hired killer, although he does enjoy using his knife. No, he owes Thaddeus Oglesby and will do almost anything for him. After all, his employer is one of the most powerful men in the city. Not even the law can touch him. Oglesby also owns Sapphire, the Yankee clipper upon which Gideon normally serves as second mate. The ship is soon to depart for San Francisco, but this time without Gideon. He’s to hire on as one of the crew of the Achilles to make certain she does not reach San Francisco first. Even if that means sending the newly-built clipper and those aboard to the bottom of the sea, for his employer has no intention of losing the race to California, the $50,000 wager, or the rich profits the first ship will garner once her cargo is sold in the gateway to the gold rush.

Being the second mate of Achilles is both an honor and a worry for Nate Cooper, who’s never served as a watch officer before. His first introduction to the chief mate proves less than welcoming, since Robert Biggs seems to rely heavily on a belaying pin and the lash to make the crew carry out their work. Nate disagrees with such tactics, but he’s not in a position to object. He knows only too well that he will have to prove himself every day of the 200-day voyage that he is the best seaman for the job, not only to himself, but to the captain, the chief mate, and the crew. Nor will this be an easy task, for the men of the forecastle are a mix of crimped landlubbers – one of whom is Harry, who hasn’t a clue about sailing, and nine Swedes, who barely speak English – and packet-rats, unruly bullies who’ve crewed aboard the transatlantic Liverpool packet ships.

Someone who shares his misgivings is Emma Jacobs, the captain’s niece. She has accompanied him on his voyages for three years, although this is the first stint on a clipper. During that time, she’s become an adept navigator and when rumblings of replacing Nate with another crewman as second mate begin, she intervenes and begins teaching him the art of navigation to better secure his position.

Set in 1850 during the California Gold Rush, The California Run is an arresting depiction of shipboard life during a 15,000-mile journey around Cape Horn. The unique and entertaining characters provide a volatile mix to which are added a thief, a saboteur, and a murderer. Interspersed throughout the story, rather than interwoven into it, are explanations about the ships and her crews. While this lessens the tension somewhat, it provides newcomers to nautical fiction with a good grounding in what it was like to be a merchant seaman when the fastest ships ever built sailed the seas.

Meet the author

Review copyrighted © 2019 Cindy Vallar

Skull & crossbones

Pirate Freedom
                  Art: Pirate Freedom
Pirate Freedom
By Gene Wolfe
Tor, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7653-5850-9, US $9.99 / CAN $13.99

Chris, Christopher, or Crisoforo lives in a monastery in Cuba, initially to attend the boarding school there. When the school closes, he stays on a couple more years, but decides he isn’t interested in studying to be a priest, and leaves, wearing only the now three-sizes-too-small tee shirt and jeans he wore when he arrived.

At first, he fails to notice that everything is different from what he remembers. Then he is unable to find his father’s house. There aren’t any cars or roads or landmarks he’s familiar with either. But he doesn’t have time to dwell on this, as he is caught in a daily struggle to survive. Eventually, an opportunity to work on a wooden sailing ship comes along and he takes it, entranced with the idea of regular meals and a place to sleep. But few things are ever as simple as they sound, and he is not warmly greeted by the other sailors.

He starts to learn the job, but, of course, the journey is interrupted when the ship is captured by pirates. Chris refuses to sign their articles and thus becomes their prisoner.

Rather improbably, the captain of the pirates, Bram Bart, takes a liking to him, and after they capture another vessel and decide to make it into a consort, Bart offers the command to Chris. Thus the real adventures of the book begin.

The captured boat is a slaver, and Chris sells the slaves and keeps the money to buy another vessel, but ends up getting robbed. He has to join the buccaneers on Tortuga for a time to make some money.

Then he and Melind, a man he befriends while living as a buccaneer, and a few others capture a ship in the night and take it over. The boat includes some Spanish prisoners, two or four men and a boy, who asks to speak to Chris in private. When they’re alone, the boy reveals that he is Estrellita, a maid whom he wooed on Coruna. She donned men’s clothing and ran away from the high class Spanish family that employed her.

