A Pair of Rogues

Capturing Annie by Patricia Wynn
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-62367-1
Off the coast of Jamaica in 1780, the English vessel Flying Swan defeats the pirate ship Merrye Laurie and the dread pirate captain Sharkee is killed. All hands are sent off to prison and a likely death by hanging except for the elderly doctor Mr. Bonny and the young lad Jem. Sir James Noble Avery, the captain of the Flying Swan, is taken with the irrepressible Jem, who seems to have no recollection of a life other than on the pirate ship. (This version of the rollicking pirate life owes more to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean than to history.) James decides to make him his cabin boy.

When he orders Jem to bathe without clothing (something Jem had never done while on the pirate ship), James soon learns that the lad is actually a lass ... and not quite so young either. Annie is actually Sharkee’s daughter who for the nineteen years of her life was raised as a boy. Since Annie has spent her entire life with men --in fact, she’s only seen women at a distance -- she has no idea of how women act. Mr. Bonny and James undertake the responsibility of teaching her how to be female so that she will be able to cope with real life once they reach port.

James is from a family who’s made its fortunate in trade. In the hope of raising his and his eventual heirs’ social standing, he has had his agent arrange a marriage with Lady Olivia, the daughter of an earl on the brink of financial ruin. He is planning to have only infrequent contact with his wife -- just long enough to produce those heirs -- because he intends to remain at sea for most of his life.

James has limited experience with women himself and knows little about them or what they do. Annie’s instruction primarily involves how to walk, talk, and behave at table. Of course, the secret presence of a beautiful young woman aboard a ship at sea is bound to present a lot of temptation for the lusty captain. On her part, Annie gets all “squooshy” whenever she’s around the handsome, nice smelling captain.

Perhaps the sailors who once believed that a woman aboard ship was bad luck had a point. Once Annie joins the crew of the Flying Swan, James spends a lot more time thinking about her and her multitude of delightful physical attributes than taking care of his ship -- fortunately they don’t meet up with any other pirates or bad weather. Nevertheless, he’s an appealing character -- he recognizes his responsibility towards the displaced Annie and his intentions are honorable (remember, his middle name is literally “noble”) even though his flesh is weak.

Annie is presented as a naive innocent whose natural spirit has kept her morally pure in spite of spending nearly two decades on a pirate ship. Her experiences seem have to have primarily furnished her with a vulgar vocabulary and a explicit knowledge of male anatomy but not much in the way of fond memories of those days of plundering and pillaging -- presumably Sharkee did more than just sail the ocean blue.

The circumstances of her life as a pirate are easier to believe, however, than how quickly she jettisons that part of her life. Other than a passing thought that her leaving her assigned place at Sharkee’s side may have led to his death, she seems to suffer no regrets for her shipmates’ fate, no sorrow for their loss. After a lifetime at Sharkee’s side, she’s awfully quick to transfer her allegiance to the well-endowed captain. (She admires how well he fills his codpiece even though that piece of clothing was no longer a part of the masculine wardrobe in the eighteenth century.)

Considering how unconventional an upbringing she had, Annie’s remarkably naive as to the cause of her physical reaction to James. But it’s also left her devoid of any of those pesky moral reservations about acting on her feelings.

Capturing Annie starts with a cute idea, but as it goes on and on and on, Annie’ ingenuous manner wears thin and the story becomes tedious. To illustrate: Annie talks about her breasts a lot even though James tells her repeatedly she’s not to. He might be advised to follow the example of the legions of parents who have resorted to “Because I said so that’s why.” Perhaps Capturing Annie would work better written as a novella rather than a full-length novel. Annie’s lush and lusty, James is hale and lusty, and they spend a lot of time together in a small cabin. After about 150 pages it’s not quite so cute any more.

Capturing Annie is obviously not meant to be taken seriously. There’s a small “Wink & A Kiss” logo on the cover to alert readers that this is light entertainment. Readers whose thing is light-hearted, amusing romance might want to check it out.

--Lesley Dunlap

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