McKenna's Bride

Morgan's Woman

Rachel's Choice

The Taming of
Shaw MacKade

Falcon’s Angel
by Judith E. French
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-345-43761-6
Will Falcon is prowling Carolina’s Outer Banks, searching for revenge against the marauders who destroyed his family’s shipping business and drove his father to suicide. When Will impulsively jumps overboard in a storm to rescue one of his crew, he finds himself adrift at sea. He is rescued by a pretty woman and pulled ashore on an island full of pirates. Angel, his rescuer, is a pirate. In order to keep Will safe, she claims him as her own, and Will cements the claim by defeating another pirate in a knife fight. When his foe tries to murder him, Angel goes a step farther. In order to keep Will alive, she offers to marry him. Then he will be one of the brethren and safe from harm.

Angel, with her strange speech patterns and almost childlike wistfulness, is not what Will expected in a female pirate. They are banished to a private island for a “honeymoon” and Angel tends his wounds. They get to know one another a bit. When the opportunity for escape arises, Will takes Angel with him. Another fight with their rescuers, who are commanding a stolen ship, and this time Angel is wounded. Somehow they make their way back to Charleston.

Will needs to reconcile his growing feelings for Angel with the fact that he’s nearly engaged to Julia, a proper woman in Charleston. Will’s neighbor, Lady Graymoor, offers to host Angel in order to maintain a level of propriety. Is Angel her long-lost granddaughter? Lady Graymoor and Julia decide to make Angel into a lady so that some man will want to marry her - but not Will, of course. Meanwhile, Will is determined to return to the pirate island and wipe the pirates out. Angel can’t sit by and let the only family she’s ever known be destroyed. And someone is trying to kill Will and Angel both.

The author takes pains to make the pirates seem real; their language is appropriately coarse. Angel, however, speaks in a weird speech pattern full of “ye” and “aye” and “tis”. Will remarks on her antiquated speech patterns, but I wondered how antiquated would speech become in the mere twenty-odd years of her life? And since Angel was raised by the pirates, how is it that only a few of them use the same speech pattern? Her speech became rather cloying and a distraction to the story.

Angel, however, is a delightful character. Her acceptance that she is nothing more than an island girl, unable to ascend to any society heights, is tempered by her clear-eyed vision of society itself. In short, she doesn’t want to be a society lady. If Will can’t accept her as she is, she doesn’t want to try and bind him with a sham marriage. Nor will she pretend to be Lady Graymoor’s long-lost grandmother, fond as she becomes of the elderly lady, even though it’s clear to the reader that Angel is probably just that.

There is a lovely secondary romance between Lady Graymoor and her butler that was sweet and charming. And Julia, though she’d dearly love to wed Will, has certain conditions that she wants met. She tells Will straight out what they are, too. No scheming miss here, just a woman who knows herself and what she wants. If Will can’t provide it, then she doesn’t want to marry him at all.

Falcon’s Angel has a number of intelligent elements that set it apart from the usual swashbuckling pirate romance. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to do more than pick it up and read idly before putting it down again. The middle of the book dragged, the murder plot wandered in and out of the story, and Will never came alive for me as Angel did. The “I can never marry her, she won’t fit into my life” thing began to feel forced, considering that Will wants nothing more than to spend eight months of the year at sea, not parading around in society. If these two had spent any kind of time figuring out how to make their attraction work, rather than moping about it, then the book would have been a hundred pages shorter.

If you haven’t read a pirate romance in a while and find yourself looking around for one, Falcon’s Angel will likely entertain you. The ladies of the book are particularly enjoyable.

--Cathy Sova

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