REVIEW: The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland
1775, Boston Harbor. James Sparhawk, Master and Commander in the British Navy, knows trouble when he sees it. The ship he’s boarded is carrying ammunition and gold…into a country on the knife’s edge of war. Sparhawk’s duty is clear: confiscate the cargo, impound the vessel and seize the crew. But when one of the ship’s boys turns out to be a lovely girl, with a loaded pistol and dead-shot aim, Sparhawk finds himself held hostage aboard a Rebel privateer.
Sarah Ward never set out to break the law. Before Boston became a powder keg, she was poised to escape the stigma of being a notorious pirate’s daughter by wedding Micah Wild, one of Salem’s most successful merchants. Then a Patriot mob destroyed her fortune and Wild played her false by marrying her best friend and smuggling a chest of Rebel gold aboard her family’s ship.
Now branded a pirate herself, Sarah will do what she must to secure her family’s safety and her own future. Even if that means taking part in the cat and mouse game unfolding in Boston Harbor, the desperate naval fight between British and Rebel forces for the materiel of war—and pitting herself against James Sparhawk, the one man she cannot resist.
CW/TW – past child sexual abuse is mentioned. Past violence against a woman is mentioned.
Dear Ms. Thorland,
I had saved this book as the last unread one of yours. Boo-hoo, sob that I now have no more. But also wow, yay-rah, and so, so good. After all, it starts with this —
The gold was Spanish, the chest was French, the ship was American, and the captain was dead. James Sparhawk, master and commander in the British Navy, on blockade duty patrolling the waters north of Boston, took one look at the glittering fortune in doubloons and swore.
For those who, like I had, have never read the book I think I will avoid giving as many details as possible. Part of the enthralling experience of the book is getting caught up in the twists and turns. Each chapter raises the stakes and I found myself inhaling it in 100 page gulps. What, I wondered, was going to happen next? The conflicts are not just personal but tightly bound to the simmering tensions in and around Boston, Salem, and the rest of coastal Massachusetts. It was swiftly approaching a time when people were not going to be able to put off choosing sides and those who tried would risk being trampled by both.
The characters start like maypole dancers. Slightly separate but dancing around each other. As the plot unfolds, they begin to weave together, tighter and tighter. As the danger increases, the odds ratchet up, and layers are added on top of each other, and the holy-shitness and ohmygod are elevated to even greater heights. I was certain things were headed this way until suddenly everything turned on a dime and up was down and right was left. At times both James and Sarah are in desperate legal straits with death looming and the only way to clear themselves was to risk betraying the other. And once or twice clearing themselves of one charge would then incriminate them in another. I truly didn’t know how they’d both win free and also manage to save those they loved from gaol or the hangman’s noose.
I could see why some Loyalists decided to side with the British in that they felt themselves to be British as opposed to just those who didn’t think the Rebels had a chance so why go with what was sure to be a losing gamble? While on the other hand, there were Rebels who also felt they were Englishmen but that they’d never truly been seen as or treated as such and that by fighting against British tyranny, they were struggling for their due as Englishmen.
The action incorporates one of the things I’ve come to expect from your books – namely that neither side of the conflict was all noble nor all despicable. Personal honor still counted for a great deal and this is part of why James falls in love with Sarah. Their mutual love of the sea and sailing is another bonding topic as they can discuss sails, spars, and hawsers. James can admire the fluid way Sarah balances herself on a ship under sail while Sarah understands why James covets the schooner Charming Sally. One slight issue I had with some of the events is that too many times Sarah has to be saved, by a man, just in the nick of time.
Apropos of some recent discussions here, Sarah is not a virgin (her choice) but she has to face the social consequences of this. The way the man acts in the situation also humiliatingly shows Sarah how he views their relationship. The first time she is with James, his care for her reveals how different his feelings and intentions are. She grew up roaming the docks of Salem and the working women there gave her tips and hints about sex and how to avoid pregnancy. James has always taken care to avoid pregnancy in his lovers who he is also careful to make sure that any dalliance won’t rebound against them.
The historical details seemed period or I was never pulled out of a scene by something that didn’t seem correct. There is a degree of instalove/lust between Sarah and James but this is also bound up in some immediate life threatening situations that show their true colors and character. James’s past history is checkered and he’s had to fight for almost everything he’s ever had or has. Sarah’s family history also set her slightly outside true social acceptance before events caused by the unrest put her truly outside the pale. They’re both bold, daring, and love the sea so of course somehow they must win through to their HEA. But it takes an entire book of dashing audacity, fearlessness, honor, trust in each other and a little bit of bribery money plus a few connections in high places to get there. But oh, the wait for this declaration was well worth it. B+
“I am sorry. My education was cut short at an early age and I have spent much of my life among seamen, and very little of it in salons. I do not have the wit to do your qualities justice, the poetry to describe what I feel when I watch you walk across a deck or sheet a sail or, God help me, aim a pistol. I should have said all this before we parted, but I was determined to give you up, to cut you loose from this mess I am in and see you safe in another man’s keeping. You possess every quality I admire in a woman, or for that matter in a man, and I will find no happiness on this earth without you.”