Ahoy, readers! Prepare to set sail for adventure. Katharine Ashe has a new novella hitting shelves and pirate-lovers won’t want to miss out. The Pirate and I follows Charles Brittle as he attempts to turn over a new leaf and live an honorable life, and win the heart of Miss Esme Astell, of course. In honor of the book’s release, Ashe put together a list of books perfect for readers who crave adventure on the high seas. These novels are sure to have you saying, “a pirate’s life for me.”
Pirates are filthy, rude, crude, thievish, and viciously violent. Yet we adore pirate stories. Why? Because we can invest our most fervent hopes into them: No friends? Climb aboard and you’ll have dozens! No money, clothes, or weapons? Steal them! Mistrust politicians? Join the only consistent democracy in the world!
Pirate protagonists invert reality, allowing us to call out the ugly underside of civilization, and instead celebrate a world in which the basest crimes become something grand and good. The heroes of these novels flaunt the stifling, hypocritical laws of society for reasons we applaud: family, honor, brotherhood, charity, and love. And they’re unforgiving to cowards who break the strict code of pirate justice.
A great pirate hero is a rogue with a heart of gold, which I love. Here are some of the best.
I never cared about Neverland until I read Lisa Maxwell’s young adult novel in which everything Pan is turned upside down, including the fairytale’s so-called hero and its sublimely perfect villain. Woven with clean yet luscious prose, this story of a misfit young woman dragged into fairyland is a sensory banquet full of danger, hope, and courage. It is both deliciously fun and magically beautiful.
Descended from a long line of pirates, when Pilar Banderas steals adventure-seeking Noah Yates’ ship, it’s not greed that propels her theft but a desperate effort to protect the beloved women of her family, who are her sole responsibility. Laugh and cheer as Pilar shows arrogant Noah what it really means to be heroic. Bonus: On the gorgeous cover of this romance novel, the heroine is ripping the hero’s “bodice.”
An epic story of daring, adventure, and love, this novel is both historically real and delightfully fantastical. A wealthy Trinidadian of mixed race, educated at the best universities in Europe, fluent in multiple languages, a lawyer and politician, Maxwell Philip was incensed over the continued practice of slavery in the United States. And as a lover of Sir Walter Scott’s wildly popular fiction, Philip knew how to spin an enthralling tale. Starring the adventure-seeking son of a white wealthy planter and a black enslaved woman, the novel reveals a spectacular and deeply moving world of honor and danger unmatched in pirate fiction. The ending will slay you.
Gideon Horn has a super idea: kidnap a ship full of convict women en route to New South Wales and keep them as wives for his crewmen. But intelligent, big-hearted Sara Willis has a thing or two to teach the pirate captain about consent and women’s rights. This is an unabashedly feminist romance—from the dedication to Professor Emily Toth, to the hero’s ultimate realization: “What kind of paradise is there where people are not free?”—and a gloriously satisfying corrective to typical abduction romances. I adore this novel.
The Scots really do have a way with telling adventures. More than a century after its publication, this story is still a cracking yarn about a boy swept into the experience of a lifetime. Peopled with marvelous characters, it’s at times hilarious and at others thoughtful, and always clever. It remains a classic for a very good reason.
When Captain Pierce Walsingham sets out to defeat a diabolical sea villain, he damns the fate that makes Oriana Thorpe a crucial part of his plan: “He had to use her and protect her at the same time.” Featuring a hero with honor in his very bones, a heroine born of generations of smugglers, and thoroughly delightful banter, this is pirate romance at its absolute best.
“Adventures are all very well in their place… but there’s a lot to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain,” muses the young adventurer Tristran in master storyteller Neil Gaiman’s faerie novel. Pipe-smoking Captain Johannes Alberic of the Perdita (“lost”; great novelists rarely use names blithely) is both protector and enabler. “Tristran often found himself looking back on his time on the Perdita… as one of the happiest periods of his life.” And isn’t that how we all feel after reading a wonderful pirate tale?