Chris calls her “Novia,” which means sweetheart, and she becomes as fierce as any of the male pirates. She also plays a central role in running the ship. Toward the end of the story comes a bit of sexual intrigue when Chris finds out Estrellita’s true identity and that she is pregnant. But that’s as “steamy” as the book gets. (Sorry guys!) To tell you the reason she hides her true identity from Chris would ruin the end of the book, so you’ll have to read that part for yourself!

Pirate Chris’s story is interwoven with that of modern-day Chris, a Catholic priest. We are never told an exact year either lives in, although we are given some hints. Pirate Chris talks about how long it took him to learn to load a musket and utilizes some of his modern-day knowledge to make a few alterations and improvements to the ship to assist the pirates in capturing prizes. Father Chris reminisces about his father teaching him to shoot a laser pistol. He also comments on reading modern stories of pirates and about Anne Bonny and Mary Read. He believes that Novia was probably just as fierce, if not more so, than they were.

The story is set in the age of wooden sail, and Wolfe seems to have done his homework about the period fairly well. One thing I liked is that he never employs the over-used plot device of placing the main character amongst the crew of, say Blackbeard, and then re-telling a familiar story from this character’s “unique perspective.” Nor does he invent an alternate timeline for Blackbeard, allowing him to live longer or only appear to have been killed, etc.

Chris faces many moral challenges, both as a priest and a pirate. Because of his childhood upbringing in a monastery school, he often agonizes over some of the choices he faces in order for his crew and himself to survive. He experiences guilt over the plight of some of his victims. As the story draws to its conclusion, his biggest moral choice becomes whether to travel back in time to warn himself about leaving the monastery and being sent back in time, or to rejoin his lover from his pirate days.

Some readers may not care for the way Wolfe brings in moral lessons and religious beliefs into some of Chris’s decisions. Personally, I found the contrasts and his inner struggle about what is right and wrong to be insightful and interesting.

There is a moment of levity provided when Chris sees that the ship they have just captured is called Castillo Blanco (White Castle), but that it doesn’t have any hamburgers.

As part of their adventures, they take what they soon learn from the captured crew is a cursed ship. Several sailors have disappeared or turned up dead.

Toward the book’s end, the pirates set out on a Henry Morgan-style land invasion of Portobello with the ultimate goal of robbing one of the Spanish mule trains carrying loads of gold. Some of the obstacles they encounter resemble the hardships Morgan and his men endured during their land campaigns, but this is the only part of the book that feels as if some of it may have been taken from a real pirate story.

The only other detraction from the book I find is that it is highly narrative, sometimes neglecting to drop the reader into the action, keeping the reader at arm’s length. A character will say something, but instead of just replying, the author interrupts by having Chris say, “And I told him . . . .” The story could have been a lot more action-packed at times.

Pirate Freedom has very nice illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, which adds a nice touch to the story. The paperback I bought is 417 pages and has a glossary at the end to help with a few terms and locations. Overall, I rate this book at four stars, only because of the large amount of narration throughout the story. It’s still a good read and something a bit different from many recent pirate stories.

Review copyrighted © 2018 Laura Nelson

Skull & crossbones

Beyond Beauport
Cover Art:
                  Beyond Beauport
Beyond Beauport
By James Masciarelli
Köehlerbooks, 2018, ISBN 978-1-63393-655-3, $17.95

Shannon Clarke – forty-six, separated, and a mother with grown children – finds herself at loose ends after staging a mischievous and unauthorized boarding of a vessel with three friends during the 2012 Labor Day Weekend Gloucester Schooner Festival. She and her family have lived and endured in this coastal Massachusetts town for three generations, and her life promises more of the same drudgery once the visitors return home for another fall and winter. Only a mysterious phone call from her beloved, but rarely seen, Uncle Patrick promises any excitement, but even she is astonished with the news he shares.

