A Pirate's Heart
by Catherine Friend

Bold Strokes Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60282-040-1.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Posted on 01/03/2009

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Romance

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 in this historical plot to become a pirate. Captain Thomasina Farris used means outside the law but still managed to exert a positive influence on her crew.

In the parallel plot, current-day Emma Boyd, a fastidious college librarian, is captivated by pirate stories, particularly those involving pirate 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 this master storyteller, the novel exposes 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. A zealous organizer and puzzle solver, Emma sets out with private investigator Randi Marx to catch the thief and bring him to justice. Although being stuck for days in a car with Randi isn't what Emma bargains for, what really catches her off guard is her intense attraction to the hardened investigator. Emma soon learns that a full calendar with neat entries doesn't make a fulfilling life.

Tommy Farris's story had me riveted every knot of the way. I cheered for the fair-minded, respected, and fearless pirate who chartered the Moon Shadow in the West Indies in 1715. Ms. Friend provides glimpses into her heart, which reveal the goodness within. Farris was a free spirit who thirsted for adventure, but women in 1715 weren't supposed to pursue it. Tommy knows she'd rather jump off a Devon cliff than wait tables in a pub. However, the years of thieving and killing take their toll. She decides if she can secure one last prize, she can give up pirating, buy a small solid ship, and earn her keep transporting goods between islands—honest work.

When the opportunity presents itself, Tommy seeks to capture the Maravillosa. Capturing Rebekah Brown, the courageous figurehead of the small Spanish galleon, turns out to be a bigger prize than Tommy expects. Against superstitions about the bad luck of having a woman aboard (Tommy excluded), Tommy convinces Rebekah to remain on the Moon Shadow, not as a slave, but in Tommy's employ. The feisty, head-strong captive is both beautiful and bold. Tommy doesn't know what to make of the gravity-like pull on her heart this woman causes. "Rebekah Brown filled a hole in her hull she didn't even know was there. It must be happiness which added the spring to her step, lightened her heart, and found the laughter long since buried within her" (p. 99).

Friend's fans are well aware of her sharp wit and indelible humor. 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 parallel between present day Minneapolis and The West Indies in 1715 is beautifully crafted and brilliantly tied together.

Catherine Friend was formerly an economist and now operates a farm in Minnesota with her partner. She has written six children's books and two memoirs, Hit by a Farm and The Perfect Nest. Visit her website.

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