My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
It doesn’t often happen that you read free book from an unknown author and find something really enjoyable. I can tell because I do read a lot of freebies in hopes of finding interesting debut/new-to-me authors. This short story, Captured by Christine Cross was one from the ineresting bunches. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it. When I finished, I was pleasantly surprised by the story.
The story is set in ancient Rome (as was my understanding). Alena wasn’t born a slave and was raised in a fishing village near the sea. One day, the Roman soldiers wreck havoc on her village. With her family killed, Alena was brought to Rome and sold as a slave girl. Marcus, the second son of the noble Gaius family buys her. Alena knows what her fate would be and she’s duly scared of her of her now bleak future. When she looks up her new master, she finds that he’s young, strong and handsome with dark hair and blue-green eyes. Another man, who resemblances him to a good degree but with brown eyes and blonde hair, tells him that ‘his purchase is quite good’. Alena, as confused and angry she was, understands that this man could only be a relative of some sort to her new master.
Gaius family is the richest of all Rome. Marcus is the youngest, while his brother Maximus or Max is the heir. Between the brothers, Marcus is the more serious one and wears-his-heart-on-sleeves type. But Max, he’s not. He’s a bit on the frivolous side and uses his good looks and charms to the fullest to get what he wants. Max is married with kids but he’s not faithful to his wife, Helena. I should’ve been bothered by Max’s ways as I generally am but somehow I wasn’t. Max’s marriage was arranged and he doesn’t love his wife. At times, it felt like he wasn’t married at all because his marriage wasn’t a focal point in the story. Even though he’s a lousy husband, Max isn’t a bad father.
Soon Alena is brought to the villa of her new master. Another slave girl, Verity, helps her with bathing and stuff. At night, she’s called into her master’s room. Alena is scared but she defies Marcus’s orders to kiss him. She also, soon finds out that her master is unlike what the slave owners are generally like. He’s kind and generous. He doesn’t force himself on her, and OMG, probably is hurt by her rejection. Alena is both angry at and attracted to Marcus. She’s also intrigued by this encounter.
Marcus never thought of marrying or having kids, with Max seeing to the matter of heirs, and he’s not really into random roll in the hayloft. It can be a problem of course. Now, finding this slave girl so very different than the rest boots his interest like no other. Marcus is also intrigued and he wants her acceptance of him as her lover, without any force. In the passing days, Alena relents though because Marcus seduces her with his kisses and touch, which he didn’t need to do. Alena also hears from Verity that Marcus is, indeed, a very generous master to his slaves. As they become lovers, things start to look better. It was apparent that both Marcus and Alena are into each-other. They talk and stay together, make love. Marcus proves to be a dream come true for Alena considering her circumstances. Their relationship is not like that of a master-slave, but of a rather real couple. I felt that they just connected with each-other.
But Max starts making trouble once he gets the wind that Marcus is actually quite serious about Alena, that he might end up marrying her. This, of course, can’t be done! A rich and noble son of Gaius family can’t marry a slave! Max starts out as a very distasteful character TBH. He is selfish, thinks only about his own pleasures. The author did a good job of surprising me where Max was concerned because he was also a controversy in itself. From the description of things, Max maybe lousy in many things and the worse husband material but he has always been a kind brother to Marcus and a good father to his kids. Yet, no matter, he can’t agree with Marcus’s plan for Alena. Soon, Emperor Claudius’s niece Octavia is invited in his house for a match with Marcus.
One night at Marcus’s villa, Max meets up with him to discuss about this marriage and Marcus’s relationship with Alena. When he finds that Marcus isn’t swayed where she’s concerned, Max hatches an awful plan. He goes to the room where Alena and Verity stay. Max didn’t know that Alena now mostly sleeps in Marcus’ room. In the darkness, he mixes Verity up with Alena since both girls shared some identical of physical features and follows her. Verity was probably attracted to Max but she also knew his reputation. Anyway, the reason behind his plan was that Max could later tell Marcus that his precious Alena is not capable of fidelity. What happens next in the dark cellar wasn’t something I should’ve enjoyed, but I did. It was pure physical manipulation no doubt about it, a rake to an innocent. Max was a veritable bastard for what he did but he doesn’t hurt Verity, unless emotionally. Afterwards, even though he still doesn’t recognize who it was, Max leaves with feeling awfully guilty when Verity whispers to him that he’s a monster.
Marcus doesn’t care for his match with Octavia but a few days later, he had no other choice but to meet with her in Max’s house. While at dinner, he gets angry seeing the way Octavia begins familiarly touching and flirting with Max, him reciprocating. Marcus is also mad for Helena, who was present but not at all interested in what her husband does. Later Helena confesses to Marcus when they’re alone that she will leave Max soon. I’m still confused about the state of this marriage (apart from cheating) as it wasn’t explored well, which is why it felt like Max wasn’t married at all. Both Helena and Max were very distant apparently, though they produced three children.
That night, Helena takes her infant daughter and flees. Max flirts, gets drunk and wakes up with a headache and Octavia naked in his bed. Yes, I know I should’ve been grossed out by his activities. He wasn’t a likable man. On the other hand, Marcus doesn’t know what to do when Max shows up about Helena, which he does later in the morning. Marcus tells him the truth and I liked the way he mocks Max’s actions. In a rage, while leaving, Max insinuates to Marcus of Alena’s supposed cheating.
After that Marcus does some indefinitely moronic things, which made me wanna kick his stupid arse. But Max... he begins surprising me in turn, by trying to change his ways for good. Alena is hurt by Marcus’ actions after Max’s accusations. Marcus later frees all his slaves, including Verity. Alena and Verity meet up again in Verity’s uncle’s house. By now Alena knows Verity’s past, that she wasn’t born a slave as well but sold herself to make money so that her uncle’s family’s debts are paid. Verity is also an orphan and was raised by her uncle.
I loved the twists and turns this story took and hooked me from the first page till the last and this little fact counts! Even though I liked Marcus and Alena, Max was the most surprising character of all. After that dubious consent scene, I was more interested in his and Verity’s romance since he started showing signs of change and guilty feelings. Verity was a stronger person than she let others see, which made me love her more.
Yes, I know Captured needs some good editing, some more twists and detailing of some incidents that remained vague (i.e. Max’s revenges), still I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think the author’s writing was simple, yet good. I didn’t feel lost. She used mixed POVs technique (Alena’s from first person, while the others from third person) but it never, once, bothered me. She handled it really well. The story kinda ends abruptly so I think we definitely need a sequel. I hope the author is listening and not disheartened by the negative reviews/stars. Max and Verity need their story to be told. A solid 4 star read.
“Captured” is unfortunately not available for download in either smashwords or kobo anymore. I downloaded my copy from smashwords as a free read.
Warning: If you aren’t comfortable with dubious consent scenes, this story might not be for you!