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Darlene Marshall

REVIEW:  The Pirate’s Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall

REVIEW: The Pirate’s Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall


“The captain of the Prodigal Son has a deserved reputation as the deadliest (and best dressed) pirate in the Caribbean, but Robert St. Armand’s totally at sea when it comes to “Marauding Mattie,” the daughter he never knew he had. How in the world can he deal with the littlest pirate, one who prefers knife-throwing to arithmetic lessons, and who’d rather be keelhauled than eat her beets? He needs help!

Lydia Burke is living a safe, respectable life, separated from England by an entire ocean. It’s exactly what she needs and she’s not going to risk her boring, but secure, position as a governess to consort with pirates, especially one who’s too pretty for his own good or her peace of mind.

No self-respecting governess would be willing to come aboard the notorious Prodigal Son, but Robert didn’t fight his way to the top by letting small obstacles like scruples stop him. If he can’t hire Lydia Burke, he’ll steal her and take her to England with them, certain he can charm her into his bed along the way as an added bonus on the voyage.

It will be a true voyage of discovery for the pirate and the governess, as one learns to navigate the rocky shoals of parenthood while the other tries to keep deadly secrets hidden, and both will find that while it’s a child who initially brings them together, the growing passion between them offers the greatest temptation.”

Dear Ms. Marshall,

I’ve been eagerly waiting for your next book. Given the title – and I love the title and its play on the ubiquitous romance book trope – I knew it was going to be fun. Pirates, a shipboard romance, a new father upended by his unexpected responsibilities and a woman who manages to keep her head and agency? Sign me up, Captain.

Even though this story ends up in England on a country estate, I think it would work for people looking for a non-Regency historical. I would love for the action to have stayed longer in the Caribbean but the abundance of shipboard time makes up for that. Throw in the fact that no time is spent in London, or at Almacks, and that Robert schools his young daughter in knife throwing and the rules of survival in a fight -


“What did I tell you is the first rule of knife fights?”

“Kill your enemy from a distance and avoid knife fights.”

“Second rule?”

“Bring a pistol.”

- much to Lydia’s despair, and it’s a horse of a different color. Okay so maybe Robert’s rules aren’t what most young women of the age were taught but he’s making sure his daughter will be able to defend herself, if need be.


“Mattie, what did I teach you about socializing with strangers?”

“Be courteous to all you meet, but have a plan to kill them,” the child said skipping along and holding his hand. “Can I get a puppy first?”

“Captain St. Armand! You cannot teach the child such awful things, especially now that we are back in England!”

Robert is a fellow who is cheerfully and unrepentantly out for what he wants and he’ll manipulate – though he prefers the word persuade – everyone to go along with him. Throughout the book, his basic modus operandi doesn’t change that much. It’s more what he wants that causes change in him. His response is pretty much the same. He was a take-no-prisoners pirate who would kill if need be but also a captain who saw to his crew and his ship. He also uses his mind to out think possible enemies at sea if possible. On land, he takes on the responsibilities of seeing to the manor house, land and people under his care.

I was a little disappointed about Robert’s reasons for falling for Lydia. I know that “she’s different and she won’t (sexually) give in” are RL relationship starters – I know a friend whose first husband felt this way – but I guess I just want more from Robert. I wanted him to realize how special Lydia is early on rather than be piqued that he can’t get into her drawers. Still once he starts to fall, he quickly realizes that she is special, even before the fun starts with the scarves, feathers and other toys Lydia keeps for her own sexual gratification.

For me to enjoy them, historicals have to eventually reach a point where the hero and heroine have a balance of power. I needed to feel that Lydia could hold her own and had some agency, despite being on a ship run by Robert. I was delighted that Lydia is shown as an intelligent woman and one who is respected for that. She enjoys and is good at math and seeing the same in Mattie, Lydia has encouraged Mattie’s mind. Kudos to Robert for wanting the same thing. Lydia holds out for what she wants and ends up setting the sexual terms and limits of their relationship, then begins to actually lead the game.

Mathilde, or “Marauding Mattie” as she likes to be called, is far more than a plot moppet. She’s a fully realized character who acts like a child would, albeit a maths smart, slightly bloodthirsty 8 year old child. I foresee a book for her and heaven help her hero. She gives Robert plenty of chances to experience the delights and terrors of fatherhood. My one disappointment is that her character does fade a touch into the background once everyone reaches Robert’s house in England.

