Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best Pirate, Privateer and High Seas Romances!

Who doesn’t love a good pirate or privateer story? All that capturing, swashbuckling and romancing on the high seas—oh yes! Gets my blood boiling just thinking about it. While there are lots of pirate and privateer romances out there, not all are great ones. Here’s my list of those I have rated 4 or 5 stars. Some do not have pirates as such, but may have a swashbuckling sea captain or a privateer. In almost every case, part of the story takes place on the high seas. 

·      A Kiss in the Wind by Jennifer Bray-Weber
·      A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey
·      A Pirate’s Pleasure from the North American Women trilogy by Heather Graham
·      Across a Moonlit Sea, The Iron Rose and Following Sea, Pirate Wolf trilogy by Marsha Canham
·      Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer
·      Bound by the Heart by Marsha Canham
·      Bride of the Baja by Jane Toombs (original author Jocelyn Wilde)
·      Broken Wing by Judith James
·      Call of the Sea by Rebecca Hart
·      Captain of My Heart by Danelle Harmon
·      Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain
·      Crimson Rapture by Jennifer Horsman
·      Dead Man’s Kiss by Jennifer Bray-Weber
·      Desire in Disguise by Rebecca Brandewyne
·      Desire in the Sun by Karen Robards
·      Devil's Embrace and Devil's Daughter by Catherine Coulter
·      Embrace and Conquer by Jennifer Blake
·      Fields of the Sun by Nadine Crenshaw
·      Fortune’s Flames by Janelle Taylor
·      Fortune’s Mistress and Fortune’s Bride by Judith E. French
·      Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
·      Island Flame and the sequel Sea Fire by Karen Robards
·      Lady of Fire by Valerie Vayle
·      Lady Vixen by Shirlee Busbee
·      Lord of the Sea by Danelle Harmon
·      Love of a Lioness by Sawyer Belle
·      Magic Embrace by Jennifer Horsman
·      Master of My Dreams by Danelle Harmon
·      Master of Seduction by Kinley MacGregor
·      My Wicked Pirate by Rona Sharon
·      Passion’s Joy and the sequel, Virgin Star by Jennifer Horsman
·      Passion’s Ransom by Betina Krahn
·      Perfume of Paradise by Jennifer Blake
·      Pirate’s Angel by Marsha Bauer
·      Pirate Royale by Cordia Byers
·      Sea Raven by Patricia McAllister
·      Sea Mistress by Candace McCarthy
·      Sea Mistress by Nancy Morse
·      Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
·      Silver Storm by Cynthia Wright
·      Tainted Lilies by Becky Lee Weyrich
·      The Black Angel by Cordia Byers
·      The Black Rose by Christina Skye
·      The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
·      The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss
·      The Game by Brenda Joyce
·      The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley
·      The Hidden Heart by Laura Kinsale
·      The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm
·      The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley
·      The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries
·      The Pirate’s Captive by Dana Ransom
·      The Pirate’s Widow by Sandra Du Bay
·      The Pride of the King by Amanda Hughes
·      The Prize by Brenda Joyce
·      The Rogue Pirate’s Bride by Shana Galen
·      The Storm and the Splendor by Jennifer Blake
·      The Wind and the Sea by Marsha Canham
·      The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon and Tom Curtis)
·      Till Dawn Tames the Night by Megan McKinney
·      Treasured Embrace by Marsha Bauer
·      Under Crimson Sails by Lynna Lawton
·      Velvet Chains by Constance O’Banyan
·      Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain
·      With One Look by Jennifer Horsman

And, if you want to read a seafaring adventure with a British privateer hero, you might enjoy my own novels, To Tame the Wind and Wind Raven. Both have a pirate and a lusty sea captain. Ah yes, love on the High Seas!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Dana Ransom’s THE PIRATE’S CAPTIVE – A Swoon-worthy Pirate Puts Revenge Above Love

This book was first published in 1987 and it’s worth finding if you are a fan of pirate romance. While no date is given, it appears to be set in 18th century when Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia Colony.

It’s the story of Lady Merrit Ellison who, while sailing to the Virginia Colony to meet her betrothed, Lord Whitelaw, was taken hostage by the pirate known as the Spanish Angel (for his handsome face). He also stole her dowry of priceless pearls. But she gave him her innocence and then fell in love with the rogue.

