Pirate Appeal

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the appeal of pirates, particularly in romance novels. Pirates seem to hold a special place in the genre, at least among heroes, along with The Rake or The Highlander.

My theory (I always have a theory!) is that for pirates, their transgression is what appeals. Transgression is important, I feel, in romantic/sexual fantasies. Being allowed to transgress boundaries, even in fantasy, significantly affects our thoughts and feelings about those boundaries in our daily lives. I think Pirates also represent freedom. Rarely in romance novels are pirates exclusively mercenary in their goals. It may not be immediately revealed, but eventually, in most cases, we find out the pirate hero is motivated by righteous revenge.

Also, the pirate isn’t supposed to adhere to societal rules. Pirates are free to swoop in and take what they want. (That’s a nice fantasy in itself.) In a pirate romance novel, it’s most often the heroine who is wanted by the pirate (also a nice fantasy!). The heroine fights against the pirate’s transgression, asserting herself in that way, but eventually asserts herself again by succumbing to his freedom, of going against society, perhaps helping him with his revenge, or finding his lost brother/sister, etc.–his quest. When the heroine yields to the pirate hero, she yields also to the possibilities his transgressive life offers, possibilities that her own, normative life does not.

Thoughts? Also, recommendations for pirate romances? Anybody have recommendations for novels with pirate heroines?

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

4 replies on “Pirate Appeal”

  1. I really liked the pirate Gabrielle in Johanna Lindsey’s A Pirate’s Love. She was a secondary character but someone who really needed her own novel. Of course she was competing against the heroine for the hero’s affections…and lost. It sorta bummed me out. I wanted to see Gabby and Tristan in action, both captaining their ships and crews.

  2. I think that we like pirates because they are dangerous and mischievious, and most of all bad. I think it is in our natures to try to reform bad guys into good. We see them as projects, like fun toys. They are ruthless and immoral and we want to twist them into what we see as how they should be.

    Some of the best books, and the ones that I remember long after is when the pirate or bad guy turns out to be the better person. A great example of this is Tiger’s Eye by Karen Robards. The hero is a crime lord, not a pirate, but it is same appeal. The bad guy saves the heroine from a terrible situation, set up by those who are considered not so bad. The end of the book is the best though. He does not really change, she just sees that he is by far the better person.

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