Though the book appears to be well researched, it flirts with the limits of social mores of the 1820s. Lydia and Robert are well aware of the need to protect Lydia’s reputation from gossip once they arrive in England but they come close to arousing suspicions a time or two. Luckily they pull up short of anything that might have got the old biddies of the village started as there is only so much flouting I could have believed in. The story shows a slightly “Vaseline on the lens” view of pirates and piracy but I enjoyed the crew rallying behind Mattie and Lydia so much that I could overlook that.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to your 19th century pirates oeuvre. Maybe it’s a little bit too democratic for England of the age but that section doesn’t last long and Robert isn’t the typical aristocrat. With its smart and sexually aware heroine who has reached for the gusto she wants in life – both then and now – and delightfully self assured hero – he knows which angles and fabrics flatter him – plus a pint sized dynamo just begging for her own story to be told, I had a great fun reading it. B


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REVIEW: Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

REVIEW: Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

Dear Ms. Marshall,

Hello down there in hot, steamy Florida. Lots of authors might choose various contemporary locations in that state for their books but I love that you’ve staked out early 19th century Florida and sea captains, privateers and pirates for yours. Then you smooth on a layer of Yanks vs the Brits to really spice things up. We weren’t quite in the same league with the British yet but with the Baltimore built schooner that Captain David Fletcher sails so successfully, we were on our way.

Sea Change by Darlene MarshallCharlotte “Charley” Alcott has been trained by her doctor father since she was a child but after his death, she has no relations in England to gladly take her in and the ones she does have would probably want her to give up what she loves best – trying to heal people. So with her square face, tall build, and blunt features helping to hide her gender, she works out a deal to act as a ship’s doctor for passage to her godfather in Jamaica. There she hopes to be able to continue her studies with him. And everything was going just fine until the “Fancy” shows up. Her masked captain and crew steal everything not nailed down including one young Dr. Alcott.

David Fletcher badly needs a doctor to help his injured younger brother. Alcott looks young but he seems competent and David gives him no choice in the matter. Once Alcott proves himself, David is also not inclined to take the man to any port where he might leave the company of the “Fancy.” The crew like him and David finds Charley to be an intelligent person with whom, as the ship’s Captain, he can relax, play chess and enjoy a good evenings conversation.

Henry Fletcher, who cleverly figures out early on exactly what Charley is up to, warns her that when David discovers her secret there’ll be hell to pay. But Charley is enjoying the respect she’s getting as a doctor and relishes the opportunities to improve her knowledge. She’s also falling dangerously in love with this man who is as handsome as she is plain. Will he ever see her as a desirable woman. Could they possibly have a future together? And where will the enemy British Navy strike next during this War of 1812?

Thank you, thank you for having Charley practice state of 1814 medicine. She bleeds people, she realizes when amputations are the only way to save someone’s life and if she’d had them, I’ll bet she’d have applied leeches left and right. She’s also a natural doctor whose first concern is always her patients and who lives for new and interesting things to study and learn about. She has a fantastic bedside manner and knows the importance of having a ship’s cat to keep down the rat population. Can you tell I love the kitties? Her confidence in what she knows also gives her the strength to stand up to Captain Fletcher’s initial overbearing manner and earns her his respect as well as that of the crew. I smiled with her to learn that the crew enjoys not only showing up for sick call but then rehashing in exquisite detail every aspect of their illnesses, injuries and what “their” doctor did to cure them.

David begins the book as an arrogant ass but quickly learns he can’t boss the stripling Charley around. And that’s when he starts to relax and enjoy Charley’s company as a way to de stress from the pressures of being in total control of his ship and responsible for the crews’ lives. He even begins to worry about young Charley who has obviously never,… um, …you know! The scene where he force marches Charley to the finest little whorehouse on the island with orders not to leave before he’s sampled the best is a scream. Never let it be said he doesn’t have the best interests of his “men” at heart. Yet Charley manages to turn the night into another wonderful learning opportunity by quizzing the ladies about their work, thoughts on men and the best way to deal with the creatures. David’s amazement at Charley’s supposed prowess – based on the way the smiling whores wave “him” off – caps the whole episode.

The Big Reveal is done in a dramatic yet funny way with Charley almost pulling David under with her after she falls overboard and he tries to rescue her. His outrage at her deception is almost as great as the delusion the crew happily indulges in when David tries to “out” Charley to them. They know a good doctor when they’ve got one. David finally realizing the truth also allows him to explore those feelings he’s been feeling for Charley and which he was almost ready to give into regardless of her gender. And the sexing is hawt! Though I wonder – just how far does sound carry through a ship? I’m glad that Charley is realistic about their relationship- if this is all she might ever have, by God she’s going to enjoy it – and willing to take it for what it is. That is until the separation then final reunion. Then I’m glad she knocks David’s block off both physically – I do also agree with Charley’s anger at David’s delay – and with her newfound feminine confidence in her improved clothes and better styled hair. Thank you also for not simply removing some spectacles and revealing a swan.

David’s ultimate plans dovetail nicely into the situation you’ve set up. Sailing is his life and one that Charley has discovered is for her too. It will also allow her to continue to heal people though hopefully not from the effects of war anymore. David and Charley are now matched perfectly with strength meeting strength as well as making up for weaknesses. I’m sure there will continue to be fireworks aboard their new ship the “Harpy,” which BTW I love the name of, but they seem to be off to a good start. But where’s Pirate? I hope they’re sailing with their First Cat on their new adventures. B+


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