It turns out that she is descended from the legendary Anne Bonny and Calico Jack Rackham. While most would be skeptical, Shannon easily comes to terms with the possibility. After all, her dysfunctional relatives include “murderers, thieves, drug addicts, child beaters, gun runners, smugglers and outlaws. Why not pirates?” (17) In addition to this information, Patrick presents her with Anne’s short sword which has been passed down from mother to daughter for eleven generations. Except Shannon’s mother appropriated it for herself; Patrick stole it back and kept it until the time was right to present it to Shannon.

What happened to Anne after her conviction has long been a mystery. She simply vanished from the historical record. But Patrick recounts how she disappeared and lived to die of old age under another name. He also shares information about the possibility that together he and Shannon may be able to recover treasure that Anne and Jack buried centuries ago. They have no map, but Anne did leave clues. Although a long shot at best, Patrick and Shannon set off on an adventure that takes them to Florida, the Caribbean, and South Carolina. Along the way Shannon learns to become a master sailor aboard her uncle’s replica brigantine and meets a cousin she never knew existed. They also cross paths with human traffickers, the FBI, and an informant.

Beyond Beauport is a well-spun tale of a Gloucester woman who must come to terms, as we all do, with her past and her family. Along the way, we are introduced to some piratical history and two New Englanders, Captain Jonathan Haraden and Sailing Master Nathaniel Haraden – brave and daring men who left their mark on seafaring history during the early days of the American republic. There are a few scenes, such as the bar in South Florida, that might rub some readers the wrong way, but the story is portrayed both realistically and believably. One weakness is the lack of tension. Only once and briefly will readers feel as if Shannon and Patrick are truly in danger. What Masciarelli achieves best is paying homage to Gloucester women: rugged independence, deep connections to family, and resourceful pragmatism. In Shannon, readers witness all of this and much more as she comes to terms with who she is, the legacy she’s been left, and the abuse and abandonment she has suffered.

Review Copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar

 Skull & crossbones

Savage Winds
Cover Art: Savage
Savage Winds
By Michelle C. Reilly
Wild Rose Press, 2018, e-book ISBN 978-1-5092-1938-4, $5.99
Print ISBN 978-1-5092-1937-7, $18.99

Ana Salvatore, a marine biologist, and her uncle return to his boat after scuba diving off the coast of Grand Bahama only to confront two armed strangers. Born into one of the leading mob families, she has tried hard to distance herself from the unsavory ties that eventually killed her parents, but now they are after her beloved Uncle Louis, who raised her. In the ensuing struggle, an explosion flings Ana into the depths of the Caribbean. When she comes to, she finds herself in a captain’s cabin, although not aboard her uncle’s vessel. This is a ship of wood and sails where the captain has a strange English accent and he and his men wear outfits from the past. At first, she assumes they are re-enactors, but soon discovers that she has traveled back in time to the early nineteenth century.

Jacen Stirling has little time to deal with the beautiful woman whose unfamiliar words and skimpy outfit puzzle him. His country is in the midst of a war with Great Britain, and he must determine whether Jean Laffite’s offer of assistance is real – a pursuit that requires him to infiltrate the pirate enclave at Barataria. To gain Laffite’s trust, Jacen pretends to be a fellow buccaneer and must arrive at the pre-arranged rendezvous before time runs out. Rescuing Ana and having her aboard a ship full of men is a complication he doesn’t need, yet he cannot spare the time to see her safely ashore and still make his appointed destination.

A brief stop at Nassau to take on supplies adds to the urgency of his mission. Amassing in the harbor is a fleet of many Royal Navy ships, most certainly the invasion fleet bound for New Orleans. Jacen assigns Ana the duties of a ship’s surgeon, which leads to some comical situations when twenty-first-century medical practices clash with nineteenth-century proprieties.

Wary of being on her own in a time where she doesn’t belong, Ana insists on going with Jacen when they arrive off the coast of New Orleans. To earn Laffite’s trust, he agrees to do the pirate’s bidding, and to ensure that Jacen obeys, Laffite keeps Ana as collateral. Should Jacen fail, she will be delivered back to his ship . . . dead. In his absence, she ministers to the slaves on a nearby plantation. She also befriends both their children and the master’s rebellious daughter, as well as engaging in risky business of her own – teaching slave children to read.

