Author: Darlene Marshall
Genre: Romance, Historical
Publisher: Amber Quill Press
Publication Date: December 2009
Paperback : 254 pages
‘Lucky Jack’ Burrell’s quest for revenge against Sophia Deford will have to wait until he discharges a debt. He has to help her find the fabled pirate treasure Garvey’s Gold, then he can wring her dainty neck. Sophia has no intention of sharing anything with anyone. She will have all of Garvey’s Gold, no matter how much Jack’s lean-muscled body makes her want to get to know him just a little bit better before she gets rid of him. As the two adversaries squabble their way across Territorial Florida following the clues on their treasure map, they know that before they’re through they’re either going to kiss each other, kill each other, or both…
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the author
Why did I read this book: When the author offered me a copy of the book, I read an excerpt and I liked what I read so I said yes. Plus, I like High Seas adventures.
It’s been quite a while since I read a Historical Romance ( a few months actually) and The Bride and the Buccaneer was a good reminder of the things I love about the genre -the emotional punches and the character-driven stories- whilst at the same time cementing in my mind, in a very broad, sweeping generalisation, what I see as its weaknesses: the less than careful attention to some details and the reliance on contrivances and coincidences to further the plot.
It begins a few years in the past when Jack Burrell after losing some money to a Lord Whitfield decides to recuperate his losses by robbing his carriage and stealing his gold. He also happens to kidnap the man’s ward, Sophie Deford as a means to prevent being followed, a girl he thinks is a timid young lady. What he did not know is that Sophie is anything from timid and finds this is the perfect opportunity to get away from her lecherous guardian. She proceeds to dupe Jack, rob him of his gold and his clothes, leaving him tied and naked in a cave, fleeing with the money to open her own business.
Cue to five years later. A Captain friend of hers is about to leave on a journey and before he does, he leaves a letter on her hands to be delivered to, you guessed right, Jack (whom at that point, Sophie did not know was her highwayman) in Florida along with instructions to find a long lost pirate’s treasure in case something happens to him in this journey. Before I even have time to blink, the man is dead, Sophie cries for about one paragraph, then embarks to Florida. Just like that. Then, her ship is stopped by a privateer’s ship, captained by the …very same Jack Burrell, the man she met so many years ago, and the man she is actually looking for! Oh my, what are the odds? (One in a trillion?).
The overwhelming rapidity in which this all happens is mind-blowing. It felt as though the author wanted to get the pesky business of setting the plot in motion out of the way quickly, in order to get going. And for that it didn’t matter how it was done. In all honesty, I had to make myself to keep reading at this point but I am glad I did because once thing did get going, it cannot be denied that there was much fun to be had with the romance between Jack and Sophie.
Working together to find the treasure, disliking each other to begin with (well, given their past, given Sophie’s need not to be attached to anyone) and then falling in love, bickering all the way through.
Regardless of how things were engendered, the characterisation was pretty strong. Jack was a genuinely nice man, who loves his life a privateer and the one who falls in love first (one of my favorites tropes, by the way). Sophie, meanwhile is the hardened one who needs to be convinced to open up for an emotional connection. She is no silly girl, she is sexually aware and an overall strong female character and I liked her very much.
With regards to the setting: I don’t think I ever read a book set in early 19th century Florida and that was pretty interesting. Although, it called for some serious suspicion of disbelief when they went traipsing into the wild countryside and did not meet any really dangerous situation. I am no expert but really? Nothing? Fauna, flora, or Human? Nada? Instead, they happen to meet a friend who happened to be hiding in the same side of the woods. Okay.
Overall I did enjoy the book, and I finished it with a silly smile after the decidedly wonderful last lines of dialogue.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the excerpt:
Off the coast of Spanish Florida–1817
He held her gaze a moment longer, then his lips curled up. The smile made Sophia want to take a step back – all the way back to England – but she held her ground and donned the face that saw her through many a late-night game of cards.
“John Burrell, I presume? I have a letter for you.”
