penitent pirateRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Perry and Quinn have spent the summer ashore in Jamaica strengthening their bond as matelots. Quinn is also still recovering emotionally from his kidnapping and abuse, and the men have had a quiet and peaceful summer. But now that the rainy season is over, it is time for the buccaneers to return to the sea to go roving and both men are ready to go back to their lives aboard the Audacious.

As they return to Port Royal to prepare to sail, the men get involved in some intrigue. An abandoned baby is found, Perry is almost kidnapped, and a man from Quinn’s past returns. Along with these challenges, Quinn is asked to serve aboard the Night Hawk, and with the important alliance between the crews at stake, the men agree to be separated temporarily even though neither wants to be apart.

Once at sea, things aren’t much smoother. Political intrigue threatens as loyalties to the various colonial governments and the sailors’ motivations are all unclear. And when an old enemy threatens Perry, things go from bad to worse. But Perry and Quinn have dedicated themselves to one another, and regardless of what stands before them, they are determined to protect each other and have their future together.

The Penitent Pirate is the second book in Jules Radcliffe’s Pirates of Port Royal series. It continues the adventures of buccaneer matelots Perry and Quinn and picks up a few months after the end of the first book, The Puritan Pirate.

I have enjoyed both these stories, but what struck me is I had kind of opposite thoughts on this book versus  the first. In The Puritan Pirate, I felt like the relationship was not developed enough and the guys jumped into things really fast, while the world building and larger political landscape really made the book. In this case, I felt like the opposite was true. I loved the relationship between these two guys, but the politics and incredible detail about the larger world just overwhelmed me.

So on the relationship side, Perry and Quinn are quite happily in love. They have become matelots (sort of pirate married) and their intense bond is quite clear. They have weathered a horrible crisis in Quinn’s kidnapping and abuse and come out stronger. I really appreciated the connection between these men. They felt solid (even when they worried things were awry between them) and I found them romantic and sweet. Their fierce dedication to one another and their comfort in showing their feelings was a highlight of the book for me.

My problem here is that while I found the story very entertaining, I feel like I followed maybe 50% of what was going on outside of the relationship. There are so many side characters here, between the other buccaneers, the various captains, the government officials, the military men, etc, that I found it incredibly hard to keep everyone straight. Perhaps it would have been easier if I had more recently read the first book, but I often couldn’t tell if characters were new or someone I was supposed to recognize, and there were key characters that I had no memory of where little backstory was provided. There are also many ships and keeping track of who sailed on which, and which countries they represented, and which were pirate ships versus military ships also become difficult, yet these details were often important. On top of that are the politics of the region with the different colonial powers having control over different islands and different officials have varying views on governing and pirates.

On one hand, Radcliffe does an amazing job with the world building here and it is quite clear she has researched the time period and the setting and is quite knowledgeable about them. The details are wonderful and really bring the story to life. There are so many little touches that just ground it all in authenticity. But as I said, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what was going on and I feel like there were many (many) moments where I was missing what was supposed to be happening. So while I enjoyed the story a lot overall, I did so with a feeling that I was just sort of skimming along, versus really delving into the plot because some things were just going over my head.

That said, I do think this would have gone better without waiting a year between books and I would definitely recommend reading the first story if you are thinking about picking this one up. However, despite my difficulties, I did find this story very engaging and continued to enjoy Perry and Quinn together. I would definitely be up for more of this series to see where their adventures continue to take them.

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