Savage Winds introduces Reilly’s new series, Savage Times – time-travel romances where heroes and heroines forge bonds while confronting dangerous situations in unaccustomed surroundings and historical periods. Her intriguing portrayal of Jean Laffite combines dangerous and deadly with charismatic and courteous, differing from the usual impression of the descriptor “gentleman pirate.” She also adheres to the belief that Dominique You was one of the Laffite brothers, although the Jean Laffite journal and Stanley Arthur Clisby’s biography state that You was the oldest, rather than the youngest, of them. There are several historical inaccuracies. Tricorn hats were not part of American military uniforms of this period; holystones – used to scrub the decks of wooden ships – were blocks of sandstone, rather than bristle brushes; and in 1814, William Claiborne was governor of the state of Louisiana, not the territorial governor.

For the most part, these are minor slips when examined from the perspective of the entire story. Ana’s unfamiliarity with society and history provides both comic relief and grim awakenings between the world she knows and the new one in which she finds herself. Getting back to her own time period never seems a priority, perhaps because there is no simple answer of how one travels through time when disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle and she has no family left to go back to. This makes for a more believable story. For me, the second time-slip is much stronger, fantastically portrayed in a way that makes us look anew at our own world and the technology we take for granted.

This spicy romance successfully intertwines humor and drama to spin a web of intrigue and danger. Aside from the historical aspects of the story, I was drawn to the sketches that Jacen draws. The reason for their inclusion remains unclear until the final pages, which then makes perfect sense but kept me guessing (not an easy feat to achieve). As the historical events of the War of 1812 unfold, disparate forces must work together to protect the fledgling United States, while Ana and Jacen struggle to keep both themselves and their burgeoning love alive.

Review copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Bride
Cover Art: The
                  Pirate Bride
The Pirate Bride
Kathleen Y’Barbo

Barbour, April 2018, 978-1-68322-497-6, $12.99

Like her great-grandmother who journeyed to America aboard the Mayflower, twelve-year-old Maribel Cordoba leaves her Spanish home to travel with her father to Havana. This is the most time she has spent in his company, for he rarely had time for her until he announces that her beloved mother and grandfather are dead. But even at sea he often ignores her. Her only solace is her friend, cabin boy and lookout William Spencer, and her cherished book that recounts the exploits of real pirates like Anne Bonny and Blackbeard.

Maribel loves to climb aloft to read or to join William in searching for other vessels. When sails are sighted, he thinks it might be the Ghost Ship whose captain and crew materialize out of thin air to attack Spanish vessels. They take no prisoners, leave no witnesses. Then they vanish. Still, Maribel hopes to finally meet a pirate. William vows to join the Frenchmen, if they’ll let him. Although she scoffs at the idea that the strange ship is a ghost, she decides to join too.

Captain Jean Beaumont takes pride in the legends surrounding him and his men, even if they’re not all true. At twenty-five he holds a privateering license from King Louis XV and even though they attack France’s enemy, Jean never takes his share from the captured prizes. On this particular voyage, he seeks a particular Spanish vessel – the one that carries Cuba’s new Consul General, Antonio Cordoba. The last time their paths crossed twenty years ago, Jean barely survived after Cordoba ordered the captured ship sunk with all hands and passengers on board.

Falling debris knocks Mirabel unconscious during the battle between the two enemy vessels. When Jean boards, he ignores the colorful lump on the deck. He seeks only one outcome – vengeance for the deaths of his mother and baby brother. But his second in command, Isaac Bennett, attempts to dissuade Jean because revenge belongs to the Lord. With Jean’s attention momentarily averted, Cordoba fires a hidden pistol and the bullet strikes Israel. Enraged, Jean attacks his nemesis and the two men fall overboard. Cordoba sinks into the depths of the ocean.

