Cecilia Welles has been dating gorgeous cover model Ian Taylor for two months. Although it's rather flattering for a plain girl like her to have the attention of such an attractive man, she isn't quite sure why he wants to be with her. That's why, when he takes her to the docks and suggests that they marry right away on the pirate ship floating in the harbor, she has reservations. Not one who's comfortable speaking up, Cecilia goes along with the plan, only to find out her new husband is a scoundrel with nefarious intentions. She is saved from a near-death experience by the ship's captain, Liam Lockhart, who isn't all that he seems. As it turns out, he's three centuries old with a curse hanging over his head, which Cecilia feels compelled to try to break in return for him saving her life. But will love be enough to give them a happy ending?
I've never read anything by Rachel Caine before, but it's been in the back of my mind to perhaps try her out sometime. Dead Man's Chest gave me a nice, little introduction to her work without a huge time commitment. It's an entertaining story that has a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe to it. Our heroine, Cecilia, is an ordinary girl who's been dating Ian, a drop-dead gorgeous romance cover model for two months. She can't quite figure out what someone like him sees in someone like her and it doesn't entirely feel right when he starts talking marriage. As the story opens, Ian has taken Cecilia to the docks where he has a pirate ship awaiting them for a quickie ceremony. She reluctantly goes along with it, only to find out that her uneasy feelings regarding Ian were right and that the crew of said pirate ship aren't entirely human.
I had somewhat mixed feelings about our hero and heroine. At first I had a hard time respecting Cecilia. As a follower and a peacemaker, I understand sometimes going along with the crowd and not wanting to rock the boat, but even though something feels off about the entire wedding thing and she doesn't really want to marry Ian, she still allows him to railroad her into it. After she discovers that he's a no-good scoundrel, she does grow a backbone and that's when I started to like her more. The real hero of the story is Liam Lockhart, the cursed ship's captain. Despite behaving like a scalawag in the beginning, he's the one who steps in to save Cecilia from her doom. While he wouldn't necessarily be my ideal romance hero, he did grow on me as the story progressed.
Overall, I enjoyed Dead Man's Chest. It was a creative story that had some humor and was fun to read. I'm not sure if Rachel Caine is technically considered a romance author, although I know some of my romance reading friends have recommended her work. It seems like she generally leans more toward fantasy and suspense that has a touch of romance in it, and that's how I would categorize Dead Man's Chest. It's a paranormal story that involves something about halfway between ghosts and zombies, which was fun. But the romance was a little weak. The focus is more on the fantasy element of the curse, while the character and relationship building is more of an afterthought. It does have a cute HEA, which I was doubting would happen for a while. So overall, this novella was an amusing diversion that left me open to trying more of Rachel Caine's work. Dead Man's Chest can be found in the anthology My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding. It is the first in Ms. Caine's There Be Pirates novella duet.
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