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REVIEW: The Pirate’s Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall

PiratesSecretBaby

“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

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

13 Comments

  1. AMG
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 11:15:25

    I’m not a big pirate fan, and I didn’t love Robert in Castaway Dreams. (Weirdly I loved CD, as normally that type of heroine doesn’t do anything for me. But this book just swept me away. And made me really look at the way writers write about intelligence–show me, don’t tell me. So many characters are supposed to be super intelligent while the writing shows the opposite.)

    So Marshall has changed my mind before, and she might do it again.

  2. Darlene Marshall
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 13:02:17

    I foresee a book for her and heaven help her hero.

    Just for you, Jayne, from the WIP:

    “We’ll take him aboard. Don’t untie him until we’re at sea. If he wishes to become a cheerful and cooperative crew member, fine. Otherwise we can entertain ourselves placing wagers on how long he can swim with sharks.”—Mattie.

  3. Lia
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 14:22:58

    @Darlene Marshall:
    I haven’t read all your books (yet), but the two books that I have read I really enjoyed! Will definitely add this one to my (large) TBR-pile.

  4. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 15:09:22

    @AMG: I loved “Castaway Dreams.” Loved the hero. Adored the heroine. And if any dog could change my mind about liking small dogs, it would be Pom Pom. The only reason I didn’t review it here is because I beta read it.

  5. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 15:11:13

    @Darlene Marshall: Squeeee! Can’t wait for it.

  6. Connie
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 09:28:36

    I loved Castaway Dreams just ordered TPSB! I will definitely look for Mattie’s story.

  7. Kim in Baltimore
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 09:53:52

    I enjoyed THE PIRATE’S SECRET BABY. I was laughing from page one ….

  8. Sirius
    Mar 25, 2014 @ 19:46:23

    I think I want. Sounds like fun. Thanks Jayne.

  9. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 04:16:50

    @Sirius: Darlene usually manages to mix a lot of fun in with her drama and adventure.

  10. nasanta
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 22:10:23

    Thanks for the review, especially the quotes. I immediately purchased the book, and enjoyed it a lot! I have a couple of other books by the author that I got as freebies so I think I’ll actually check them out now instead of in the vague future. I’m also going to check out Castaway Dreams.

  11. nasanta
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 22:35:25

    @nasanta:

    Too late to edit. I thought I had a couple as freebies from Amazon but cannot find them now. However, I did have Sea Change as a purchased item from Fictionwise on GR so maybe I got confused. Nonetheless, looking forward to Mattie’s story. already purchased Castaway Dreams, and definitely looking into the other books.

  12. Sirius
    Apr 05, 2014 @ 14:58:13

    Read, loved, especially adored Mattie – as you said, child who acts as real child. Liked Adults a lot too – fun! Jayne I would have never picked up this book without your review – just because I am not very good in finding good m/f books read, haven’t been for years. You guys had been awesome help thank you.

    Omg I can see sequel is coming. Squeak.

  13. pooks
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 03:50:17

    Add me to the list of those who found this book–and author–via this review. Unlike you, I hate the title [and all similar titles] and never would have picked this book up otherwise. Am I glad I did!

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