Only after Jean returns to his ship does he discover that his crew has brought aboard the wounded Mirabel. Children, especially females, are forbidden, but he has never harmed an innocent and doesn’t intend to do so now. He would ransom her, but since she claims her family is dead, he’s left with the question of what to do with her. Mirabel, of course, has the perfect solution. She knows all about pirates, so she should join his crew. Following orders, however, is not her strong suit, which lands her in the brig after kicking Jean. He soon discovers that this brazen girl has wormed her way into the stalwart hearts of ne and his men and, before long, is one of the crew – a temporary inconvenience only.

Contrary to what her father told Mirabel, her mother and grandfather still live. When her grandfather discovers his granddaughter is gone, he vows to find her no matter how long or how much money it requires. On learning that his son is dead and that French privateers have taken Mirabel, he wields the full power of his influence within French circles to have Louis XV declare Jean Beaumont and his men pirates.

Still at sea, Jean remains ignorant that he is now considered an outlaw and that French and Spanish warships hunt the Ghost Ship. They attack another vessel and during this engagement, Mirabel is swept into the sea. Only later is it discovered that she is missing. After an exhausting day of searching for her, Jean retires to his cabin while Israel and his longboat continue the hunt. He eventually finds an unconscious Mirabel, but can’t return to the ship because it’s under attack. The warship is the victor, and they imprison the pirates and take the Ghost Ship with them to New Orleans. With nowhere else to go, Israel sails to an island so the nuns there can nurse and raise Mirabel. In the years that follow, Mother Superior tells her that she only dreams about pirates, but Mirabel knows they are really memories. One day she hopes to reunite with the handsome pirate captain and her pirate friends.

The Pirate Bride is the latest installment in the Daughters of the Mayflower series and takes place in two parts. The first recounts Mirabel’s sea adventures, while the second half takes place eleven years later after she grows up and reunites with her family. Part one, which sets the stage for the romance and underlying mysteries that unfold in part two, interweaves adventure with humor and heartache, and includes several unexpected twists. The characters capture our hearts, much like Mirabel manages to do with the privateers, and transport us back to 1724. The subsequent half of the story provides an intriguing study of how someone raised on an isolated island reenters a world governed by strict rules, proper etiquette, and specific social orders. There are times when the reader feels almost as left out as Maribel did when she left Spain. Her reunion with her family isn’t fully explored. We never get a sense that she’s really in danger and the mysteries are too easily solved. Employing the slave trade and its ties to piracy as a means of bringing Jean and Maribel together again is historically accurate and a refreshing theme from usual romances of this type, but the subplots of the second half are told more than shown, which prevents readers from becoming fully involved. As an inspirational romance, The Pirate Bride is a pleasing tale into which the religious aspect is subtly knitted. The author’s note provides a good summary of the political relations between France and Spain during this time period, which helps explain how a privateer could be deemed a pirate even if he never violates the law.

  Review copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar

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Little Pegleg the Pirate
Cover Art: Little Pegleg the Pirate
Little Pegleg the Pirate: Treasure Islands
By D. Alan Hewitt
CreateSpace, 2013, ISBN 978-1478395591, $12.95
Also available in e-book format

Eight friends with disabilities and strong faith in God accept a challenge from a man (angel) to go on a special Odyssey aboard a wooden schooner. Five boys and two girls are eleven and twelve years old, and the other lad is six. Their disabilities drew them together and they’ve become good friends who look out for each other, but sometimes they wonder if life will ever be normal for them.

As each child steps aboard the ship, they acquire pirate personas, special abilities that compensate for their disabilities, and special gifts each must learn to use. Samuel becomes Little Pegleg, the captain, and his prosthesis becomes a wooden leg. Jerome Christopher transforms into a non-stuttering, suave pirate. Mortimer changes into Mortie with a “Swiss Army knife” pegarm instead of his prosthesis. Harvey and his wheelchair become Harley whose biker-chair has cannons and flames that allow him to fly short distances. Paul, who already wears an eye-patch , is now Paulie with a spyglass that allows him to see far and wide. Alexis, who’s deaf and mute, and Abigail, who wears a hearing aid, transform into smartly attired female pirates Allie and Gabs and communicate with sign language. Ernest, whose right hand is deformed, changes into Ernie and his hand becomes a hook.

