Review: Once A Pirate

Once A Pirate audiobook cover. A corseted woman with bare shoulders embraces a man in a pirate's jacket. A pirate ship sails into the sunset beneath.
Once A Pirate by Diana Bold.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 7 hrs 47 mins.
🔥Steamy content!🔥

Once a Pirate is a sweeping historical romance full of family secrets, betrayal, passion, and adventure which spans the Atlantic.

In Regency London the only thing the Earl of Sutcliffe dislikes more than his son, Daniel Sinclair, falling in love with another man is that Daniel has also failed to provide the family with an heir. The Earl decides it is time to reconcile with Daniel's estranged brother, Talon Mongomery; the illegitimate son Sutcliffe disowned long ago. If, that is, Talon is willing to strike a deal to seduce his sister-in-law...

The story follows Talon as he grows closer to the innocent, alluring Kathryn Sinclair, and the burden of the contract he has with his father weighs heavier upon his conscience.

Kathryn's strength and vulnerability are well balanced, and often matched by Talon's. I'm glad that Daniel's proclivities were treated sensitively (given the period), with him understood to be just as much a victim of his father's Machiavellian schemes as his unsuspecting wife and errant brother.

Louise Barnes is a wonderful narrator, whose voice deftly conveys the emotion of the characters and helps immerse the listener in a rich and compelling story. Her experience filming the tv drama Black Sails may have contributed to her performance and I think it particularly helped her bring the wayward crew and tempestuous ocean crossing to life.

My only issue with this audiobook was the occasional use of what felt to be rather anachronistic language. The book ends in 1814, which means that the majority is set in c1810. Phrases like "...a child caught stealing from the cookie jar," and "I like the way your mind works," felt too contemporary. A little research suggests that the earliest known reference to 'cookies' was in 1703 when it referred to Scottish buns, but Ngram suggests 'cookie' only gained widespread popularity in literature in the 1900s in both British and American English. In American English it originates from the Dutch, koekje, meaning 'little cakes' and it did not become recognisably Anglicised for some time. Therefore, whilst it would not be impossible for Talon to have made the comparison, it is unlikely to have been synonymous with a guilty expression at that time. It would have been a nice little nod to the word's etymology if an earlier Dutch variant had been used to modify the phrase.

Another jarringly contemporary comment, "...isn't he just the cutest little kitty you've ever seen in your life?", also stood out for the wrong reasons. In that era 'cute' still meant 'shrewd' or 'clever', and would not really emerge as slang for 'sweet' or 'adorable' until much later. It was such a modern mode of address that it felt very out of place, at a time when the characters were being portrayed as having finally settled and in a home of their own. Though a very small and relatively insignificant moment, it detracted from the authenticity of the tale.

I did enjoy the audiobook despite it lacking a little research, and containing a blip in the editing on Chapter 14. My current gold-standard for fun, sultry, lightweight, historical romance is Tessa Dare, and this audiobook compared favourably - though the steamier scenes are not explored in as much detail and there are fewer humorous moments. It was the first title I have heard by this author but I'll definitely add more of Diana Bold's audiobooks to my wishlist when they become available. If you're a fan of the genre, or are just looking for an easy listen which is performed well and driven by romance and intrigue, then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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