Catherine Friend’s freshly-plotted and engaging dual romance knocked my “arrrrghyl socks” off and turned me on to a whole new world of fiction. In the early 1700’s, a woman’s options were limited; I found it fascinating to learn what motivated the young heroine to become a pirate. Captain Thomasina Farris used means outside the law but still managed to exert a positive influence on her crew, despite the odds.
In the parallel plot, current-day Emma Boyd, a fastidious college librarian, is captivated by pirate stories, particularly ones involving Tommy Farris and the map she left behind. With these two lead characters, Friend maps out a journey fraught with good vs. evil and compounded by greed, dishonesty, danger, and despair. In the hands of master storyteller Catherine Friend, the story still manages to exude hope, faith, and kindness in the least likely places.
After Emma writes a library journal article explaining why she believes Farris’s long-lost treasure map exists, antique maps are stolen from several libraries, including the one in Emma’s charge. Emma, a zealous organizer and puzzle solver, sets out with private investigator Randi Marx to catch the thief. Although being stuck for days in a car with Randi wasn’t what Emma bargained for, what really caught her off guard was her intensifying attraction toward the hard-assed investigator.
In one scene, Emma thinks, “Walking beside me was the most complex woman I’d ever met, and she seemed to have melted all my insides and reshaped them into internal organs that hungered only for her.” Randi warns Emma that she’s not good girlfriend material. Nonetheless, Emma, ever the practical one, muses, “It wasn’t like I could just quit and sail away to some tropical island and live happily ever after. I liked to eat food and wear clothes, and that took money. Last year I’d gone on a cost-savings kick and tried to knit myself a sweater. Two weeks later I decided I’d rather stab myself in the knee with a knitting needle than try that again.” Despite the complications, she feels compelled to pursue Randi at all costs–even breaking her own ethical code. Emma and Randi are consumed with finding the Farris map and learning the truth behind Farris’s demise, but the emotional ties that bind them might very well be a stronger draw.
Tommy Farris’s story had me riveted every knot of the way. I didn’t think anyone could turn me into a pirate-loving wench, but Catherine Friend has done so. It’s impossible not to melt when Tommy confesses aloud:
“I be tiring of this way of life, but I know no other. The killing’s getting harder and harder. Some days my sword’s so heavy I can barely draw it. I’m sick of the killing. And blast my bones, what would a woman like me do on land? Wait tables in a pub again? Marry some wealthy gent and breed? I wake up at night with bloomin’ tears on my cheeks. . . Sometimes I’m thinking I’m the bravest woman on the ocean and the best pirate captain the West Indies has ever seen. Then the next day I’m just wanting to be held in someone’s arms. It’s disgusting.
Friend’s fans are well aware of her sharp wit and indelible humor. Emma is plagued by her feelings for the aloof investigator. She soon learns that a full calendar with neat entries doesn’t make a fulfilling life. Will Emma Boyd learn a lesson in love before it’s too late?
Our poor, lonely hearts don’t know if a person is honest or dependable or picks up his or her socks. Our hearts only know that person touches something inside us, that the person makes us feel bigger than who we are, more complete, happier, and less alone in the world. Love’s a good thing, Emma, not a bad thing.
With the excitement of rough seas, battles, overcoming adversity, and saving one’s life, A Pirate’s Heart is an engaging page-turner. Throw in two compelling romances, and you have double the fun. Friend delivers the ancient sea lingo spot on and gives details so rich and real that her characters leave a lasting impression. The parallels between present day Minneapolis and The West Indies in 1715 is beautifully crafted and brilliantly tied together.
A Pirate’s Heart
Bold Strokes Books / $15.95
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-040-1
Papeback, 320 pp.