Pleasuring the Pirate by Emily Bryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I admit I'm not a fan of pirate stories but, despite the title and the cover, this book isn't really a pirate story - the hero is a former pirate who's returning home to claim his noble life back. As this book has received some interesting reviews and I was in the mood to try a new author, I decided to give it a try.
Gabriel Drake is the "pirate" in question. The second son of the Lord of Dragon Caern, he had his ship attacked by pirates a few years ago and was believed to have died then. But the truth is, faced with the option of being left to drown and die with his ship and the much better option of joining the pirates and keep breathing, Gabriel chose the latter. Somehow along the way, he ends up rescuing King George's royal cousin and, as a reward, he's given the King's pardon - as long as he remains within the limits of his family's lands and never sets his feet in London. So he leaves his seafaring days behind and returns home, only to learn that his father and his older brother have died and he's the new Lord of Dragon Caern now.
Jacquelyn Wren has been managing Dragon Caern since the old Lord's death and, having been warned against the new Lord's arrival, she attacks Gabriel without knowing who he is. When she realizes he's the estate's true heir, she quickly sets up the plan to have him married to a rich heiress so he can have the money to support his property, his newfound family - his deceased brother has left 5 daughters - and his tenants. But Gabriel is - or better, was - a pirate and, thus, needs to be "educated" in gentleman behavior and social etiquette if he hopes to convince a proper lady to marry him, so Jacquelyn starts tutoring him in the matter.
Gabriel and Jacquelyn are attracted to each other from the start and, as they spend more and more time together, the attraction grows and they fall in love. But she's the illegitimate daughter of a courtesan and, even though she's received the education reserved to the most noble ladies, she's not the mistress Dragon Caern needs. So Grabriel must find and marry a lady, and forget Jacquelyn.
In short, that was the basic conflict that kept Gabriel and Jacquelyn from being together, and it didn't work too well for me. I just couldn't buy the reason behind it, because I never felt that Dragon Caern was that important to either Gabriel and Jacquelyn. Okay, they weren't heartless and they did care about the welfare of his 5 nieces and the estate's tenants, but there were at least 2 good solutions to the problem that would allow them to be together without "hurting" anyone. Both of these solutions were presented - and dismissed without much sense - during the course of the story, BTW.
I liked both Gabriel and Jacquelyn, though. They were nice, likable characters, and they had chemistry, which is always good. She wasn't one of those extremely naive heroines - her mother was a courtesan, after all - and that was refreshing. As for Gabriel, he was the average hero, a bit wicked but always caring. I thought he went along with Jacquelyn's plan to have him marry a rich heiress a bit too long, considering he knew he loved her. I mean, what of the old saying, "What a pirate wants, a pirate takes"? Didn't he want Jacquelyn enough to take her and damn the consequences?
At the end of the day, this was "just" an average read. The pace was a bit slow - especially in the first half of the book - and I struggled to get into it sometimes. The writing wasn't bad, but I kept finding myself distracted by other things. And as much as I liked Gabriel and Jacquelyn, I have to say that their love scenes weren't to my liking: there was nothing kinky or offensive about them, I just felt the wording used by Ms. Bryan gave the scenes a clinical feel and that left me cold. The ending was fast paced but uneven, with a few twists that were a little OTT. A more "sedate" ending would have been better, IMHO. Anyway, Gabriel and Jacquelyn got their HEA, so I was happy too.
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