REVIEW: A Kiss in the Wind by Jennifer Bray-Weber
Dear Ms. Bray-Weber,
I can honestly say I’ve never read a book like your pirate romance A Kiss on the Wind. Not only is it the only pirate romance I’ve read, it’s the only historical romance I’ve read where the heroine isn’t a virgin and no reason is given for that. I’ve read plenty of historical romances with non-virginal heroines but, in all of them, the authors have offered explanations for why their heroines are sexually experienced—she’s a widow, she was raped, she’s a seductress using sex to help the crown, she fell in love with the wrong man when young and stupid, etc…. I found it remarkably refreshing to encounter, in a book set in the early 18th century, a woman whose previous sex life is of no importance whatsoever.
Your heroine, Marisol Castellan, certainly isn’t a typical young lady of the 1720’s. She’s in her early twenties and has spent the last few years of her life sailing the Caribbean with her two brothers, Luc and Monte, on their father’s pirate ship, the Sablewing. Her father, Alain, is a heartless bastard who treats all of his children abysmally. He abandoned his youngest son, Monte, in Cuba in a raid that went terribly wrong. Everyone tells Marisol there’s no way Monte could have escaped with his life after being captured by cruel Spanish soldiers, but she’s sure her brother is alive and is determined to find him. While in Hispaniola, Marisol overhears information that makes her think it’s possible Monte could be on the Gloria, a ship sailing near the coast. She tracks down a man who is carrying a message detailing where the Gloria will be next, steals the message from him—she’s an accomplished pickpocket–, and inadvertently stabs him to death—she’s also very very good with knives. In the process of running away from his body—she does not want to be caught and accused of his murder—she enters a brothel, steals then dons a prostitute’s unbloodied dress, and finds herself in a tavern where she runs smack into a man with gorgeous green eyes and the deepest dimples she’s ever seen.
This man is Captain Blade Tyburn, the legendary captain of the Rissa, as famous for his command of the seas as he is for his sexual prowess and charm. Marisol, who doesn’t initially know who he is, lifts from him a cameo he values dearly and is resolute to regain. Blade sends his devoted minions after Marisol. They find her, and drag her back to the Rissa, where Marisol talks Blade into letting her stay on his ship. The message she stole was destined for him; it is the Rissa that is to meet up with the Gloria–on which Monte may be—where the former is to relieve the latter of a cargo of silver. The plot is actually far more byzantine than I’ve credited, but, as they say in pirate world, “them’s the bare bones” of the tale.
This is a wild and crazy book. For the first third of it, I hadn’t a clue what was going on. The characters speak what I came to think of as Olde English Pirate which should have been awkward but worked in the skewed context of the book. Much of the story takes place on ship and the descriptions of the various pirates and their duties are hilariously inventive. The book is full of prose like this which describes the first time Marisol sees Henri, the cook of the Rissa.
Marisol lowered her gaze to a stocky stump of a man. He wore his gray beard decorated with tiny red bows that framed a viciously foul scowl. His trousers were bright green and his red beaded vest reminded her of the crowded streets of India. She found the man a ridiculous parody of a play actor in women’s fashion on the losing side of a drunken bet. She stifled a grin.
Marisol and Blade are so aquiver with lust it’s a wonder they are able to function. In every other chapter, heads are chopped off, men are sliced apart, and cannons boom. And while it’s true I was having a rough week whilst reading this book and was thus possibly overly inclined to enjoy escapist fare, I found it to be jolly good time.
I liked Marisol a great deal. She’s smart, completely in charge of herself, and determined to do what she thinks is right. She has the hots for Blade from the moment her chest slams into his and, although she happily becomes his lover, she never lets her sensual desires steer her away from what she wants to accomplish. She’s witty and fearless and more than a match for the renowned Blade. She loves the men in her family far more than two of them deserve and she’s ethically consistent in her quest to save them. She suffers greatly in this novel—one brother and her father are utter scum—and, rather than be defeated by all the horror she faces, she seeks sex, solace and succor from Blade, a man who’s never given any woman anything but a damned good time. Fortunately, Blade, like the reader, realizes there’s something grand about Marisol.
Blade, despite being a legendary pirate, is a reasonably good man. He treats his employees well, he’s thoughtful about the ethics of his criminal behavior, and he’s honest about his aims. When he first finds his life entwined with Marisol’s, he thinks,
In the short time he’d known her, Marisol already had made his life hell.
This, however, doesn’t stop him from wanting to strip her naked and take her every way he can think of. Marisol knows how he feels but she’s unwilling to be his lover simply because she feels the same way.
But she had no use for being another conquest. She had grown tired of being insignificant, of being little more than a strategic ornament. A swift rendezvous would serve to fortify his debauchery while lessening her own feelings of importance. Unless she seduced him. As tempting as that seemed, she had a more pressing objective.
Blade ends up having to take Marisol and her demands seriously before she’ll strip for him. He realizes he’s behaving differently with her than he has with any other woman, but there’s something about this “fiery dove” that challenges him to treat her as, gasp (even pirates can experience enlightenment), an equal.
By the novel’s end, Marisol has lost her family of blood but gained a family of pirates. Blade has become, much to his surprise, a man who loves and is worthy of love. The two have had lots of ribald sex like that in this scene (which includes hot wax),
She placed her hand on his firm stomach, slowly dragging her fingertips down, following the dark flaxen trail of hair disappearing below his waistband. Breathing quickened as she loosened the tie of his breeches. Was it his breath or hers? She couldn’t be sure. His skin felt smooth as she slipped her hands to the narrow of his hips. Tucking her thumbs over the fabric, she rubbed her open palms down his powerful legs, pulling his trousers down with them. He hissed as he sprang free and she continued her descent until the breeches loosened from the breadth of his thighs, falling the rest of the way to the floor. Much farther down and she would be eye-level with his stretching member. She stared at it for one moment. Saint’s blood, he was magnificent. Thrusting high and proud, she craved to touch him but dared not. Wielding a sword as aggressively large as he was bound to be dangerous.
Rising, she arched in close to his body, lightly brushing her nipples along his hardened chest. She reached his lips and planted a languid kiss to his open mouth.
Blade moaned. “A lusty one, aren’t you?”
“I prefer hot-blooded.” She could kiss him like that until morning. Quite possibly even longer.
“Let’s see how hot-blooded you are.”
It may not be historically accurate, politically correct, or even especially well-written, but A Kiss in the Wind is an entertaining, slightly twisted, steamy read. I’m a bit amazed at myself but, based on the good time it gave me, I give it a B-.