Never Trust a Pirate
Montlake / December 3, 2013 / $12.95 print, $3.99 digital
A Victorian beauty finds passion…with the man who may have murdered her father.
Madeleine Russell, the beautiful daughter of a shipping magnate, counted on marrying a wealthy husband. Then her father’s disgrace and death left her with no dowry and no suitor. But Maddy and her sisters fully intend to restore their good name. Their first step: find the villain who framed their family. One of her father’s captains, a notorious former pirate, becomes a prime suspect. When Maddy joins the captain’s household disguised as his newest servant, her dark-eyed, charismatic employer soon develops his own agenda: seduction…
Captain Thomas Morgan spent most of his life amassing vast riches and respectability…and keeping his gypsy roots a secret. Now, he just needs to marry his prim, polished fiancée…and resist his intriguing new housemaid. A pirate never falls in love, he reminds himself. As mutual deception leads Maddy and the captain into uncharted territory, the truth could anchor them to terrible heartache…or to passion beyond their wildest dreams.
Anne Stuart's The Scandal at the House of Russell series focuses on three sisters trying to clear their father's name and expose his murderer. In the second book, Maddy's suspicions fall on Captain Thomas Morgan, one of her father's employees and a former privateer. Her father warned them, shortly before his death, to “never trust a pirate.”
But when she insinuates herself into his home as a servant, she discovers that Morgan is far from the weathered old seaman she expects. In fact, under the guise of that respectable name he's really Luca, a former “gypsy street rat.” To Maddy, he's simply gorgeous, the picture of her “adolescent dream of romance, with that honey gold skin and flashing eyes.” (Don't forget the curling black hair…)
Never Trust a Pirate is in the traditional mold of historical romance, the kind that speaks to that dream of a devilishly sexy pirate who might save a heroine from rapists one minute and force kisses on her the next. The kind who will simply take out a knife and cut her corset off if it's too hard to untie, who knows what would please her better than she knows herself. It's from the school of tempestuous relationships and dubious consent; not aiming to do anything especially new, but just to deliver on a swoony hero and a heroine that can turn his life upside down.
For Maddy, Luca is equal parts fascinating and frightening, while she likes to think of herself as a woman who refuses to be frightened. Despite her mistrust, she can't resist his husky voice, effortless grace, and physical strength that's “both comforting and terrifying.” Ultimately, he disarms her not just with his sex appeal, but with how well he understands her:
“Yes, Maddy Rose, there's more. And you're going to take it all, and you're going to want it.”
“You said I could stop,” she said. “You said we wouldn't do anything I didn't want to do. I don't want to do this.”
“Yes, you do. You're just frightened.”
“I'm not afraid of anything,” she shot back. She could feel her body softening, accepting him, and he pushed in further. She wanted to hit him.
“Of course you are. You're afraid of bats, and going out on the ocean, and losing yourself. You're afraid of lies, you're afraid of my body when all I want to do is make you feel good.” He pushed in further, and unconsciously she shifted, accommodating him. “You're afraid of being vulnerable, you're afraid of me, and I'm willing to bet you're afraid of spiders.” He cupped her face, and she almost though she could see the faint glitter of his eyes in the darkness. “But you're not going to be afraid of this.” And he pushed home, resting against her, and her fingers dug into his shoulder, so tightly they cramped. Holding on, not pushing him away.
Luca is also that most delicious kind of hero, one who falls crazily in love against his will. He's essentially a practical person—his past includes a lot of ugliness, such as having to sell his body as a boy, but he doesn't dwell on it. He does what he needs to do, and thinks of himself as pretty ruthless. But Maddy throws him for a loop, and his practical approach to life begins to fall apart when he starts to have inconvenient feelings like tenderness and remorse.
Anne Stuart is known for the darkness of her heroes, but the darkness in this story comes mainly from the actual villain. The dynamic between Maddy and Luca is surprisingly equal, making the story more of an adventure between a well-matched pair.
Learn more or order a copy of Never Trust a Pirate by Anne Stuart, available December 3, 2013: