Mass Market Paperback: 502 pages
Publisher: Fanfare (October 1, 1994)
Merry Wilding longed for adventure...only to find herself kidnapped and delivered to the most infamous privateering ship on the seven seas. Now the American beauty was at the mercy of a mysterious golden-haired pirate whose barbed words and ravishing kisses kept her trembling with fear...and breathless with desire.
A little seduction was all Devon Crandall thought it would take to expose the vital information held by his pretty prisoner of war. But he hadn't counted on his own reaction to a pair of haunting blue eyes, never knew how Merry's confounded purity would fan his passions into an all-consuming blaze...
The year is 1813, and it's September in Fairfield, Virginia. Our young heroine, Merry Wilding, lives with her aunt, draws pictures, and dreams about unicorns. She is blissfully unaware of the adventure she was about to embark on during a fateful trip to a tavern with her brother, who is heavily involved in the American cause against Britain. As risky as their mission is, neither expected that the tavern would be invaded by pirates, and Merry is happy to be having some excitement in her life.
Merry and her brother are about to leave the tavern, having gotten what they've come for, when Captain Rand Morgan comes strolling through the doors with two companions from his infamous ship, The Black Joke. One of them, a golden-haired god of a man by the name of Devon, confuses Merry with feelings of fear and longing, and her only thought is to get away from this beautiful devil who stirs her soul. She manages to escape, but not without encountering Devon face to face, and experiencing a brief taste of passion. Luckily for her, the pirate reluctantly lets her go, and she expects never to see him again.
Months pass, and Merry's life goes on as it once did, though she cannot stop from remembering the the night she first saw Captain Morgan, and especially Devon, nor can she forget her reaction to him. By now it's spring, and Merry's aunt April, who suddenly realizes how isolated her and Merry have been living alone together, has decided that they are going to take a trip to New York, escorted by the relative of an old family friend from England. Going to the large city, full of American pride, awes Merry, and makes her wonder how their companion, British Sir Michael Granville, feels about such blatant patriotism. Then she discovers her aunt has made further arrangements to travel to England, under the protection of Sir Michael, and she is understandably upset, as they are in the middle of war and Merry is a proud American. But it's her aunt's dearest wish, and if there's one thing Merry cannot do, it's to deny her aunt this chance to visit her homeland once again.
Merry boards the ship the Guinevere with trepidation, only to be kidnapped that very night by unsavory villains who were hired to collect some incriminating information that was to be found on that ship. When the thieves unexpectedly come across Merry, they decide not to leave any witnesses, and take her with them...right onto The Black Joke, the very last place Merry wants to be.
Now aboard the infamous pirate ship, Merry becomes the unwilling captive of the man from the tavern, Devon Crandall, and he has no problem treating her like one. He doesn't trust her, though he wants her badly. No one dares interfere with his plans for her, and it is up to her to use her wits and what little courage she has to protect herself from death...or ravishment.
This book was a true delight. It starts out a bit slow, as we are drawn a picture of the simple life Merry lives with her aunt, but soon picks up speed as Merry tries to go up against the dread pirate Crandall, and comes up short. Young, inexperienced and terrified, she is no match for a man of Devon's experience, but she doesn't give up trying. One would expect such a delicate female to lay down and give up, but Merry does neither, and will do whatever she can to escape from her uncertain fate.
Her bravery and innocence soon soften the crew, and before long she's not only gained their admiration, she's also managed to find her way into their affections. Sympathetic to her captivity, yet not about to cross Devon, the crew cautiously takes her under their wing, and she begins to develop fond feelings for the rag-tag bunch that have known no other kind of life than that of a pirate. Young, rambunctious boys and old, crusty long-timers are taken with the young, stubborn girl. The only one who seems able to resist her is the one man who holds her future in his hands, and he is unwilling to let her go.
The authors don't make it easy on Merry; she has been sheltered all her life, and the fear and ignorance of men she has when she is captured does not fade immediately but rather gradually over time. Devon is a hard man, too cynical and experienced to believe in her innocence, and yet too fascinated to let another man have her. At times he can be extremely harsh with her, pushing her to reveal what she knows, and Merry pushes back, more often than not ending up punished for it. She has to earn her stripes, her experience, and it is not something that happens overnight. Merry is aboard the ship for months, and during that time she suffers much, but she doesn't break.
I was lent this book by a very generous friend (thanx MK!) and now I know exactly what all the fuss was about. (Note: the cover is very different from this one, with a jeweled pirate ship on the front). Tom and Sharon Curtis have written a complex, intriguing novel that follows a meandering path, yet one filled with lovely moments, as well as heartbreaking ones. I admire how they have drawn out the story, not giving into temptation to satisfy the reader too soon, and the result is one that delves deep into your emotions and lingers there - you cannot forget about what you've just read and you'll want to experience it again, immediately. I found myself going back to re-read many sections of the book in order to re-capture that magical feeling. This story has a timeless quality to it.
We see the gradual changes in the characters, and how desire gives way to a passionate, mature love. Both Devon and Merry are different people by the end of the book and the difference is quite noticeable, and wonderful. We see how they've both grown, developed, becoming more interesting individuals because of how their pasts have shaped them and also by what they go through together. When Devon first tells Merry that he loves her, it is with a tingle down my spine that I read those words. Priceless. Not many books can do that to me anymore, but this one did it with such ease, that even when I went back to re-read the passage, I felt it again and again.
If you can get your hands on a copy, I highly, highly recommend it. I'll admit that I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but it found its way and would definitely be on my top 100 list of all-time favorite romances if I had such a list, heck, in my top 20 favorites. It reminded me a bit of the turtle and the hare because it slowly gained momentum until by the end, it wins the race. "The Windflower" is a beautiful love story, filled with adventure, danger, friendship, sorrow, and touching romance. Oh, a pirate's life for me.....
Rating: ***** out of *****
Windflower (Anemone) - A noble family of tuberous alpine meadow and herbaceous plants, of the Buttercup family, to which is due much of the beauty of spring and early summer of northern and temperate countries. In early spring, or what is winter to us in Northern Europe, when the valleys of Southern Europe and sunny sheltered spots all round the great rocky basin of the Mediterranean are beginning to glow with color, we see the earliest Windflowers in all their loveliness. Those arid mountains that look so barren have on their sunny sides carpets of Anemones in countless variety. Later on the Star Anemone begins, and troops in thousands over the terraces, meadows, and fields of the same regions. Climbing the mountains in April, the Hepatica nestles in nooks all over the bushy parts of the hills. Farther east, while the common Anemones are aflame along the Riviera valleys and terraces, the blue Greek Anemone is open on the hills of Greece; a little later the blue Apennine Anemone blossoms. Meanwhile our Wood Anemone adorns the woods throughout the northern world, and here and there through the brown grass on the chalk hills comes the purple of the Pasque-flower. The grass has grown tall before the graceful alpine Windflower flowers in all the natural meadows of the Alps; later on bloom the high alpine Windflowers, which soon flower and fruit, and are ready to sleep for nine months in the snow. These are but few examples of what is done for the northern and temperate world by these Windflowers, so precious for our gardens also.