In Sturgill’s (Dreams from the Heart: Tales of Hope & Love, 2013) adventure novel, a young kidnapped boy is raised among pirates while his brother becomes a naval officer and swears vengeance against the marauders.
In the early 19th century, 6-year-old Henry Wellington is traveling from England to the United States with his father and older brother, James, on a merchant ship when pirates besiege the vessel. Capt. Bloodstone kills Henry’s father but takes Henry, believing the hawk-shaped birthmark on Henry’s chest makes him “marked by the gods.” James, meanwhile, is saved from the fiery wreckage by the passing USS Enterprise. Henry, now called Hawk, remembers little about his family and grows into a skilled and formidable pirate, but when the teenager meets and falls in love with Anna, a young prostitute, he considers leaving behind the only life he’s really known. Abandoning the pirate life isn’t so easy, however, especially when the quartermaster, aptly named Diablo, is envious of the crew’s admiration of Hawk and would rather see the boy dead than be Bloodstone’s successor, and the U.S. Navy’s New Orleans Squadron, including Lt. James Wellington, who presumes his brother is dead, has been established specifically for hunting pirates. The book doesn’t skimp on the hallmarks that pirate fans look for—there are plenty of eye-patches, peg legs and the occasional “Arrr!” But pitting the two estranged brothers against each other adds substantial depth, particularly since Henry’s birthmark is so discernible and makes the scene in which James recognizes him almost inevitable. There’s also an effective mingling of the notions of good and bad; Henry and other pirates, like his friend Wesley, the cook, look squeaky clean next to Bloodstone and Diablo, who are far more bloodthirsty, while James’ relentless pursuit of pirates recalls Bloodstone’s attack in the beginning, as the Squadron kills men and leaves ships in flames. Henry and Anna are smitten rather quickly, but their burgeoning relationship opens the door for a much more riveting quandary, as Henry must decide between his love for his woman or his love of the sea. The story has its slower moments, most notably with the young couple, but lovers of the genre will be appeased with copious action scenes featuring guns, swords, duels and cannon fire.
Nails the traits of a classic pirate tale, with romance and family melodrama to hold the story together.