Sometimes low expectations can really work in your favor. I wasn't really expecting much of a book called What a Pirate Desires, because let's face it: The title is awful. The good news is that the book itself is quite good. It has interesting characters, a compelling and believable conflict, and a romantic, shipboard setting. What's not to like?
Samantha Fine experiences her worst nightmare when she was twelve. Her father's vessel was attacked by pirates led by Captain Dervish, and she was the only one of her family to survive. Five years later, her life is all about revenge. In fact, Revenge is the name of the stolen ship she captains. Taking up pirating herself (kinder, gentler pirating), Samantha prowls the Caribbean as Sam Steele, looking for Dervish. Only her crew knows that Sam is a woman. When finding Dervish proves more difficult than she had anticipated, Samantha decides to enlist some help. Luke Bradley, a pirate who once worked with Dervish, is in jail and sentenced to hang. Samantha helps him to escape, and in return he agrees to help her find Dervish and exact her revenge. Samantha also promises that he can have The Revenge once it's all over.
Working with Luke presents many complications, however. First of all, he doesn't take orders well. He's used to being in charge, and he's not shy about stating his opinions. He's also sexy as hell, and he lets Samantha know he has every intention of sleeping with her. Before long, this starts to sound like a good idea to her. Luke even goes behind her back, expanding her parrot's repertoire to include lines like "Luke is handsome!"
The plot unfolds gradually, and we learn more about both Samantha and Luke. He has a respectable sister whom he loves, who is married to the governor's brother. Samantha has another enemy she doesn't know about - a plantation owner who raped her, and from whom she stole her ship. On top of that, Luke is not strictly honest with Samantha - not about Dervish, and not about his real motives. As they journey together, Luke and Samantha are clearly falling in love, but it's hard to envision an easy resolution to their problems. Neither leads a life conducive to romance or respectability, and there are several obstacles for them to overcome before they can think about that anyway.
And that, right there, is what makes this a good book. The conflict is not easy to resolve, nor is the solution obvious from the page three. The characters have to work through their problems the old-fashioned way, and they even mange to do it without falling prey to every romance cliche in the book.
It helps that the characters are interesting. I particularly liked Luke, who has a Jack Sparrow-esque quality about him (maybe it's the way he keeps saying luv?). His life experiences would make anyone bitter; he lost an eye at the hand of Dervish, and was treated abominably by his stepfather when he was young. But while these things affect who he is, they don't make him a bitter, whiny person; they make him a cautious one.
Samantha is also well-worth reading about. One would think she'd be bitter as well, what with her ship named Revenge. Her desire for vengeance has given her a purpose in life, but in the process she's built relationships with her crew, some of whom escaped the plantation owner with her. She also recognizes her love for Luke and is the first to believe in the possibility of a future together.
If this book has a downside, it's that the language can be a bit flowery here and there. But that's pretty nit-picky; almost everything else about it is enjoyable. I'd heartily recommend it, especially if you love a good conflict and an atypical setting. What a Pirate Desires is - pardon the pun - a buried treasure.
-- Blythe Barnhill
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