My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I have to admit first that Amber Lin’s Falling for the Pirate, book 2 of Men of Fortune, had much potential to be superb. I really liked book 1, which is why I wanted to continue with the series. Sadly, all those potentials weren’t met to my liking. Instead, I had quite a confusing time trying to figure out the buildup of the H and h’s relationship.
In book 1, the company run by the Duke of Sinclair, Adrian with Nate, Hale and another buddy of theirs was mentioned, even if only a snippet of it. Letters at Christmas was Hale’s story, a ship’s captain, who returned home after a long time to win his childhood sweetheart, Sidony, back. It was very short yet sweet. There weren’t much about his friends in that installment, except that they attend Hale and Sidony’s marriage.
The company, related to shipping business because all the men were somehow linked to a ship or sailing (I gathered as much), was growing big and profitable. Nathaniel Bowen, or Nate as he goes by, is the current Captain of Nightingale. He has returned to England sometimes ago, driven by a mission for revenge. Born and brought up in a brothel, Nate’s life certainly hasn’t been the best, even ‘good’ if anyone wishes to contemplate on what he went through. Moreover, because of one man, he had to witness the death of his parents. As a young boy, because of that one man, Nate was put in a prison hulk and was forced to endure the unthinkable condition.
Many years have passed since. Through ups and downs and a drive to gather as much riches as he can, Nate has become richer than ever. He has been in ships most of his life, sailed and gathered whatever he could, afraid that those would be snatched away from him anytime. Such was Nate’s fear because he has endured so much.
Nate met Adrian and Hale on board. Adrian also has some history, bits and pieces of which were revealed here. They became friends but Adrian is his closest; as close as an elegant Duke can be to an unpolished Pirate. Nate has learned to read and write, nowadays, he also dresses as a gentleman, yet his natural rough side and years spend at the sea shows. No, he’s not abusive nor has bad temper. Nate’s just... a pirate-y looking guy with darkened skin and even darker hair. He hasn’t forgotten his roots, which is why he laughs at people trying to make a gentleman out of him. He also saves street kids, trying to give them a home or a place at his ship when it’s anchored. Most of all, he’s not a womanizer, prone to excess of any kind if he can help it. Overall I thought, Nate was amazingly honest about who he was and what driven him to exact revenge on Stephen Hargate, the man who was responsible for all his childhood sufferings.
When he returned, Nate ‘encouraged’ an investigation and found that Hargate has been stealing money from his own, quite prosperous, shipping company. He was being prosecuted, Hargate escaped. Nate is still on a hunt to find the man. He was vaguely aware that Hargate has a daughter; a nameless, faceless someone. At the time he bought the company, Nate had no idea that his actions have forced that girl to the street because her cowardly father left her destitute with nowhere else to go. Nate didn’t care all that much, until fate intervened and he finds himself forced to face the aftermaths.
Juliana has been looking for a way to clear her father’s name. She doesn’t believe her somewhat distant, yet caring father is a thief who has been accused of stealing from his own company! Just a week ago, she had all the prospects in the world- balls, gowns, shopping, even marriage when the time came. Today, she has nothing and no one to turn to for help. It hurt her how her father left her like this, but Juliana thinks if his name is cleared, he’d return and take back what used to be his. In desperation, she sales the only dress she had on her back in exchange of a boy’s clothes to venture out at night at the doc-side former office of her father’s company. She’s sure she can find some proof of his innocence in the papers kept there, enough to help him.
Unfortunately, Nightingale was nearby, and a soused Nate was watching over his new acquisition... only to find his fear coming true. Once again, someone was attempting steal from him! He finds the thief trying to break into his new office and runs there to apprehend him. When he finally faces him, Nate finds himself staring at a young boy. He decides the boy thought he can find something valuable in here. Nate possesses a caring streak, to reach out to the needy and poor young boys who always remind him of his own miserable childhood. He decides, even in his drunken state, that he’d help ‘Julian’, the name he gave Nate. But then, Julian tries to escape, running out, forcing Nate to follow. When the thief takes a wrong turn, he falls headlong into the dark and dirty water. Nate’s heart froze for a bit, thinking he has just killed the boy. But he becomes dizzy when his men fishes Julian out, only to find that it’s no boy but a young woman! Intrigued, and because he couldn’t leave her like this, Nate takes the girl home to have her taken care of.
Juliana wakes up in a strange room, feeling all bruised and battered, with a strange man sitting nearby... more like dosing on the chair. She tries to remember but her mind feels foggy. At length, the man wakes up and she takes a good look at him; tall, well-built, sun-tanned skin with dark hair and eyes. She’s attracted to him from the first moment. It’s when he started asking questions that she suddenly realizes she has no memory! She doesn’t remember a thing about who she is, where she came from... even her name! The man introduces himself as Nathaniel Bowen, but he doesn’t seem to believe in her, which makes her think that she must’ve done something bad. She’s instantly guilt ridden and starts apologizing. She also promises to return his generosity and whatever she has taken from him when she gets back her memory.
