I read a lot. I mean, a lot, a lot. (But not alot, even though an Alot is adorable.) Sometimes, when you read as much as I do, you start to spot trends that maybe aren’t really trends. For instance, there was a short period of time where I read several books about the death penalty. Before that, it was death with dignity. (Or maybe that was all one trend and I just like books about death, which is completely possible.) I’ve had mini-trends of synesthesia, prostitution, stalking, kidnapping, and gods only know what else. Well, nothing cheerful, usually. Not a lot of accidental mini-binges of books about puppies or unicorns or candy. I don’t think any of these have ever pointed to an actual trend in publishing, just me accidentally choosing a number of books with similar themes in a short period of time.
But, there is one type of book that I seem to read in clusters more than any other and that’s books about pirates. Sometimes, it’s because I’m just in a mood for pirate books. Sometimes, it’s completely coincidental. But, this last week? I’ve had four books cycle through my To Be Read stack that featured pirates. Two of them I read because they were pirate books; one of them I knew had a pirate at its center, but wasn’t really a pirate book; and the fourth had the best pirates of all— surprise pirates.
The first pirate book was The Windflower by Laura London. This was a re-read for me in honor of this classic romance novel being back in print after 20 years. Rediscovering Merry and Devon’s story and re-acquainting myself with the colorful supporting cast (of pirates!) was a joy. I still find that I’m not as invested in Merry and Devon’s story as I like to be in a romance, but some of the writing in this book is just exquisite and I found myself reading through scenes that had me thinking, “Oh my gods, yes. This part. I remember this part. And, wow, how many times has this scene been ‘borrowed’ by romance authors who came after?” And I’m still swoony over Kit and waiting for the day when Sharon and Tom Curtis (the writing team behind the Laura London penname) bless the world with Kit’s own story.
One pirate book put me in the mood for another, so I picked up the ARC of Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen. It wasn’t pirate-y enough for the mood I was in so I put it aside. Maybe I’ll pick it up again some day when I’m in the mood for a fairy tale re-telling (because, yes, it’s about that Hook), but it’ll probably linger in the TBR pile for ages until I finally pass it on to someone who will love it more than I. (I kind of blame Once Upon a Time for my inability to engage with any Hook but theirs because he’s so damned pretty and no other Hook will ever be his match.)
But, wait! I had a copy of Eli Brown’s Cinnamon and Gunpowder, which I’d been meaning to read for a year and with the paperback publication just around the corner, there wasn’t going to be a better time. And this book was fabulous. Not just pirates, but relationships and politics and food porn. Oh, the food. Watching Owen— kidnapped by the pirate Hannah Mabbot and forced to cook for her every Sunday— create mouth-watering meals from the poor stores found on board a pirate ship was absolutely fascinating. I found myself more curious about what meal he would come up with next and what clever means he would employ to obtain new ingredients than I was about Hannah’s pursuit of the Brass Fox and her desire to put an end to the opium trade. I loved watching Hannah and Owen interact and watching their respect and regard for each other grow. I loved how Owen changed from being resentful about his kidnapping to making friends among the crew and finally becoming one of them, whether he admitted it to himself or not. There was really nothing not to like about this book and I’m kicking myself for having waited so long to finally read it.
And then there was the book with the surprise pirates, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity. Okay, to be honest (and slightly spoiler-y), they weren’t really pirates, but Jane and Vincent thought they were, at least for a while, so I’m still counting this as a pirate book. This is the fourth book in Kowal’s Glamourist Histories Regency fantasy series and the most straight-up fun book of the series so far. Oh, the whole series is wonderful and the relationship between Jane and Vincent continues to be my hands-down favourite marriage in fiction. But, this book has the aforementioned fake pirates, Lord Byron, a monkey (Though not nearly enough of the monkey. More monkey!), a long con, a heist, and some really awesome nuns. Kowal herself describes it as “Jane Austen writes Ocean’s Eleven. With magic.” And nuns. (I really, really, really though the nuns were great.) So, even though it didn’t have pirates, I’m keeping it on my pirate list because, at the very least, it had piratitude.
Now I’m in the mood for more books with nuns. Or monkeys. Or cooking. Or nuns cooking for monkeys. Or, best of all, monkeys cooking for nuns. Someone, please, write that book for me. And, if you want to throw in a pirate or two…
Billie Bloebaum used to think she wanted to be a pirate, but realized that she prefers bathing and not having scurvy to a short life on the high seas. She reads about 500 books a year, which leaves little time for piracy, anyway, and her cats probably wouldn’t take well to living on water. She will, however, drink all your rum.