Monday, 11 July 2011

The Duke's Captive by Adele Ashworth

5 Stars. (Historical Romance)

I’ve had The Duke’s Captive on my shelf for over a year, I bought it last summer after it was first released and remember being all geared up to read it, but then of course my interest in other books took over and I ended up putting it on my shelf only to pick it up this weekend. Boy was I surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it! So often with me I start reading a historical romance and half way through I end up getting bored and have to push myself to finish the book. This usually happens about the time the h/h get together in the biblical sense. For some reason I feel like time and again the tension I so loved between h/h, the banter and intrigue and suspense of the whole will they won’t they and when will it happen? Scenario goes out the window as soon as they get it on. The Duke’s Captive was one of those books that had me glued to the pages until the very end. I read this book in about a day because it takes off from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the end.

I will state right off the bat that I am a fan of the ‘revenge romance’ trope. If you aren’t a fan, or can’t get over having the h/h battling it out in a high stakes game of wills for much of the novel than this might not be for you.

Things I loved:

The revenge romance scenario Ashworth does not shy away from making this a very angsty and often heart wrenching story. The hero was kidnapped five years prior to the opening of the book. He was kidnapped by the heroine, Viola’s two sisters and held for five weeks in a dungeon. His psyche took a beating and since his escape Ian has been tormented by his inability to remember all the details of his captivity and how Viola played a role in his life and abduction during that time. When Ian finally tracks Viola down the battle is on between these two and one thing among many that I really appreciated was how the revenge romance was high on the revenge. Ian is pissed and is bent on making everyone who hurt him all those years ago suffer. Viola is his intended victim and he goes after her with a vengeance. I liked that this scenario was believable. You really want to hate Ian in certain moments, because you glean insight into Viola’s thoughts and her actions during that time through her journal entries which mark the beginning of each chapter. So right away you know some of the truth about Viola’s involvement during Ian’s abduction. But you can’t hate the guy. He wounded, scared and looking for someone to basically show him that life can go on and he can live well in it. Ian melted my heart even though he comes across for much of the novel as very cold and austere.

In a revenge romance I feel like too often the hero is too quickly bowled over by the heroine’s beauty or charms and forgets what he intended in the first place. With Ian and Viola it’s different. They both feel a heated attraction to one another, but they are both – for different reasons willing to deny their attraction and then succumb to it. The whole way this story places out is really flawless and very well executed. The evolution of feelings is perfectly played out.

The history These two are not strangers meeting for the first time. They have a past, a sordid, tarnished, inescapable past that only ends up heightening the passion and love these two eventually come to accept from one another. I loved the journal entries that marked each chapter of the book. These entries are really what hooked me when I first wanted to read this book over a year ago. They are beautiful and sad and you cringe and smile all at the same time when you read Viola’s thoughts.

The Hero and Heroine These two are perfect together and I especially loved Viola. She’s strong and fierce. Won’t sit back and let Ian ruin her and I liked that she tried to fight him and best him at his own games. She’s a tough cookie and strong willed. She’s also very tender and loving and cares a lot about Ian. She knows he’s trying to destroy her and yet she can’t help but love the man she used to know and feels is still somewhere inside the angry and disgruntled man standing before her. Ian in turn is cold much of the time, but he never really tries to deny his feelings for Viola. He accepts them and then tries to use his attraction against her – which in my opinion fits with the whole theme of the novel. He’s bitter and angry, but is shielding a deeper hurt and yearning that he only reveals to Viola. You could tell that Ian had once been a honourable man, only now affected by his past.

Lack of ‘big misunderstanding’ or ‘filler plot’ Again too many times authors fill the book with unnecessary characters, circumstances or problems between h/h because they feel it’s a sure fire way to heighten suspense or tensions or whatever. Really it’s just irritating and makes me lose interest entirely. Adele Ashworth never once strayed into either one of these areas. The h/h come to blows several times but out of these confrontations there is honesty and more secrets revealed. It’s a slow progression to learning the entire truth about Ian’s time in the dungeon and Viola’s role in it all and that is what keeps the story, these two characters and the tension going. There are really no secondary characters to interfere with the plot that is about these two people. Ian and Viola are the stars of the show and they are together in almost every scene. I hate it when hero and heroine are apart for several chapters as they converse with meaningless characters just for the sake of drawing everything out and really appreciated that there was none of that in this book. There are no misunderstandings, only secrets that are hard to admit to one another. Nothing is drawn out for an immeasurable amount of time and the slow reveal of secrets kept is perfectly timed to keep the reader invested.

As for the issue of this book verging on a ‘forced romance’, similar to Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan, I haven’t read Campbell’s book through, only the first 70 pages or so, but from my understanding and reviews I’ve read, that novel is much more of a ‘forced romance’ I think it’s clear in this one that both the hero and heroine have strong feelings for one another, Viola especially admits more than once prior to their love scenes that she cares for Ian and has strong feelings for him. This isn’t a “heroine says no but her body says yes scenario” she says yes and means yes and has no regrets after the fact. Ian is pushy and manipulative in some scenes but what I found interesting is how the ‘forced’ part was reversed.

**Spoiler Start**Although Ian can't remember everything that happened while he was in the dungeon, he is pretty sure for much of the novel that he was raped or pleasured against his will. His plot to destroy Viola doesn't start out as anything similar to this. He wants to ruin her in the face of society, not ravage her as he believes he was**Spoilers End**

In this sense The Duke's Captive strays far from Campbell's novel which is very much in your face about the revenge the hero is going to inact against the heroine. I think the waters are muddier there. Although I in no way am condemning Campbell's book. I think that for some, it would just be harder to swallow while reading.

This book is, however, an all consuming revenge romance where the hero is bent of destroying the heroine for what he sees as his justice against the only person who escpaed retribution for his kidnapping. His feelings for Viola are apparent, but I appreciated that the need for revenge didn't wane in favour of the 'all consuming love'.
This was a great book with a lot of depth and feeling and the emotions run high through out. In my opinion a perfect revenge romance.

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