Their mission is to sail from island to island, spreading God’s word and living in His light, while searching for pieces of a treasure map. When they acquire a piece of this jigsaw puzzle, their next destination appears along with a special clue as to what they might encounter there. Along the way they meet unbelievers, bullies, pirate hunters, sharks (both human and aquatic), con men, cannibals, autocrats, technology zombies, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and a mad scientist/wizard. They also make new friends, including Nathan Hale, George Washington, and Jonah. The friends have their own fears and misgivings that they must overcome, and sometimes it takes a “what if” experience to realize where they go wrong.

For the most part, I liked this adventure, and Hewitt definitely saturates the tale with a lot of allegorical situations in the book’s 322 pages. The religious component to this story is very strong and may not appeal to all readers. Readers may also find some material and subjects covered, as well as the language, objectionable and definitely not appropriate for children; Hewitt is upfront about this before the book begins. As the story progresses the lighter adventure becomes darker and darker, and the gun incident involving one of the children, as well as the aftermath of the shooting, struck me as being out-of-character for the young pirates and their friendships. It also caught me unaware, like a sudden slap in the face, and while the story does have a happy ending, getting there left me feeling uneasy about allowing children, and possibly younger and immature teens, to read this book.

Aside from some formatting and spelling errors, as well as the occasional missing word, I also wonder about the target audience. Adults often prefer to read about adults, more so than young children on an adventure, but adults are Hewitt’s primary target audience. The book’s length is definitely geared toward that audience and the children often sound more like adults than six, eleven, or twelve year olds, especially when discussing concepts few that age would comprehend. The one aspect of this book that I particularly identified with was that these eight characters have physical disabilities and they find ways to overcome those challenges. Too often such characters are omitted from stories, even when these tales can be truly inspiring to read.

Hewitt wrote this pirate tale as a fun read that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. His intent “is to show people as being spiritually disabled and not able to live victoriously in God’s presence without His enabling us to [missing word] through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit” (5) He also admits the book is “an outrageous and politically incorrect fantasy adventure from a spiritual perspective.” (5) I agree he achieves these goals.

Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar

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His Pirate Seductress
Cover Art: His Pirate Seductress
His Pirate Seductress
By Tamara Hughes
Entangled Publishing, November 2015, e-book ISBN 978-1-63375-436-2, $2.99

With the fabulous Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar in his possession, Thomas Glanville now has the means to turn his dream into a reality. No longer will he work for other men, commanding their merchant ships. Now he will own his own ship and be his own master. At last he will measure up to his older brothers’ successes and gain his father’s long-sought approval. Unfortunately, when he sets sail from London in November 1724, he discovers that the fates have a far different plan in store for him and the Ruby Cross.

Ever since her husband chose to go to sea in search of treasure, Catherine Fry has had to fend for herself, her young son, and her frail mother. The money Peter promised to send home never materialized and now he’s dead. They live in squalor and at the mercy of the denizens who prey on the unfortunate. One of them, a particularly vicious and smug man named Simon Brewer, holds her son and mother hostage. The only way she can pay Peter’s debt is to steal the Ruby Cross. Once she gives it to Brewer, he’ll release her son and mother. Or will he?

No matter the cost, Catherine vows to rescue her family. To do so she enlists the help of her childhood friend and her husband’s pirate-in-arms, Wolfrie Barnet. He convinces his men to follow Catherine, and they set sail to hunt down Thomas Glanville and the gold cross encrusted with rubies. Barnet has ulterior motives, though; he loves Catherine and with her husband dead and her being at the mercy of Brewer, Barnet seizes this opportunity to finally get her to marry him.

