My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
I picked up Once a Pirate pretty much on a whimsy. I liked the cover and was quite intrigued by the blurb. I thought it was going to be a darker-toned historical romance and I wanted to find out more. Even though this didn’t quite turn out to be what I was expecting for, I’m not disappointed at all. On the contrary, I enjoyed the story a lot.
As the blurb mentions, the current Earl of Sutcliffe was going nuts to have an heir. His own son, the heir to earldom, Daniel, isn’t up to the task. He’s not interested in women. Even though the Earl had married him rather forcefully to a pretty, young and well-bred girl, his worthless son has not shown one ounce of interest in her. And it was pretty much killing the Earl that he couldn’t get his much coveted heir to the earldom, to extend the Sutcliffe name to another generation. But that can really go on forever! To get what he wanted, the Earl makes a plan and promptly puts the wheel of this into motion. This is where our actual story begins...
The Earl of Sutcliffe isn’t simply a man with a mission; he’d do anything and go to ANY lengths possible to get what he wants. He’s ruthless and nothing comes his way and lives to tell the tale. Even if it means using his sons and his daughter-in-law to get to that goal. His plan was to impregnate his daughter-in-law by this bastard elder son, born to a long dead mistress, Talon Montgomery. As long as it’s the Sutcliffe blood and all that. Unfortunately, at that time, Talon was languishing in a gaol, arrested for piracy, probably never to see the light of the day again. The men of his ship were lost to him too and Talon had no hopes of ever getting out. So the Earl had his high-spirited son where he wanted him. At that point, Talon would’ve done anything to get out of that stink-hole he was living in. So the lure of freedom for his men, a plantation and at that moment, the promise of a bath, clean bed and food made a desperate Talon say ‘yes’ to this unthinkable plan. He knew he was willingly getting entangled in a web that may ruin his and other people’s lives, but he had no other options. He didn’t know his brother, neither did he know this girl he’s supposed to be seducing, so what the heck if it brings back his men and a better life? He can do it!
But his resolve shook up the moment he set his eyes on the beautiful, and definitely innocent, Lady Kathryn, Daniel’s wife of 2 yrs. Who is rather sheltered and loves to spend time gardening. She’s kind and gentle and had no clue what was waiting for her. Talon has never used his looks as a weapon the way his ruthless father has all his life. And after knowing her, things start getting complicated for him. What seemed like a straightforward seduction, and with his looks and charm Talon could’ve easily achieved this goal. Now he didn’t know he’d be able to get through this. He simply didn’t want to hurt Kathryn who will be hurt no matter what even though she has done nothing to deserve this!
After Talon’s mother died when he was barely a teenager, he tried to contact the Earl. Even though he looked more like his father with his blue eyes and dark hair (now added to that was his towering height and big built), the Earl simply laughed at him, then kicked him out his home. He saw Daniel too, who was a few years younger than him, all blonde and fair, and Talon envied him for all the securities and privileges he’d enjoyed while he will now have to seek his own way in life. Talon was resolved to make it on his own, which is why he joined a ship and worked his way up the ladder. The whole adventure of his life has been great with some good and some bad, even with some close calls. However, after he claimed his own ship and crew is when Talon began to thrive. He never needed his father’s help ever again, hated that bastard for never taking care of him and his mom, but Talon had his sights on a plantation in America that was owned by the Earl. He was saving to buy it one day and settle down. Talon wasn’t a pirate so he didn’t know why he was arrested the moment he returned to the English territory. When he, being scared for his men’s life, finally resorted to seek help from his father, the man didn’t even bother to acknowledge his summons. And now, he’s here and got where he wanted him, with a proposition that maybe the ruination him… and Kathryn. Even Daniel, whom he’d disliked very much at first. But knowing the man who fathered them, Talon had an idea of suffering Daniel may have been through. Hell he’s suffered as well. The Earl has made everyone who has been unlucky enough to be touched by him suffer!
Kathryn, of course, had not a clue about any of it. Her life with her own father was another sad story. He’s a spineless little POS who was happy to be rid of his own daughter, pretty much sold her for a generous amount gotten from the Earl. Sutcliffe needed someone sheltered enough so she won’t balk at the notion of marrying Daniel. Everyone knew of his preference to men but Kathryn. And she, being as sheltered as she was, was quite taken by him. Daniel is good-looking and soft spoken and Kathryn thought herself to be in love with him, so when he proposed she was sure she was one the verge of discovering that happiness she’d been dreaming of all her life. Unfortunately, though Daniel had a genuine fondness for her, he did everything to appease his monster of a father. Kathryn found out the bitter truth of Daniel’s preference in a shocking way. It explained to her why he’d never made a move to consummate the marriage.
