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?