Nicholas had vengeance on his mind when he took Lady Merrit while releasing the others on the ship his pirate crew plundered. He wants to ruin Lord Whitelaw and his family for the terrible wrongs they did to him and his mother. Even his love for Merrit will not interfere with his plans. He is a man of many faces with keen intelligence and a thirst for revenge. Lady Merrit is a survivor with spunk.

On their way to a happy ending, they experience many adventures. Marrit cannot resist her “Colley” even if his intentions are not always honorable.

The book will certainly hold your attention as there are many twists and turns and lots of worthy secondary characters. The author does engage in some head hopping, which took me a while to get used to, and some errors in forms of address, as well as some improbable moments. Still, it’s a page-turner and a classic. Pirate romance lovers will want to get a copy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Port of London in the 18th Century

Pool of London, painting by John Wilson Carmichael

I’m writing Echo in the Wind now, book 2 in the Donet duology (To Tame the Wind was the first). Both are Georgian romances set in the 1780’s with ship captain heroes. In each of the stories, the captain must adroitly maneuver his ship (one is a schooner and one a brig-sloop) through the traffic on the Thames to moor in the Pool of London. That’s the area just downstream from London Bridge where London’s port was originally centered. And it was a very busy place because the Port of London was the busiest port in the world!

During the 18th century, both the city of London and its international trade went through a great expansion. The Thames became a huge traffic jam, or, as one of my characters in To Tame the Wind described it, “There are so many ships in port just now, the Thames is like a kettle of stew on the boil.”
Thousands of coastal sailing ships entered the port each year bringing coal or grain to the capital. These ships competed for space in the crowded river with vessels carrying goods like sugar and rum from the West Indies, tea and spices from the East Indies, wine from the Mediterranean, furs, timber and hemp for rope from Russia and the Baltic and tobacco from America.

As you might expect, the rate of increase in the volume of the trade fluctuated with the alternating periods of peace and war. Between 1700 and 1770 the commerce of the port nearly doubled, and from 1770 to 1795 (only 25 years) it doubled again. In 1751, the Pool of London handled 1,682 ships in overseas trade. By 1794, this had risen to 3,663 ships. By 1792, London’s share of imports and exports accounted for 65% of the total for all of England.

The heavy congestion in the Pool resulted in damage to goods and ships, theft and delays. Merchants complained loudly about the effect this had on their costs and profits, and in the 1790s the merchants of the highly profitable West Indies trade began to campaign for better port facilities, which they eventually got.

Some idea of the state of congestion that existed in the river can be gathered from the fact that in the Upper Pool, 1,775 vessels were allowed to moor simultaneously in a space adapted for about 545. A ship of 500 tons was thought of as a ship of exceptional size and this partly explains the state of congestion. The great increase in the volume of trade resulted in the addition of a large number of ships of relatively small carrying capacity. The situation was aggravated by the large number of these smaller craft, estimated at about 3,500, employed to convey cargoes from the moorings to the wharves.

Ships did their best to sail up or down the Thames, but being unloaded was another matter. Until the end of the eighteenth century, there were no docks built for unloading ships (as opposed to dockyards that repaired them). Instead, cargo that couldn’t be carried from a ship to the wharf would be ferried by smaller craft. Is it any wonder the heroines admire the heroes who can handle such a challenge?

What reviewers say about To Tame the Wind:

"... a captivating tale of love and intrigue...  Walker deftly weaves historical fact into the tale, and her depiction of privateers and privateering is well done. Daring sea battles, roguish lurkers, ill-treated prisoners of war, and deceitful dandies add dashes of spice to this historical romance, 
making it one readers will savor long after they turn the last page."  ~ Pirates & Privateers 

  "Masked balls, handsome sea captains, and a plot that will keep you hooked. What's not to love!? To Tame the Wind is romantic historical escapism at its finest - a historical romance fan's dream of a novel! 5/5 stars."  ~ Good Friends, Good Books

On Amazon

And see the Pinterest Storyboard forEcho in the Wind, coming this spring!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: Marsha Bauer’s PIRATE’S ANGEL - A Pirate to Love!

Set in 1814, this is the story of Ivy Woodruff, the product of her mother’s two-week capture by a notorious pirate, Keils Cauldron (his ship is the Black Cauldron). Raised by her English mother and minister father who, though not her real father, loved and accepted her, Ivy hates the pirate who used her mother and then dismissed her.