After that she’d lived a secluded life away from London and all the nasty gossips, trying to stay out of the Earl’s way but in her mind, she knew that her position in this family is precarious at best. She was here to breed the future Earls of Sutcliffe. But with the way things were, that seemed very unlikely. She knew her father-in-law wasn’t a pleasant man. But she couldn’t have imagined what he had planned for her! So when she heard of Talon’s arrival, Kathryn was happy to meet her elusive brother-in-law, of whom she’d much heard of. Daniel could confirm that because the Earl has taken immense pleasure in taunting him by calling Talon was his ‘true son’. There was a reason behind it that is revealed later, something no one but the Earl knew. But for now, he’s set to use his sons and his daughter-in-law in this nasty scheme to meet his goal.
Talon and Kathryn’s attraction was pretty instant and it stayed that way throughout. Kathryn only knew that it was the Earl’s wish that they leave for America right away and live in one of his plantations, but Talon and Daniel knew the truth. The Earl wanted Kathryn pregnant as soon as they left England’s shore. If not, Daniel will not get a penny from him, as well as may not even see his current lover again, while Talon will lose his men that the Earl promised were alive and working in one of his ships. Believing him, Talon agreed to this proposition. However, as he gets to know Kathryn better in that journey, and begins falling in love with her, everything changes for him. Kathryn felt the same for Talon, so breaking her vow to Daniel was something bothered her a lot. However she wanted to know everything between a man and a woman and Talon was here to show it to her. Their love bought them together but how long will they be able to be together?
Apparently not much long. Things begin happening and the twists and turns in the story do split them apart for a while. I liked those plot twists quite a lot and hated the Earl so very much for meddling with people’s lives to gain his own goal. That guy was a nasty piece of work and I said ‘good riddance’ when he was disposed of at the end. Talon and Kathryn’s love had to endure a lot before they could finally be together. How, I won’t tell you but I definitely would like to address something about Daniel. It would be quite spoiler-y so fair warning! Stop reading now if you don’t wanna know any more before reading the book!!
I recently read a 1star review of this book claiming the author didn’t give enough warning about a rape that happened to Daniel in the book.... Uh, that was quite a bit of an exaggeration. The reviewer made it look like she was scarred for life. *eyeroll* First of all, the mention was vague, a reference to Daniel’s past, as in you-make-your-own-assumptions type. So no gory, graphic details of anything were there. However, there were some dark discovery about Daniel throughout the story that made him and Talon closer than ever. Talon finally understood that Daniel had suffered beyond he could even imagine. The bothers didn’t hate each-other any longer, united with the same thing in mind; to get rid of the Evil Earl who ruined their lives.
Here it goes: Daniel definitely was molested as a boy by his tutor and he wasn’t willing to talk about it. And sadly, he had no savior either as his mother died young too. The Earl probably knew about it but never did anything to help. There was also another place where he makes vague gesture about the Earl, and I tried not to think what it meant. He was pretty scared of his father, but was it just because of his ruthless, cold-hearted nature? Or was there something else? What I read about this nasty POS, I could believe he was capable of doing anything to anyone as long as he could get away with it... and Daniel wasn’t even his son to begin with, a fact Daniel didn’t know until much later. And that explained a lot to him. This guy absolutely hated Daniel!
I also think Daniel could’ve been a bi, as he contemplated sleeping with Kathryn in a scene in a desperate attempt to save his marriage when he knew he couldn’t. Talon and Kathryn were too involved by then. By that I mean that he mentions that performing wouldn’t be a problem for him as he likes Kathryn a lot. He was even thinking of living a straight life as long as Kathryn was with him, but he definitely preferred men and would be with men instead of women given the option. I knew he was fond of her and was scared that she was going to leave with Talon. And he’d be left alone. Was that fear was of being lonely or the fear of being under the mercy of his father once again? He was terrified; there was no doubt about it. Felt guilty of what Kathryn has suffered but he didn’t know how best to salvage this mess. Even though I was annoyed at him that interference, later when I thought back, I kinda understood. I felt really sad for him cause he has suffered much and had no one to call his family until Talon and Kathryn, who accepted him into their fold after all was said and done. Mind you the above details were handled quite well. I’ve read worse stuff in other books. But to each his own I guess.
In the end, all I can say is that I found Once A Pirate was pretty refreshing cause the author kept me glued to the pages and I had to know what was going to happen next. It was very well-written too! I would recommend to you if you’re looking for something good to spend an afternoon. 4 stars.
PS: this is a reissue of author’s earlier published work, ‘Nobody’s Hero’.