The Privateer

Dawn MacTavish
2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Leisure, $6.99, 325 pages, Amazon ASIN 0843959819

Grade: D-
Sensuality: Warm

The intriguing introduction to The Privateer held the promise of well-described settings and dynamic characters. Unfortunately, the book soon devolved into a series of clichés and wooden writing.

Lark, the daughter of an earl, is thrown into debtor's prison after her father's suicide. She is soon rescued by Kingston, whose mother ordered him to find her a companion from the jail as an act of charity. Lark just happens to land at his feet after a scuffle with other inmates, and King is taken by the beauty evident beneath the grime. He pays her debt and buys her a new wardrobe before bringing her to his estate in Cornwall, where he is reluctantly engaged in privateering. Their proximity enables them to fall in love and marry quickly before separating and then reconciling after various misunderstandings throughout the book.

Lark expects to be made King's mistress once they arrive in Cornwall, the first example of her bad habit of jumping to conclusions. Throughout the story, Lark never waits around to find out what’s happening or to stand up for herself, but rather assumes the worst and runs away whenever possible. She is described as spirited and intelligent, but I only saw her make impetuous decisions that made life harder for herself and all around her. For instance, when she believes that King has taken up with his ex-mistress (the slutty flame-haired Gypsy named Hazel), instead of confronting them like a spirited, intelligent woman, she runs away, falls in quicksand, gets pulled out by townsmen who want to rape or kill her - which she could prevent by stating her identity, but for some reason doesn't - gets rescued by King's steward, then runs away again. She overreacts to everything.

The aristocratic King wants to be finish serving his country as a privateer but remains under orders. But the entire privateering sub-plot was woefully undeveloped and his main role in the story seems to be to keep Lark confused about his lustful intentions and to mysteriously disappear for long stretches of time. King's mother sees the attraction between them, and maneuvers them towards each other; they apparently fall in love promptly, and soon marry. Although both are unsure of each other for most of the time, and it remains unclear to the reader precisely why they love each other, their feelings develop quickly.

The conflicts are all external and too convoluted to make sense. The hero and heroine are kept apart by how they wrongly perceive each other, King's duty to his country, old enemies popping up, and so on. In addition to the contrived and unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings, many minor issues knocked me out of the story, at least as far as I could get into it in the first place. For one, there are the oddly named characters (Lark, King, Hazel), and for another, there are those repeated references to King's eye. He wears an eye patch, and lines such as this one - "The riveting seduction in his eye held her relentlessly." - lead me to yet another problem, awkward phrasing.

I began The Privateer sympathizing with the heroine, and found the opening scenes - the description of the setting and rules of the debtors' prison - to be the most engaging and intriguing. But the story quickly went downhill after that. Had the author understood the difference between telling and showing, I might have given this book a much higher grade, but, through the whole book, I was told how people felt and what kind of personality they had, with no evidence to back it up. Overall, this one isn't worth your time or money.

-- Jessica Langlois

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