Series: The Dukes of War
Author: Erica Ridley
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Intrepid Reads
Captain Blackheart leads a simple life of roving the seas, wenching and treasure-hunting. He steers clear of romantic entanglements that could tie him to land. He shouldn't have any trouble keeping his hands off the gently-bred lady he's commissioned to abduct—except his cargo turns out to be feisty and passionate! She'd be a prize worth treasuring, if having her aboard didn't jeopardize everything...
Clara Halton thought the worst loss she could suffer was to be stripped of her family, stricken with consumption, and left to die alone. Then she meets Blackheart. Their attraction is ruinous...and irresistible. When he delivers her like so much plunder, his mission is over—but hers has just begun. She'll force him to acknowledge their connection, even if she must storm his ship to do it!
***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***
The story begins somewhere toward the end of The Earl's Defiant Wallflower as Oliver commisions the pirate Blackheart to fetch his (soon-to-be) mother-in-law from America. Blackheart, a.k.a. Gregory Steele finds the old lady not to old (not even forty, in fact) living in a derelict house with a mouldy roof, practically a leper, since everybody in her small town keeps clear since she has consumption. Illness or no illness, Steele packs her up and spirits her to the coast and his waiting schooner. He has a mission to accomplish, but just in case she truly is contagious, she'll be quarantined in his cabin...With him.
Once in England, it isn't a corpse being delivered to her parents, but a pretty healthy (except for a cough) Mrs. Clara Halton. But before she has time to faint, he's already gone, mission accomplished.
What cannot be accomplished is getting her off his mind. Or him off hers.
This story pretty much spans the timeline of the entire series, ending after The Brigadier's Runaway Bride (since Clara was still mooning after her pirate in that one). And though I was apprehensive as to reading whatever followed the previous one (due to heroine-related issues), every fear I had about reading it evaporated the minute the MCs met in that rundown cabin. The sparkage was instantaneous, and I loved both of them on the spot. It was actually refreshing reading an "older" romance (they were both in their forties), instead of the late-twenties first-love vibes the rest of the series gives off.
Both Clara and Blackheart/Gregory Steele were grown-ups, knowing exactly what the wanted (not so much what they needed, but it's a romance, after all), and both weren't afraid of doing whatever it took to get who they wanted (not so much do whatever it took to keep them, but it's a romance, after all). Their progress as (romance) characters was fascinating to read, how they changed, and adapted to their circumstances, how the love that slowly blossomed between them shaped them up into a couple, a two-person entity. It was a little heart-breaking there toward the end with that rather silly argument that seemed written only to add to the conflict, but it all ended well, and the conflict didn't last for long, so it didn't bother me overmuch.
Along the great characters and their wonderful development, the story was well-written and well-plotted, there was the added value of "adventure" thrown into the mix, the pacing was good with nary a slow moment, the romance was lovely, the tension palpable, the secondary cast (the crew) hilarious (especially in the last chapter)...Loved it from beginning to end.