On the cusp of her maturity, Emma St. James faces a problem. Namely her stepbrother who offers her two equally untenable choices: marry him or sign over her inheritance to him. Ugh! If she doesn’t, her stepbrother will have her declared insane and committed to an asylum. Emma decides to take the third option, arrange a marriage with the American grandson of an earl. All she has to do is get to Portsmouth, which considering it’s January is a bit of a problem. Privateer, Captain Robert Ashton, the Earl of Darington, also known as “Dare” has just scored the prize of his life. Enough treasure to fully restore his plundered family wealth. Now that that hurdle has been overcome, he just needs to find an appropriate wife. Unfortunately, his reputation as the “Pirate Earl” means that protective mamas won’t let their daughters marry him. Worse, it seems that someone is out to get him. First, kidnapping his sister. And then shooting him. Thankfully, he runs into a stranded Emma who capably nurses him back to health. And he finds that he’s not able to resist her. He wants Emma to be his wife. Too bad she’s already made other arrangements.
I waffled for a long time on what to give this story. And this is one of those times where I wish the half star system existed on places like Amazon and Goodreads. But I liked the premise of this story, for the most part. I liked the action and the chase of our leads having to outrun both Emma’s family and Dare’s pursuers. I liked the characters sometimes. What I didn’t like was that this book seemed massively miscategorized and mislabeled. I expected to get a rip-roaring pirate/privateer romance a la Rebecca Brandewyne or Johanna Lindsay. The blurb seemed to imply that. The listed categories implied that. What I got was an inspirational Christian romance complete with Bible verses dropped into the middle of the prose wholesale without any seeming rhyme or reason. It was jarring.
Now I don’t mind a good inspirational romance, if I know that’s what I’m signing up for. Heck, I used to work as an editor for a Christian publishing house back in the day, and I still edit Christian romance regularly. But even the use of the Bible verses wasn’t handled well. It was a fourth wall break. Additionally, many of the “steamy” scenes were too steamy for most of the Inspirational Christian Romance audience. It was incongruous.
I also didn’t like the historical inaccuracies. I wish authors or more likely Editors would use sites like etymology online or Google’s ngram viewer. Take the word 'pants’ for instance. It didn’t enter the English language until around 1840. Short pants (meaning underwear) came later – around 1860. Panties (as a derogatory for men’s underwear) entered shortly after Pants did. I don’t want read about "short pants” in Regencies. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from being an editor it's don’t mess up the following in historicals: food, clothing, where/how people use the bathroom, modes of address, and military/naval terminology. The author messed up all of that.
I also had trouble reading a lot of this because I couldn’t connect with the characters and I found them boring. That and at about the 15% mark I started counting the Deus ex Machinas – aka the coincidences. There’s a lot. Enough that I noticed them and started to get annoyed at them by the 29% mark. But I didn’t hate this story. I probably would have rated it higher had it been categorized correctly. But as it stands I can only give this: 2 ½ stars – rounded up to three.
(I received an ARC through NetGalley)
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