Ivy is 22 and employed as a governess, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay with her employers, when the Black Cauldron captures her ship. On board, a young pirate leader, Drake Jordan, attempts to take her to his cabin when she cries out to her real father, Keils Cauldron, who is standing on deck. Keils’ only son has just been murdered and Keils is hunting for the killer with Drake when he is faced with the young woman claiming to be his daughter and who has his same violet eyes and black hair.

Drake, who is wildly attracted to Ivy, and Keils take Ivy with them on their hunt for the murderer, a hunt that will have some surprising turns. At the same time, Keils is keeping Ivy close, insisting she sleep in Drake’s cabin so he can watch her and prevent her escape. Keils is also exploring the evidence Ivy says proves she’s his daughter, all the while thinking she is deceiving him. Drake, an educated, wealthy pirate (by choice) prides himself on only having robbed the British, but that doesn’t impress Ivy, who is betrothed to a caring young minister and has no desire to repeat her mother’s history.

Original cover
It’s a story as old as time: we set out to be our own person and end up repeating family history. It’s also a story of choices, some good and others better (though perhaps more difficult). It’s a story of trust and how easily it can be destroyed. And, of course, it’s a story of love. Bauer did a great job of crafting Ivy’s character. She is beautiful, intelligent, honest, principled and courageous. Drake is complex, loyal (to his friends) and brave, a man who doesn’t question his choices. He is also a man who knows his own mind, and he knows he wants Ivy. He is a pirate to love!

Bauer does some important things so well: (1) She develops characters slowly, layer by layer, so you feel you really know them; (2) The chemistry between the hero and heroine develops over time; (3) the love scenes are so tender yet real they will have you squirming; (4) the plot twists are wonderfully creative but still believable, not contrived; (5) her dialog is real and complex; and finally (5) it’s an enthralling story I could not put down.

Bauer does “head hop”, moving from head to head rather quickly and briefly, but the story made up for it. You won’t regret getting this one, I promise.

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Review: Laura Kinsale’s SHADOWHEART – Both Fascinating and Disturbing Pirate Romance

To say this book was difficult to review is an understatement. Let me say at the outset that Kinsale writes brilliantly and has obviously done an amazing job of presenting the historical setting of 14th century Northern Italy. The story certainly held my interest; however, it is also sometimes disturbing and, in places, had me figuratively tearing out my hair. Some historical romance readers will have difficulty with parts of it.

This is the sequel to For My Lady's Heart and much of our introduction to the hero, Allegreto, can be found there, should you want to read it. Shadowheart won the RITA in 2005 for Best Historical Romance, which is interesting in itself, as you’ll see from my comments below. Unlike the prequel, this one is only sprinkled with Middle English, and much better for the change—we can actually understand what Kinsale is saying.

Set in the late 14th-century, Allegreto, the 16-year-old assassin we met in book one, and bastard son of the Italian Navona family, now in his late 20’s, has one goal—to reclaim his birthright in Monteverde (Northern Italy). He is strong, mysterious and ruthless. To secure his claim, he uses treachery to capture the last heir and princess of Monteverde, 17-year-old Elena. Much happened after her capture that bothered me. I apologize for some spoilers, but I can’t review this book without them.

Allegreto (called “Il Corvo” after his island and “pirate” to Elena), rapes her and then calls her “wife,” though there is no marriage nor vows of any kind. How he intended to claim her lands with no lawful marriage mystified me but that’s how the story begins. That Elena, who seemed a bright, independent young woman, could be so witless as to walk into his trap and believe that he had married her and consummated the marriage while she was drugged was just bizarre. She never challenges it, though with her personality, one would have expected her to.

As to Elena and Allegreto’s sexual relationship, I just have to say it was strange for a 17-year-old innocent. While I don’t typically quote other reviewers, the following assessment so closely paralleled my own views I thought to use it: “Had she written a bigger buildup of Elena's obsession with her "angel" of the past so there was a foundation for the present relationship, then made Elena a reluctant apprentice in the S&M and bondage in an effort to "save" Allegreto's black heart and soul, the scenes could have been made darkly beautiful and believable. As it was, we had to make some lightning-fast adjustments to keep up with the young girl we were first introduced to who was alarmed by the aggressive kisses of a romantic knight, and within a matter of weeks morphed into a disturbing and disturbed seductress. We were given no reference point from which to understand the flowering of the relationship between Elena and Allegreto, other than the point at which they came together to draw blood. As a result, we have a very hard time envisioning a happily-ever-anything for these two.” I, too, found it unbelievable. One could expect Allegreto to engage in such behavior given his background, but Elena? Raised as an educated young woman in a happy home in England, it was hard to believe.