Her soft words and regrets soften Nate somewhat, who has already figured out who she is from the investigation files on Hargate. Not only the close match to the name she gave him, but also only Juliana would have the motive to break into his office to find something valuable to save her father. It’s much more logical, even if the attempt was rather insane. Nate doesn’t tell her anything though, to test her and see if she’s telling the truth. If she’s being honest about a memory loss. For now, Nate wants her to recuperate enough. He’s very nice to her, calling in doctors and bringing in whatever it is necessary to help her heal. Incredibly, though the whole falling thing was still rather confusing for me because of the length of their time together, apparently Nate has already started feeling something different for Juliana. He actually finds it commendable that she tried something to clear her father’s name. Nate still intends to exact revenge, but gradually, he also begins doubting his intentions. What will happen if she finds out that he’s the one behind her downfall?
This question eats Nate up every day. He wants to confess to Juliana, but he can’t. Moreover, though she healed well, she wasn’t getting back her memory. Their talks, even if it’s laced with distrust, somehow turns into something more. With the fast growing attracting, Juliana begins to think that the only way she can ever repay him would be to become Nate’s mistress. She’d be a willing participant too. Nate though, holds off, even after kisses and fondling. When Juliana begins asking the ‘why’s, Nate finally tells him that he has some... touch issues? This part was totally hazy cause I didn’t know what to make of his statement. So was he celibate? A virgin (I didn’t think so)? He tells her something like, he ‘can’t have sex because of what happened to him’ on the prison hulk. Did he not want to be touched? Nothing was elaborated further but he didn’t seem to have any problem touching Juliana at all, craving it actually; be it a kiss or a hug.
Then there was the pressing issue of her memory and his intentions. But now, he doesn’t want Juliana harmed at all. Protecting her was such a bone deep need that once, when Nate finds Hargate somewhere near the dock, waiting in the shadows for him, he beats the crap out of that man just for calling Juliana a ‘whore’ because she has been living with him. He also threatens him to never to try to get to her. Hargate, at first, doesn’t remember Nate from his childhood and what he has done to Nate’s parents. But when he does later in the story, he makes his foul move to get what he wants; the money that Nate now owns and escape.
Their shaky-at-best relationship takes more ups and downs, and somewhere along the way, Juliana’s memory returns in full force. I was glad that the author didn’t drag this out all through the story. Amnesia isn’t that much of a favorite theme of mine. I absolutely hate it when the main characters end up having sex when one doesn’t have his/her memory. This is where I also secretly thanked the author for saving me from shaking my head and rolling my eyes. Though Juliana wants to keep it to herself at first, very soon she decides she can’t hide this from him. It won’t be right, since he had been so good to her. Sadly, she still thinks Nate is just an employee to the people who ruined her father.
This revelation takes Nate by surprise. He’s still feeling the pressure to come clean, yet keeps putting it off, scared of Juliana’s reaction. When things are this way, one day, they end up having sex too, with Juliana being the instigator, assuring Nate she wants him that much. The next day, some trouble occurs at the ship and Nate is forced to be separated from her. They were at the Nightingale, so he asks her to leave for his home to keep her safe. While taking care of the mess on board, Nate also learns of some treachery by someone he trusted. At the same moment, he also decides that no matter what, he’d tell Juliana everything, giving her a chance to come to her own decision. She can leave if that’s what she wishes and he’d abide by it, even if it kills him. I could feel his vulnerability, of not having something he had finally desired with all his heart, something other than money and other materialistic possessions. He’s in love, he wants to have a family, yet this time he might lose what, or who matters the most to him.
While Nate was fighting his inner battles, Juliana was fighting her own with another person she thought she had loved, her very much mentally imbalanced father. And then it became very apparent that she must choose between the two men. But, can she?
Juliana saw Nate’s good sides and chooses to be with him. She even tells him she loves him too but I never really had the impression it was ‘love’ in real sense. It seemed more like a mixture of gratitude with a healthy dose of lust. The way she was quick to judge him and the amount of distrust she seemed to have for him, I couldn’t believe in it. She was forever thinking that every man in the world is out to take advantage of her. I won’t be quick to blame her, seeing how her father treated her but I also think Nate deserved much more than this half-hearted thing. He deserved a more mature and understanding heroine. Someone who would love him with gusto and wouldn’t shy away from showing it. I’d go as far as to say someone with a stronger personality. Nate was such a complete sweetheart and I adored him. His sense of judgment was that of an inherent honest man. And so, throughout the story, this is the one thing that bugged me. I truly believe I would’ve enjoyed more if things were different.
Thankfully, some very interesting secondary characters were introduced here, such as the Duke, Nate’s friend (of sort) Santiago and his obsession with Nate’s housekeeper Mrs. Wheaton... yah, I’ll be waiting to find out who is getting the next in the series. 3.5 stars.
This ARC was provided to me by Entangled Scandalous via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.