Once the pirates take Glanville’s ship, Barnet tries to convince Catherine that the only way to get Thomas to reveal the whereabouts of the cross is through torture. But she hasn’t the stomach to inflict that type of pain and opts for a subtler approach. Thomas bides his time, waiting for the right moment to turn the tables on the pirates, but before long he and Catherine wonder just who is torturing whom. When Barnet discovers what has happened between the two, his jealousy endangers not only Robert but Catherine and the lives of her son and mother. A slim chance of salvation remains, but it requires Thomas, a pirate captive, to trust Catherine, the woman who wishes to destroy his dream. And even if they do succeed, there’s no guarantee they will do so in time to save her son and mother.

His Pirate Seductress is the third book in Hughes’ Love on the High Seas series. It is a romance that is spiced far above a sweet love story, with compromising situations bordering on the risqué. The pacing of the story – which takes place over a fortnight, a fact not revealed until near the end of the book – is propelled by riveting action that makes His Pirate Seductress a good swashbuckler. What keeps the book from being a great swashbuckling adventure is its length. A longer tale would have permitted deeper character development to allow readers to get to know and care about the hero and heroine and what happens to them.

Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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MacHugh and the Faithless Pirate
Cover Art: MacHugh and the Faithless
MacHugh and the Faithless Pirate
By William S. Schaill
Fireship Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-61179-357-4, $18.00
e-book ISBN 978-1-61179-358-1, $6.99

In the midst of a wintry blizzard in 1694, Robert MacHugh breaks into the warehouse of the richest man in New York Towne. Doing so is not what the respected wine merchant and fourth son of a Scottish baron should be doing, but he seeks proof that Frederick Phillipsie is in league with William Archer, a cruel pirate who’s been plundering Robert’s cargoes.

Although his suspicions are confirmed, there is nothing Robert can do until a Captain of the Marines delivers a letter from Lord John Churchill. The missive outlines attacks Archer made on property of the Grand Moghul of India. The pirate also raped the moghul’s daughters, which has caused diplomatic problems for the king and queen and the East India Company (EIC). In retaliation for Archer’s vicious plundering, the moghul has taken EIC officials hostage and issued an ultimatum. England has nine months to deliver proof of Archer’s death to the moghul, or the hostages will be killed. One of those captives is Robert’s youngest brother.

There are several caveats to hunting down Archer. Robert must not interfere with Archer’s financial backers in any way since these men, like Phillipsie, wield great influence and power the monarchs need. Also, the Captain of the Marines and a reformed pirate who once sailed with Archer are to accompany Robert on this trek.

With a cargo meant to lure the pirate from his lair, Robert and his companions set sail for the Caribbean. But finding Archer takes time, for no one is certain where he is and the West Indies has many ideal places where he can shelter. Complicating the hunt are foul weather, French corsairs, a lovely woman whose father is in cahoots with the pirates, murder, uncooperative officials, and a Royal Navy commander who bristles at being under Robert’s orders. Nor are the two warships sent to aid in the search the ‘powerful cruisers’ Churchill promised, and when one disappears, Robert is no longer certain he can succeed in his mission and save his brother’s life.

While the opening scene of this story contains spine-tingling action that makes the reader’s breath catch, the purpose for its inclusion is vague since Phillipsie never appears in this story and his interactions with the pirates are never depicted.  There are occasions where it’s difficult to keep track of who’s who and there’s a tendency to refer to characters in ways that distance the reader from the story. Better proofreading, less awkward phrasing of some sentences and, since time is of the essence, inserting more tension in some scenes would benefit the story. In spite of these flaws, MacHugh and the Faithless Pirate incorporates gripping action scenes that whisk the reader into the midst of fierce storms, pirate chases, and perilous battles.


Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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Cover art: 1636
1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies
By Eric Flint & Charles E. Gannon
Baen, 2014, ISBN 978-1-4767-3678-5, $25.00
Also available in e-book formats
What if the citizens of a small, West Virginia town found themselves transported from the 20th century to 17th-century Europe during the Thirty Years War? That’s the premise of the novels known collectively as The Ring of Fire or 1632 series. 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies is the latest installment in this alternative history.

