The Windflower keeps appearing on All About Romance's Top 100 Romances, and is raved about on so many different romance review sites on the internet that I decided enough was enough, and went on Amazon Marketplace to track down a copy (the book was published in 1984, the book I have is from 1994, and the book's been out of print for ages).
I now see why it's so popular. This book has pretty much everything you'd want from an old fashioned romance novel - the heroine is grew up with a spinster aunt, lived a terribly sheltered life style, and has barely looked at a man before she's suddenly snogged by a dashing pirate when helping her brother try to identify British spies in some little shack not far from where she grew up. Some months later, when her English spinster aunt is taking her back to England (although the heroine is American, and terribly patriotic at that), she is abducted by ruffians and ends up on the pirate ship belonging to the half-brother of said dashing pirate who snogged her all those months ago. He thinks she's the mistress of his worst enemy, she thinks he wants to hurt her brother, who is working for the American revolutionaries.
As well as forced abductions, there are surly teenage pirates who turn out to have hearts of gold, an extremely manipulative pirate captain who knows more than anyone else, and clearly uses his pirate ship as some sort of unorthodox finishing school for the odd nobleman's son here and there, a varied band of pirates who while totally apparently totally ruthless, within about a week are all willing to die for the heroine's sake.
Merry, the heroine, veers between being very believably freaked out with the whole kidnapped by pirates thing, especially since her inexperienced little self barely knows how to react to the seductive tendencies of Devin, the pirate captain's mysterious brother, and being borderline TSTL, especially in her attempts to escape. So much badness happening to one young chit, you'd think she'd learn after the second escape attempt, when she's nearly killed from malaria!
In a romance novel written today, the hero would be a lot less douchy to the heroine. He really is very mean to her for most of the book, and keeps threatening to do horrible things to Merry, and seems vaguely puzzled when she's then terrified of him and actually believes he'll carry out his threats. Of course, the main couple would also have been having sex all over the place, while here Devin just tries to unsuccessfully seduce a woman he's pretty sure is an experienced strumpet, yet he can't bring himself to rape her, and Merry really has WAY more will power and resistance than any modern heroine - they always seem to waver a suitable amount of time before being overwhelmed by their desires and falling into bed with the hero. Merry holds out until she's married, even though Devin's proposal rivals that of Mr Darcy (the first one, NOT the second one, which is lovely) and Mr Rochester for total sucky unromanticness (it's a word - I'm an English teacher, I've decided).
A bit slow to start, the book is incredibly entertaining, and worth reading not even mainly for the main couple, who as mentioned before are a sheltered virgin and an imperious douche, but for the supporting characters, who are complex and conflicted and oh so dashing. It doesn't seem as if Tom and Sharon Curtis have written any romances about Devin's pirate captain half brother, Rand Morgan, or about Cat or Raven, two of the angsty, yet amusing teenagers aboard the ship. I'd read those books in a heartbeat.
This is a great book, well worth tracking down, even though it's out of print.