Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: 'The Pirate Bride' by Sandra Hill


The first thing that snagged my fancy was the idea that a woman could be a highly successful pirate – it’s about time! The second was the question of how in the world a woman could overcome and capture a well-muscled and experienced swordsman who was used to going a-Viking? By the time the first chapter ended, I had a partial answer and I had a goofy smile on my face. I could tell that this was going to be a very interesting story. I think it was the dialogue that clinched it.
Like most men who become pirates, Medana is also on the run. She’s a fugitive who has had to reinvent herself, learn to survive without a support system and somehow has prospered. In that, she’s a great role model. She proves that women can tough it out and rise above life’s challenges. The biggest challenge of her life is told within the pages of The Pirate Bride. I liked seeing her flustered, teased, taunted and although she has succeeded in the workings of being a pirate, the heroine has not lost her sense of what’s right and wrong. She does have a moral code. I like how she balances the rationality of the two. That was made very clear with the monk scene. The most frustrating thing that she’s ever had to deal with is a man. Not just any man, but Thork, the hero.
I had a ton of fun at Thork’s expense throughout a good portion of the book. It was interesting to see how the author told the story from his POV at intervals in the story. When I was seeing things through the hero’s eyes, I was greatly entertained. His frustration, amazement, gradual respect and continual determined machinations to reach his goal of escape were interesting to watch unfold. His dialogue with his men illustrated his solid and healthy relationship with them, even when it got weird and bit risqué. And when Bolthor, the worst skald in history, would share his latest poem, Thork’s reaction or thoughts about it gave me an insightful look at the hero’s personality. Anyone who could keep a straight face while being forced to listen to Bolthor is a saint. If anyone remembers the minstrel from Monty Python who plagued Sir Robin with his embarrassing lyrics, then they should get a kick out of Bolthor. That’s who he reminds me of. Fortunately, Thork is a HUGE improvement over Sir Robin. *grin*.
One of Ms. Hills’s strong points is how she uses dialogue between her characters. It’s always powerful. Through their discourse, I usually find moments of immense humor, consternation, enlightenment, and when the focus changes to interaction between the hero and heroine, well, sparks fly, passions soar and either someone is about to be seduced or tempers will explode. All of which contribute to an entertaining read. Certainly, it’s not boring.
Secondary characters were numerous. Fortunately, the author kept a handle on them and used them to make sure the hero and heroine slowly found ways to learn about the other and to foster their romance. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, what with one person having a great responsibility thrust upon them and the other wanting nothing to do with anyone. There is definite conflict between man and woman throughout the book.
As strong as Medana is as a character, she’s not perfect. Her relationship with Thork isn’t perfect. There were too many levels of mistrust still for her to overcome. The one thing that really stuck in my craw was her stubbornness. I understand she had to be written that way because she wouldn’t have survived as long as she did if she wasn’t stubborn. But I felt that she caved too fast, too easily at a critical point in the book. I couldn’t believe that she was so weak when she had ample proof to be strong. For most of the book she was strong. That whole area of the conflict when she made the choice for those under her care, to protect them, didn’t sit right with me. It was at that point that I felt she was being stupid, and clichéd. I wanted to yell at her.
A strong positive element is when Medana and Thork finally succumb to their desires. I found it quite satisfying to read, and fun too.
I can’t forget to mention Thork’s family. They play a very significant role later on in the book. And, as boisterous and larger-than-life personalities in their own right, you can imagine the extra confusion, fun and complications they represent. They also have a hand in mixing up the plot conflict. This book isn’t boring by a long shot.
The Pirate Bride is a winner for long time fans and a wonderful introduction to new readers. It’s a solid standalone read with a lot going for it. Even with my issues with the heroine, this is a strong story that provides a reader with all the best attributes Ms. Hill is capable of. There are characters I enjoyed getting to know, I laughed with them and at them, I groaned and giggled, gasped and had mild hot flashes, and am satisfied with the happy ever after. The author nailed all the most important parts of what readers look for in a romance book. The Pirate Bride is definitely a book to read when your frown needs to turn right side round. It certainly worked its charm on me.

Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short ReviewsIt has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.