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Lord of the Privateers cover imageStephanie Laurens’ Lord of the Privateers is a 2016 Harlequin from their Mira Books imprint. Mira appears to be a premium line for established authors. Although the web address (www.mirabooks.com) redirects to Harlequin, the book does not mention that it is a Harlequin. This particular story is a historical romance, but I’ve got another Mira Books title in my to-be-read pile, and it appears to be a contemporary. Lord of the Privateers is the concluding volume of quartet of stories, which means the hero has three brothers, all recently engaged. It works well enough as a standalone story, though it may have greater appeal for readers who want to find out what happens next with the other couples.

As this is a recent publication, I’m going to say spoiler alert right here, for those who feel such warnings are required. Come back after you’ve read it, and let me know if you agree with my comments.

I’ll confess starting with a bad feeling about the story, since it begins with a 7 page character list, and 3 pages of maps. Laurens is certainly a skilled writer, as far as the mechanics of writing go, and the heroine is the strong and independent type I like to see, but the plot was too drawn out and did not work for me.

It’s a second chance romance, with the couple getting back together after eight years. They were hand-fasted and planning to marry, but he went away on a government mission for months longer than expected, was unable to contact her, and when he did finally return she refused to see him. So the separation was based on a simple misunderstanding. Okay, I’ll buy that.

Royd runs a merchant ship, and Isobel is the hands-on heir to a shipyard – and they’ve been business partners for the last eight years. Wait, what? They’ve been working together for the last eight years, and haven’t cleared up that misunderstanding?

Royd is asked to go on another government mission, to rescue people kidnapped to work in an African diamond mine, and Isobel wants to come as she has a relative among the missing. As their ship leaves, they discover a stowaway – Isobel’s eight year old son. Royd had no idea. Huh? She’d wanted and managed to keep that a secret from him,  despite working with him, and moving in the same social circles? Now you’re starting to bug me.

(I sometimes do editing work for stories. Here, I’d suggest eliminating the child, and shortening the time apart. That would be more believable, and allow for more suspense about whether or not the couple will get back together. With the child being eight, and introduced as a stowaway, I was certain he’d be in peril later in the story, but nothing of the sort ever happens. His main plot purpose seems to be more motivation to bring the couple together, which isn’t needed given the minimal obstacles.)

The couple talk things over, all is forgiven, and we get a couple of steamy, detailed, multi-page sex scenes. I suppose I can’t complain about great sex on the first meeting, since they’ve enjoyed each other’s company before, but I can complain about the revelation that she’s been celibate since they parted, while “he certainly hadn’t been.”

There’s still some uncertainty on both parts, especially hers, wondering if she can truly trust him. And by now the plot is moving along in a quest structure, as they are enroute to rescue the kidnapped mine workers. So I keep reading, expecting for that trust to be tested. Nope. Doesn’t happen. The rescue goes almost exactly as planned, they travel back to England without incident (except for more sex scenes), and then there’s a second quest plot, as they arrange to entrap the masterminds behind the mine kidnappers.

By now the story seems more boys adventure than romance (except for the sex scenes and a couple of mission planning scenes I dozed through). Adventure stories are fine – I like Clive Cussler in small doses – but the adventure here is not suspenseful or risky enough to carry the story, especially in the absence of romantic suspense.

Despite the title, there’s no privateering in the sense of boarding ships and waving swords about. The mine rescue sequence could be exciting, but for the most part lacks suspense, and it’s very late in the story when some weaponry and heroics turn up. When the story finally ends, 500+ pages later, I feel like I’ve made it to the end of a disappointing date.

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