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?

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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4 Responses to Pirate Appeal

  1. Raylee says:

    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. Cresse Blakley says:

    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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