After going through a bitter divorce and loosing her job too, Phoebe Turlow has begun to feel like no one cares about her. When a cheesy advertisement for a time-share arrives in the mail, she knows that she should just throw it out, but a desperate yearning for a change of pace beckons her to accept the invitation. Phoebe travels to a run-down resort on a small Caribbean island where she is surprised to find that she feels at home in spite of dealing with salespeople all day. On her last night there, Phoebe dresses for a costume party and accidentally takes the elevator to the wrong floor, only to find that it disappears leaving her trapped in the cellar with two men who look like pirates.
Duncan Roarke is a pirate, but also an American patriot. He limits his plundering to British ships bringing supplies to the Revolutionary War, so that he can commandeer their cargoes for General Washington. When the alluring Phoebe turns up in his cellar claiming to be from the future, he thinks she may be a spy, but it doesn't stop him from falling for the lovely lady almost instantly. Phoebe is quite taken with Duncan too, but surviving in the late 18th century is anything but easy. There are dangers at every turn, and what will Phoebe do if the time portal to her own era opens up again?
Normally, I enjoy a good time-travel yarn, but unfortunately, Pirates just didn't work for me on a number of levels. First, the time-travel element itself was rather weak, in my opinion, with the characters being too easily accepting of this miraculous turn of events. Also, other than the brief jaunt back to the present and the occasional reminder that Phoebe was from the future, the story just felt like a straight historical romance. Readers are frequently told that Phoebe and Duncan essentially speak two different forms of English because of the two hundred year time difference between them, but other than Phoebe using a modern colloquialism once in a while, their speaking styles didn't seem to differ all that much. In this case, I felt that the author should have placed more effort and attention to detail on giving them contrasting speech patterns or simply not brought it up at all. The dialog in general didn't have a natural flow to it either. I'm also typically a fan of descriptive narrative that has a poetic feel to it and to some extent Linda Lael Miller's style falls into that category, yet it just didn't grab me in the way other authors have. I think this was due to the narrative being a bit too flowery at times and quite simply too verbose. Sometimes less truly is more, and this was definitely one of those cases where I felt the author could have pared down the narrative to create a tighter more concise story.
What bothered me the most about the book though was that Ms. Miller seems to be another one of those authors who writes in an incredibly passive style, using far too many "be" verbs and assigning actions to things or feelings rather than the characters themselves. This type of writing never really works for me, because I feel like the entire story is being told to me by a narrator instead of the characters actually taking part in the action. The author also seems to have a penchant for creating events that happen "just because" with little rhyme, reason or thoughtful planning going into the plotting process. To me it just felt like a haphazard mish-mash of occurrences that didn't really have much holding them together and kept leaving me asking, "Why?"
Duncan and Phoebe could have been truly outstanding characters. After all, Phoebe is a time-traveler who has few enough connections to her contemporary life as to not be missed when taking a trip to the past, and Duncan was rather unique as a pirate/patriot who was plundering British ships for the cause of American independence. However, the way in which they were rendered left me with little interest in either of them or the outcome of their story. Sadly, in my opinion, both Duncan and Phoebe were dull, one-dimensional characters whose motives I was never really able to discern. Phoebe's feelings for Duncan surface extremely quickly with absolutely nothing substantial occurring between them to really foster such loving emotions, in my opinion. Duncan follows suit pretty soon after, but of course, has the obligatory waiting period before voicing his love for her, simply because he's a tough man who shouldn't express his feelings too quickly. Even their initial love-making scene and marriage both came totally from out of the blue. Normally, if nothing else, I can count on a few steamy love scenes to set the tone of the relationship, but even those were lacking any spark or sizzle and some of the language used was bordering on purple prose. In fact, I've read "clean" romances that have far better emotional and sexual tension than this book did. Duncan and Phoebe were both nice enough characters I suppose, but that's about the only positive thing I have to say about them. I just couldn't relate to or understand them well at all, and felt virtually no connection between them or to them, mainly because it seemed like their love was being told to me rather than shown through their actions.
Even the secondary characters were pretty colorless and lackluster. Normally, best friend characters will be a bastion of support to one of the main characters and perhaps even a jovial scene-stealer. In this case, Duncan's best friend, Alex, was a total downer. He seemed like a decent character in the beginning, but then after being injured in a battle he suddenly became almost inexplicably suicidal and then snapped out of it equally quickly when the right woman came along to stir him. I love a good tortured male character, but with Alex, I would have needed a lot more insights into his psyche to understand what was going on with him. Old Woman was kind of interesting, but rather clichéd as the mystical wise woman who actually believed Phoebe's tale of time travel. Then there was Simone, Duncan's ex-mistress and "woman scorned" who was as difficult for me to figure out as everyone else. For some reason, Phoebe seemed to feel sorry for her and kept trying to help her even though Simone doggedly continued to lay claim to Duncan even after he had married Phoebe. I think she was meant to be a villain of sorts, but to me she was simply an annoyance. I can't say that the other "villains" were much better. They too had no real teeth, being easily escaped from or dispatched by Duncan in fairly short order. Duncan's family were the only ones that really caught my attention in any meaningful way, but they too were a mysterious enigma with their sympathies lying with the Tories, but their hearts with Duncan. Most people don't ride that political line so easily, so I found myself wanting to know more about their beliefs.
Even the title of the book, Pirates, is rather disingenuous. Yes, Duncan is a pirate, but mostly in name only. With a title like that, I was expecting some energetic high seas action, but there was only one single scene where anything of a truly pirate-y nature occurred, and it was over almost before it started with little excitement or fanfare. I know that Linda Lael Miller is a highly respected and prolific author with a 25+ year writing career behind her, and I can see how some readers may enjoy her novels. She certainly has some imagination and creativity, but the style in which she writes simply left me bereft of any connection to her story or characters. Pirates was my first read by Ms. Miller, and since I've skimmed some of her other books (even more recent ones) and still found her manner of writing to be lacking for my taste, I'm sorry to say, it will most likely be my last.
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