The female pirate coming-of-age novel you’ll be glad you read

Six-year-old Tyke is the spit of her half-brother, Mark, but there’s one crucial difference: Tyke is the result of rape. When her father sails into their Devon fishing village in 1695, Mark, to protect their Ma, decides to kill him. But the plan goes wrong and Mark goes missing.

Tyke’s mother dresses her daughter as her son to get money from Mark’s grandmother. Tyke moves into Mrs Read’s London home and gets the education of a ‘young gentleman’. When a one-armed pirate arrives, her world up-ends. She is forced to become a servant, but at least she can take comfort in her new friend Jim.

Then puberty hits, and even her body seems to turn against her, threatening to reveal her secret. If she stops being ‘Mark’, she could lose everything. But how far will she go to stay free?

Meet the young Mary Read, soon to become the fiercest female pirate of them all.


Read the opening chapters for free OR treat yourself and buy it now!



Meet the Author

ros barber head and shoulders

Hi. I’m Ros Barber. I’m the author of The Marlowe Papers (which you might have heard of) and the poems ‘Material’ and ‘How to Leave the World that Worships Should‘, which some ‘A’-Level students in the UK might know from their studies.

I love telling stories, especially stories based on historical facts. Though they’re grounded in serious research, I ensure they are fun to read. I like to tell stories in a fast-paced and engaging way while still focused on beautiful writing (because of my background in poetry.)

I believe that fiction enriches and empowers us. It allows us to see the world (other people, places and times) with fresh eyes. A novel allows us to stomp around in someone else’s boots (even pirate boots) and see how they fit. We can live through experiences that teach us how to be better humans, without leaving the comfort of our sofas. Have you ever read a novel that empowered you to embrace your life more fully, or helped you feel less alone?  Fiction is the only artform that trains us in compassion. 

The story of the story

I have spent eight and a half years researching the real-life 18th-century soldier and pirate Mary Read and letting her tell her story through three linked novels. The first in this trilogy, Nothing Becoming (2023), is her coming-of-age story from age 6 to 16. The second, Nothing But Trouble (2024), covers her teens and twenties as a soldier, then a wife. In the final book, to be published in 2025, she goes to sea and becomes a pirate.

My prizewinning novel, The Marlowe Papers, and my Encore Award shortlisted novel, Devotion, were published by mainstream publishers. My female pirate trilogy is being published independently, by Phoebus Press, for the simple reason that, just as I was finishing writing the third of them, Bloomsbury announced they were buying a novel about the life of Mary Read for a six-figure advance! As a result, none of the traditional publishers were prepared to take a gamble on a ‘competing’ Mary Read novel. Rather than have a breakdown over that (though it was touch and go for a while!), I took matters into my own hands.

Life is not a competition. There is room for everyone. I have faith in the quality of my novels, and I wanted to make sure that you, dear reader, have a chance to decide for yourself.

You can read the opening chapters completely free. Try before you buy :-). 

If you love compelling stories, beautiful writing, and strong female protagonists, I think it is a world you’ll be delighted to enter.