has also reviewed:

Brazen Angel

Brazen Heiress

 
Brazen Temptress by Elizabeth Boyle
(Dell, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-440-22639-2
***
Brazen Temptress contains a lot of what I donít like in romances: a wildly implausible plot, a recklessly headstrong heroine, a Big Misunderstanding as well as countless little ones, and a couple with serious communication problems. What it does have is an unusually deft way of handling the story in two time periods -- the present (1813) and the past (1805). For readers who have enjoyed the authorís two previous books in her Brazen series Brazen Angel, and Brazen Heiress), this will probably prove to be a satisfying experience.

Maureen Hathaway is a convicted pirate captain. In order to save herself and her crew from death by hanging, she makes a deal with the Lord Admiral that she will identify the infamous American privateer Captain de Ryes who is believed to be an accepted member of the ton. Maureen knows him on sight because he is her husband.

Maureenís father was a pirate captain, and she was raised on his vessel. (He kidnapped a defrocked priest to provide her with an education.) She met and married de Ryes who then betrayed her father and the pirate Alliance the morning after the wedding night. After eight years she has an opportunity to avenge her fatherís death.

She is delivered to Lady Mary Johnston, the wife of a half-pay naval captain, to be turned into a lady so that she can mingle with society. Lady Mary is thrilled to have the Navyís resources at her disposal that will enable her to reestablish herself in the highest social circles.

Julien díArtiers has believed that his wife died at the same time as her father. He is stunned to see her across a London ballroom floor. He is mingling with society to get information regarding prize ships, and Maureenís presence will lead to complications. There is much that she doesnít know -- among them that the Lord Admiral is not to be trusted. Julienís apparent interest in the Lord Admiralís daughter arouses her jealousy even as she strongly denies it. Even after eight years of separation their attraction is still intense.

Maureen and Julien will face many dangers and uncover old secrets as they rediscover their love.

In spite of the rather farfetched plot -- pirate captains hobnobbing with the English social elite for preposterous reasons -- thanks to the quality of the writing, the story sails along smoothly if one doesnít mind an occasional grounding on the Dreaded Shoals of Purple Prose.

Slowly, he sank to his knees beside her and whispered, ďYou look like some fey beautiful creature, lost from her watery cove, come to steal my heart, Reenie.Ē

The story lines in the two time periods are developed simultaneously, but the segue is well-handled without any awkward jumping from one year to the other. The weakest aspect of the book is its characters. Julien isnít much of a hero, and Maureenís even worse.

Julien is related to some of the most eminent English families, but heís turned traitor and is seizing English ships as a privateer. Perfection in a hero can be boring, but treason? Particularly when there didnít seem to be much reason for it other than to give the villainous Lord Admiral a nemesis. His treatment of Maureen suggests more the actions of a cad than of a lover. In her place, I might be contemplating handing the bum over to the Lord Admiral for a well-deserved hanging myself.

Maureen, however, is one of those act-now-think-later heroines. Her competition, the Lord Admiralís daughter, is strictly no competition at all, but thatís no compliment. She spends a lot of time climbing up and down the drainpipe and running around docks when a serious heart-to-heart conversation with Julien could clear up ninety per cent of their difficulties. She suspects Julien of every possible despicable motive but is willing to take everyone else at false value. A life sentence of marriage with Maureen might be a fitting punishment for treason.

Characters from the two earlier books make cameo appearances in Brazen Temptress so readers can catch up on their activities.

For the reader who is in the mood for some swashbuckling action and doesnít mind serious gaps in logic, this might be an acceptable choice. Readers who value character development over action are more likely to be disappointed.

--Lesley Dunlap


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