The Pirate’s Bastard

Written by Laura S. Wharton
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

This short mid-18th century novel is awash in seafaring legal and piratical, secrets, courtship, blackmail and colonial history of North Carolina and the Caribbean. It tells the story of the orphaned son of the “gentleman” pirate Stede Bonnet and his French mistress, both dead before Edward remembers either. He is raised by a kindly man of the cloth, but that does not keep the young man from being tormented by his peers as a child.

When he decides to escape his heritage with an immigration to the fledgling community of Brunswick, Carolina, it comes back to haunt him in the initial marriage refusal of the lovely Sarah, and the blackmail attempts of Ignatius Pell, boatswain to Edward’s father, who wants to return to old haunts to dig for treasure. But Sarah relents and accompanies Edward, now a captain of his own trading ship, on a quest to return to his past and meet the family he left behind on Barbados. Although Pell is only out for the treasure, he proves an able seaman and witness to the pirate father’s life and motives.

While rife with incident and knowledgeable about shipbuilding and other details of colonial life, The Pirate’s Bastard suffers from too much “telling” and too little showing of motivation of characters that don’t quite come to life. The conflicts and momentum are blunted; the dialogue is wooden and sometimes anachronistic, as are details like mention of Christmas trees and pot-bellied stoves. And the story suffers from a much-needed line edit for repeated words.