The Duke and the Pirate Queen – review

The Duke and the Pirate Queen
Victoria Janssen
Harlequin Spice
Release date: December 1, 2010

Why this book? Found it while paging through upcoming releases at Net Galley, and the blurb piqued my interest. It’s all Johnny Depp’s fault: until Captain Jack Sparrow’s metrosexual swishing about the deck of the Black Pearl, pirates didn’t interest me much in romance. Also, I’ve read relatively few Hqn Spice books; the first few put me off a bit and I hadn’t been back to try more. This seemed like a good opportunity to do so.

What about the cover art? Content-wise, it was nice to see that the woman on the cover was tattoo’d, since Imena was described as being tattoo’d. The red velvet/brocade and food are supposed to be sensual, I’m sure, even if they don’t really fit any particular scene of the book.

The title? *sigh* Pirates sell, obviously. And The Duke and the Privateer Queen likely wouldn’t sell as many books. But within the world of this book, there is a clear social and legal distinction between pirates and privateers, and the heroine is VERY anti-pirate. So while the title will sell to readers, it is a little inconsistent with the content of the book.

Aboard her privateering ship, The Seaflower, Captain Imena Leung is the law. Ashore she answers only to her liege, Duke Maxime. They are a powerful couple, with an intense attraction neither can disguise nor deny. As a nobleman, Maxime is destined to wed strategically, so his seductive advances must be purely for pleasure. And what self-respecting pirate denies herself any pleasure?

Their delicious dalliance is prolonged when Imena is forced to abduct Maxime to thwart a political plot against him. At sea, with a stunningly virile man bound and held in her private quarters, Imena can imagine—and enact—any number of intoxicating scenarios.

The heat between captain and captive is matched only by the perils that beset The Seaflower and her crew. Violent storms, marauding corsairs and life-or-death sex games on a desert island— how fortunate for the seemingly insatiable lovers that danger and desire go hand-in-hand.

As usual, the blurb is sort of accurate and also inaccurate. Imena is NOT a pirate. Privateer and pirate are not interchangeable. Also, Maxime is not her liege, she’s not a citizen of his duchy or oath-sworn to him; he is instead her employer. But lots of sexual tension and adventuring, so the blurb is accurate on those fronts.

What did I like about the book?

I loved the gender role reversals: the “pirate” being the woman and the duke/titled person who was rescued being the man.

I also liked the world building; didn’t realize at the beginning that this book is loosely related to other books set in the same world.

Really enjoyed the adventuring of Imena and Maxime: pursued by the royal navy and pirates, kipnapped by natives while on what they thought was a deserted island, navigating through a storm at sea, sword fighting in port, etc.

What didn’t I like?

The mystery needed better development. First, kidnapping Maxime rather than reporting the threat to his life seems drastic and rather foolish. Yes, it sets up the entire plot, initiating their travels and enforced intimacy, but carrying him out of the palace naked and wrapped in a rug without telling him why seems a little abrupt; keeping him tied up in her cabin for a while without telling him still just seems petty. Second, the resolution of the mystery was told rather than shown for the most part. To be honest, I’m not sure how Janssen could have done so without lengthening the book considerably and also spending much more time away from Imena and Maxime and their adventures at sea, but the mystery component just felt poorly integrated with the other parts of the story being told.

The romance/relationship

More traditional romance gender role swapping here. Maxime knows he wants to marry Imena, while Imena is attracted but doesn’t take him seriously. Imena’s discounting of Maxime’s ability to gauge his own emotions and make his own choices was a little frustrating at times, especially her “you don’t really mean it” and “I’m not good enough and won’t let you sacrifice your standing” attitude. She came across as kind of patronizing and self-sacrificing in not a good way. But objectively, her behavior matches the gender role reversal, in that romance heroes are often emotionally constipated, and the traditional heroine says the Three Words first. [Hmm, that behavior in heroes drives me crazy; does having a heroine do the same thing and irritate me equally mean true gender equality has been achieved?]


I enjoyed the book, and would read more by Janssen. B-

Tech/editing issue: I downloaded a copy of this as a PDF to read in Adobe Digital Editions, and it was fine. It also read fine in the BlueFire app on my iPhone. But the version that Net Galley emailed to my Kindle had the F-L typesetting problem again, previously seen when I bought a copy of Kinsale’s Lessons in French. F-L doesn’t seem like a very common letter combination, but I highlighted most instances of “stif led” and “f lexing” and “far-f lung” and “f lowers” and “f lesh”, and it approached 200. Oddly, the ship title, The Seaflower, which was always italicized, never had that problem. I wonder if it is something in the font type and whatever script or style sheet is used to convert the file to mobi for Kindle.

Next NetGalley book: Island of Icarus, a November Carina Press release.

Next book generally: still reading The Annotated Persuasion.


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5 responses to “The Duke and the Pirate Queen – review

  1. Why do they do this – the blurbs inconsistent with the actual story? It just serves to annoy the reader. And if it’s just to sell (pirate vs. privateer), it just feels kind of.. manipulative.
    Maxime is so close to Maxine – I’m distracted. Although this adds to the gender reversal maybe? Huh. I do like gender reversal stories.

    • I’ve reached the point where I take almost any backblurb with as a huge generalization, especially one on any Harlequin imprint.
      Maxime/Maxine was a little distracting at first, but then I just reminded myself of all of the Maxims that appeared in practice dialogues in Russian language textbooks. 🙂

  2. I quite like the sound of this -gender role reversals are one of my autoread plots.

  3. Anonymous

    Hmm I did not have an issue with the pirate/privateer thing. I thought of the title more of how she was perceived by the public at large, even though she was not a pirate and that label irritated her.

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