2008, European Historical Romance (1720s [Georgian] England)
Leisure, $6.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0843961333 Part of a series
Don’t judge this book by its cover. Ignore the torrid display and the alliterative title and jump right in; you’ll have a ton of fun.
Jacquelyn Wren really wants to kill a man. Not any man, but the new lord who is coming to take possession of her home, Dragon Caern Castle. Unfortunately for her, things aren’t going as planned.
We meet her coming to consciousness on her enemy’s ship, abandoned by her flimsy band of followers. She is in the arms of Gabriel, her enemy-cum-savior. Desperate to follow through with her plan, she announces that her name is “Jack” and promptly makes a weak stab at him. Gabriel is no fool, and immediately realizes that 1) Jack is definitely a girl, and 2) this girl sucks at fighting.
Gabriel forces Jack to admit her reasons for her bloodthirstiness, and is shocked by her news: the old Lord Drake of Dragon Caern and his eldest son are dead, and she must stop the new lord who bought the castle before he can turn out her family. Gabriel tells her she’s got it all wrong; he is the youngest son of Lord Drake, and he certainly has no intention of letting someone else take his land. Upon returning to the Castle, Gabriel’s bawdy old uncle (now turned priest) announces that Gabriel must wed immediately to secure the old castle, and Jack is just the girl to teach him how to woo a lady properly. Jack, furious at this arrangement, steels herself to her fascination with Gabriel and vows to get him safely married as soon as possible. Attracted to Jacquelyn the moment he sees her, Gabriel is more determined than ever to seduce her.
Jack is such a spunky, straight-forward girl that I couldn’t help liking her. I groaned when the author gave her auburn hair (who isn’t a redhead these days?), but she’s got a personality all her own. A bastard child, she is terrified that one day she will succumb to the same fate as her mother and become a loose woman. She is honest to a fault, and loving to everyone she knows. Gabriel is a perfect match for Jack - he says outrageous things to get a rise out of her, but can’t help but be fascinated by her sharp tongue and her gentleness towards others. Although he’s been a pirate for most of his adult life, gentlemanly decency still runs deeply within him, perhaps too deeply. We never see him act like a pirate, and his behavior isn’t all that shocking or different from the prim lifestyle at Dragon Caern. Even so, his affection for Jack is very satisfying.
This story is heavily character-driven. Conflict is in the form of nasty people searching for hidden treasure in the Castle, but it’s almost an after-thought. Consequently, the book is somewhat haphazardly divided, with a nice, even pace for most of the story and then a sudden sprint to the neatly-tied end. This plot turn lessened my enjoyment of the story. Also, I would have appreciated some more information on Gabriel’s past as a pirate. We’re only told that he was quite dastardly, but a critical point of the story hinges on his past, and I felt like it was lacking depth. Jacquelyn’s mother is also a little too convenient for comfort.
I expected a stupendous, swashbuckling quest on the high sea, but was very pleased – and somewhat relieved — to find a delightful, witty romance taking place on land, with a pace fast enough to keep me fully engaged. The dialogue between Jack and Gabriel is clever and full of such sly fun that the pages really flew by. All I have to do now is find the author’s backlist.
-- Emma Leigh
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