Almost all the story is in Elena’s point of view so we know little about Allegreto’s thoughts. We do know (early on) that on his island kingdom he pursued the occult and was creating a generation of young assassins in his own image. Elena, finding that disturbing as well she should, is naïve enough to believe if he promises not to train her own children (when they come) in his murderous ways, those children will somehow be different from their father or the assassin culture all around them. That made her look witless.

The change in the hero and heroine over the course of the book was interesting: she started out weak and became a dominating princess and he started out strong and ended up her love slave.

I wouldn’t recommend this book without the disclaimers in this review. But for those who don’t mind all that, I could say it deserves 4 stars simply for the achievement it represents.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Jennifer Bray-Weber’s DEAD MAN’S KISS – A Hardened Pirate Falls in Love

Back to pirates today… This story is set in 1728 in Cuba, Venezuela and the Caribbean. It tells of Valeryn Barone, captain of the Rissa and a pirate for hire. Arrested as a result of a drunken brawl, Valeyn is forced to escort the mayor’s niece, Catalina Montoya, across the Caribbean so she can gather plant specimens. (Her life’s goal is to be a naturalist.) But there is a condition: he’s to leave her untouched, or lose his ship, his crew and his life.

Catalina was sent to live with her uncle after an illicit affair and now wants only to become a naturalist. She knows Valeryn’s life and that of his crew depends on him delivering her “untouched”, but she intends to seduce him all the same. And how anyone was to know she had been “touched” when she wasn’t a virgin was unclear. But somehow they’d just know. One has to wonder what her uncle was thinking in sending her off with a pirate not known for his morals.

The story is full of authentic pirate dialog and the ship scenes are exciting with a battle that will keep you turning pages. Of course, Valeryn does not resist the cute Catalina long (was anyone surprised?). Catalina seems a selfish, spoiled girl but she is certain she wants the pirate captain. Valeryn has his hands full with all his problems, yet he manages to find time for Catalina. They do seem made for each other.

There are some references to earlier stories and some characters come in at the end that were not a part of the main tale so I assume this is part of a series. But it can be read as a stand alone. Pirate fans will love the action.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Victorian Era Valentines

Though St. Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for a very long time, the Valentine’s Day cards we send today, and their romantic precursors with pictures, real lace and ribbons, didn’t really come into fashion until the mid 19th century with the Victorian era.

Valentine cards were cherished because of the sentimentality attached to them. Designing cards became a highly competitive market, with a vast array of motifs and verses. Suddenly, cards were being produced in tens of thousands, from whimsy and slightly vulgar, to truly sentimental, their designs included lace paper, embossed envelopes, glass or metal mirrors, ribbons, dried ferns and fake advertisements, bank notes and marriage licenses.


Valentine’s Day cards became a flourishing trade in central London. Commercially printed cards quickly superseded homemade offerings of earlier times. They reached the height of their popularity during the 1870s and 80s. Yet even those commercially produced featured birds with real feathers, posies of dried flowers and spun glass hearts, all trimmed with ribbons and lace. 

Some valentines were so thick with embellishments, they came in presentation boxes. Some unfolded like fans, while mechanical valentines had levers or disks which made figures dance, hands move and birds flutter their wings. 

 Sometimes a scented sachet would be sent rather than a paper Valentine. The one below with silver lace and flowers and a woven silk message in the center dates from the 1870s.
The words in these cards were as effusive as the decorations. Unabashedly sentimental, they pleaded for affection and pledged undying devotion. Even men kept these tokens of affection hidden in their bureau drawers.  

The world has changed and so have valentines but sometimes I like to look at the ones from earlier eras and enjoy the sweet sentimentality expressed. Today our affection is often more subtly expressed but it’s still nice to have a day when such tokens of love can be exchanged.

  Happy Valentine’s Day!