Lt. Commander Eddie Cantrell is an up-and-coming officer in the United States of Europe’s navy. The USE and Denmark have become allies, and his skill as a gamer, his military history studies, and his being a technology geek provide him with the expertise he needs to wend his way through a serpentine web of court intrigue, royal protocols, and naval orders. This time around, he journeys to the New World, where Spain claims ownership of all lands and the treasure they contain. The allies seek to upend this monopoly, but their target isn’t gold or silver. Rather Eddie is tasked with insuring they have access to a more precious commodity – oil.

Eddie’s fleet consists of steam-powered frigates and old world sailing ships, which provide a vast array of modern and old technologies to carry out his orders. But to succeed in this mission, he needs a diversion – one that his boyhood friend, Mike McCarthy, Jr., must implement. And it requires the assistance of Irish mercenaries allied with Spain. The plans may go awry in any number of ways, what with hostile natives, pirates, starving colonists, and enemies who plot to thwart the USE’s plans. Having an amorous wife along merely adds further complications Eddie can’t afford as the various factions slowly come together in a showdown that requires thinking outside the box for Eddie and his comrades to be victorious.

Having read and enjoyed another of Eric Flint’s alternative histories, I wanted to read this one even though I haven’t read any of the previous titles in the series. He and Gannon write an intriguing tale filled with what-ifs that never strain the reader’s ability to believe this might occur. Although unfamiliar with the backstory and characters, I had no trouble following the various story threads, and the book begins with a short overview to set the stage. The authors also include a cast of characters at the end of the novel, as well as maps of the Spanish Main and Leeward Islands and a glossary of terms to further orient the reader. This is a great story, albeit a long one at 613 pages. It shines an entirely new spotlight on what might have happened had Europeans had access to future technologies while attempting to colonize islands and territories that Spain laid claim to in the New World. The pirates are true buccaneers except for one detail – which makes this a true alternative history. They aren’t major players in the overall scheme of this narrative, but they add an interesting angle that rings true.

Read an excerpt
Meet the authors Flint and Gannon

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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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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The Sweet Trade
Cover Art: The Sweet Trade
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
Marbeck and the Privateers
By John Pilkington
Severn House, 2014, e-book ISBN 978-1-78010-517-8, US$24.99 / £19.99
Print ISBN 978-07278-8372-8, US $28.95 / £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.”

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
Cover Art: A Tall Ship, a Star, and
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 Cindy 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 H. C. 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.

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Capture the Wind
                      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.
 Read an excerpt

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.
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.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Heart's Safe Passage
Cover Art: Heart's Safe
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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Prisoner of Desire
Cover Art: Prisoner of
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.
Read an excerpt
Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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The Chocolate Pirate Plot
                      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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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Pieces of Eight
                      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.

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.

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.

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.
M. Kei's Blog
Read an excerpt from The Sallee Rovers
Explore the Kalmar Nyckel (where Kei currently is part of the crew)

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.
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.

Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Cup of Gold
                        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.

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.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Avery's Treasure

Cover Art: Avery's
Avery’s Treasure
by Kate Dolan
Zumaya, 2007
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.

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Book Review Copyright ©2007 Cindy Vallar

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The Eagle’s Prophecy

Cover Art: Eagle's
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
Feeding the Dragon
by S. Dan Smith
Stone Garden, 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 added 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.

Visit The Colonial Radio Theatre

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.

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

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.

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Siren Cover Art
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.

Read more about Jean Laffite

Book Review Copyright ©2006 Cindy Vallar

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Kingston by Starlight

Cover Art: Kingston by
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.

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.

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.

Visit the RB Web Site

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
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.

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.

Visit the Author's Web site
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.

Visit the Author's Web site

Book Review - Copyright ©2002 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Queen

Pirate Queen Cover Art
Pirate Queen US Cover Art
The Pirate Queen
HarperCollins Australia, 2003
ISBN 0-7322-6828-1
The Pirate Queen
New American Library, 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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Dead Man's Chest

Dead Man's Chest by Roger Johnson
Dead Man's Chest: the Sequel to Treasure Island
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
Captain Mary, Buccaneer
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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