“If you are John Burrell of St. Augustine, East Florida, I have a letter for you from England,” she repeated, speaking slowly and distinctly. “It is with my belongings, and I will fetch it.”
He stared at her, and she could see a host of expression in his green-tinged eye, none of it boding well for her.
“A letter,” he said softly. “You have a letter for me you have brought all the way from England. Do you know, Miss Deford, in all the many daydreams I had over what I would do to you if we ever met again, your acting as postmistress did not enter into a single scenario? But that is neither here nor there. Right now, I have a ship to plunder.”
“When you see the contents of your letter, you may feel more pleased about seeing me again,” Sophia brazened out.
“I doubt that. I doubt that very much, Miss Deford.”
“Crawford!” He called to a passing pirate. “Keep this woman under guard until I can deal with her. Do not let her out of your sight.”
The sailor looked startled by these orders, but only said, “Aye, sir,” and took up a stance next to Sophia as Burrell stalked off. When she started slipping closer to the passageway, Crawford said, “Please don’t do that, miss. I don’t want to hurt you, but I have my orders.” He looked regretful, but he also looked as if he was willing to do whatever he was ordered to, and Sophia stood still. The sun beat down on her, exposed on the deck, as she watched the busy activity of the ship’s cargo being stolen.
“May I at least go stand in the shade while your captain decides my fate? ”
Crawford nodded, and took her arm to lead her over to a coiled cable shaded by an awning where she sat down to watch the activity unfolding around her.
The privateers attached bumpers to their ship and brought the Jade alongside the Primrose, and Burrell and his crew removed boxes, crates, and parcels with the efficiency of men who had done this task many times in the past. The last item to be brought above was a strongbox from Captain Starke’s quarters, but when Starke protested, Jack Burrell only looked at him and said, “You have some of your cargo, Starke, and a ship. Do not push your luck.”
Starke’s protests subsided, but he still looked unhappy.
“There is one more piece of unfinished business I have to deal with, Captain Starke,” Burrell said. He walked over to Sophia and leaning down, took her by the arm, pulling her to her feet. “Let us fetch this mysterious letter, Miss Deford.”
“Here now,” Starke protested. “Unhand that lady, Burrell!”
“This lady is an old acquaintance of mine, Captain Starke,” Jack said, not taking his eye off of Sophia while he spoke.
Captain Starke started to protest again, but Sophia put her hand out.
“Let me go with him, Captain Starke. Burrell. . .”
Sophia looked at the pirate and then back at Captain Starke.
“Captain Burrell and I do know each other, Captain Starke. And as he says, we have unfinished business.”
Burrell manacled his hand around her upper arm and pulled her alongside him, but preceded her down the ladder to the lower decks.
Sophia wished her ankles weren’t on display before the pirate as she climbed down herself, but there was nothing for it. He waited at the bottom of the ladder, watching her.
And there was no patch over what appeared to be a perfectly fine eye.
“What happened to your eye?”
“My eye is none of your concern. Which cabin is yours?”
Sophia led him to her cabin and he followed her in, ducking his head beneath a deck that gave her plenty of clearance, but left him close to stooping.
“Where is this letter, Miss Deford?”
Sophia thought of stalling, but did not think it would accomplish much. She went to her small trunk, the one with her personal items, and under his watchful eye pulled out a document sealed with red wax. On its face was the same bold, black handwriting that covered her letter from Erasmus Tanner.
Burrell broke the seal, read the letter, ground out a string of words that would have earned him a clap on both ears from Annie Johnson, and then looked at Sophia.
“Give me the document Captain Tanner gave you, and I will let you go unharmed.”
Sophia took a deep breath. Now was the point where she leapt into the unknown.
“I cannot do that. You can meet with me in Florida and we will talk there.”
In a move so fast Sophia barely saw the gleam of metal, a knife whizzed past her ear and thudded into the bulkhead behind her. She locked her knees and hoped he was not carrying another knife.
Verdict: Despite some flaws, plot-wise, the romance is genuine and warm and the characters are interesting.
Rating: 6 – Good
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