Lady Valoree Ainsley is back in England to claim her inheritance. She has spent most of her childhood disguised as a cabin boy for her brother Jeremy, a privateer captain. Jeremy had become a privateer to make enough money to restore their family estate. The estate was in near ruin because of the mismanagement of their guardian. When Jeremy reached eighteen, he saw no other way to make the money needed. Having no other family and not wanting to be separated from her brother, Valoree became part of the crew.
Just as Jeremy finally acquired the needed money, he and most of the crew were captured and tortured to death by a Spanish pirate crew. At nineteen, Valoree suddenly became the captain of the ship and set out for to get revenge on her brother’s killers and to regain the desperately needed money. After five years, she and her crew are now in London to claim the family estate.
The family lawyer informs her that her father’s will stipulates that she must be married to someone of noble birth and either have a child or be with child by her twenty-fifth birthday to inherit the estate. At twenty-four years and three months old, Valoree is ready to give up the estate and just go back to the sea, but her crew overrules her. They had been promised that they could retire on the estate, so they decide that she should go into society and find a noble husband. She agrees to their majority vote, but plans to find a mild-mannered man whom she can control.
Valoree is not the only person who is tied to such a restrictive inheritance. Lord Thurborne had stormed our of the lawyer’s office just before Valoree’s appointment. He had just been told that to receive the money he needs to restore the family home, his grandmother requires that he be married to a woman of noble birth and have a child. The lawyer even tells Daniel that the lady with the next appointment is in the same situation as he is. When they meet at a soiree and he finally hears her name, he realizes that Jeremy is her brother, someone he has been searching for in an official capacity for five years.
Author Sands has set up two people who both think they are looking for the same type of spouse - someone safe and non-interfering and little trouble. Valoree is well portrayed as a woman who has successfully controlled a crew of grown men, making life-and-death decisions every day. Daniel is a fairly typical take-charge English noble. They, of course, are very attracted to each other because each of them enjoys the excitement of adventure. Of the two, Valoree takes the longest to admit that Daniel is right for her, but
Daniel has to learn not to crush her independence.
There is a lot of action in the story including several mysterious break-ins and attacks. The true target of the attacks is murky until very near the end. The writing technique of leading up to a point of action and then starting the story after the action is over, then relating what happened, was somewhat overused. I felt like I was missing some of the
immediacy of the story line, wishing I could read about the action as it occurred, not afterward.
There is quite a bit of comedy, particularly from the antics of Valoree’s crew. Bull, Skully, and One-Eye are the descriptive names of the pirates who try to fit into a London household as proper liveried servants. Their methods of getting Valoree to marry to “right” man are also fun.
One of the secondary characters, “Aunt” Meg, turns out to be much more that a drunken dockside woman one of the crew finds to act as Valoree’s chaperone. One of the flaws of the book is that her story too many coincidences to be realistic.
Despite a few flaws, Lady Pirate should appeal to readers who like a mix of swashbuckling and society balls.
--B. Kathy Leitle