Captured

Captured - Victoria Lynne My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

I’ve been meaning to read Captured since I fell in love with VL’s writing in With this Kiss, a highly recommended read from me. And I’m glad to report that Captured delivered what I was looking for and more- twists in the regular captor-captive theme and loads of adventures to go with it. Did I mention that there’s a sexy Northerner hero who was also a war veteran, haunted by guilt and madness of the war? The English-born heroine was spunky, to say the least and a born-to-do-it con artist.

Cole has been a happy-go-lucky second son of a rich family until the civil war started. Cole was handsome, a ladies’ man and utterly charming in his way. The prologue gives us a glimpse of the type of man he used to be, ‘carpe-diem’ and enjoy-whatever-life-delivers-you kind. He never liked his family business of assembling carriages (I’m pretty sure it was something akin to transportation), so he trained to become a sailor. The freedom of this lifestyle tempted him beyond anything. Even though this caused a bit of raft with his stern father and equally stern elder brother, Cole’s father gave him the money when he wanted to buy his own ship. Cole didn’t disappoint. He was confident that he could build a fortune; he did that and even gave his father back his money with interest. Then Cole was off fighting in the war as any young chap would do, to find adventure. But life taught him, in the hardest way possible, that war is not about adventures. When this story starts, it was only beginning of the civil war. I’m not very knowledgeable about this, so pardon if I make any mistakes. Most of it comes out from Cole’s narration to Devon or his musings as the story progresses. Cole was working as a blockade runner, his ship recruited for the purpose. Before going back, he took his only nephew Gideon with him, even though his brother and SIL didn’t like the idea. Cole thought as a teenager of 17, Gideon needs see more of life. The boy looked like Cole, blonde and amber eyed. He even had the same temperament so it wasn’t surprising that he loved what his uncle did. But tragedy struck soon when Cole was duped and got trapped by a ship, most of his crew killed in front of his eyes, including Gideon and he survived but wounded, with a scar on his face. This incident changed Cole’s life. The nightmares begin to haunt him and the layers of guilt for his ‘mistake’ didn’t help the cause. Cole is broody, always in a somber mood. Life is a different place for him now. When he’s healed physically, his Admiral asks him to go travel somewhere and escort a prisoner; someone who is convicted of treason and would be hanged in Washington. Cole doesn’t like this job but he assumes that it’s a way to pay for his foolishness.

Devon was born in England but in a twist of fate, now she’s in America, awaiting hanging after a farce of a trial. Devon’s life was a sad one and made me cry more than once. She and her physically challenged brother, Billy, were neglected by their father most of their lives. Their mother, though loved them, never could get over this. Once she died, their father lied to them about taking them somewhere and abandoned them on the train. This part was really heartbreaking for me. Reaching their destination, they found this proprietress of an orphanage. Devon and Billy were thoroughly neglected in there. Devon, never being the passive sort, forever would be in trouble for her mischief and would be punished in return. When they were a bit older, Devon ran away taking Billy with her. But Billy, who was about 9 at that time, died of cold and hunger, leaving Devon all alone. I felt for her soo much, she was only about 14 when that happened. One day, just after Billy passed away, Devon was thinking of committing suicide when a big, portly man came up to her and gently started asking her various things. I think he knew what she was about. Devon didn’t know what to think of the man but he took her home, fed her, and gave her a place to stay. Devon wasn’t a servant but was treated as his relative. Sure enough, the man, who asked her to call him Uncle Monty, adored Devon as if she’s his blood relation. I would say, as Cole did too, that Devon was extremely lucky to have found Uncle Monty. Soon, Devon was learning various forms of swindling, cheating, thieving and acting of every kind from the master himself. She excelled him in some ways and because Monty adored her, he was always enthusiastic about her training.

Uncle Monty proved to be quite the character when he finally makes an appearance. But he made some mistakes in assessing people, one was, trusting a man like Jonas Sharpe. He and Devon was duped into thinking she was going to marry a rich man somewhere far away. Devon knew that her chance of having a future was about zero in England and so, she agreed to travel to America, just for the sake of having her own family. Yes, Devon, like any other girl, had a soft heart and dreamed of marrying and having children someday. But, as fate would have it, she ran out of her luck the day she stepped onto the American soil. Framed for murder by Sharpe, she was arrested immediately, convicted in equal haste and was being delivered to Washington. But as I said before, Devon was never a passive girl and so, she became the thorn in the arse for the persons who were responsible for her. She defied them and ran away and fought all the way when she was caught back. Then Devon learned that a new man has been assigned and she thought... well, the only thing still on her mind was an escape any way, until she saw the broody but very handsome Captain McRae.

Cole was also surprised to see his prisoner, whom he without a doubt thought would be a man. No one mentioned about a woman, and a very beautiful one at that. She started affecting him immediately. But Cole ignored it. He was bend on absolutely loathing her. He already knew that she was trouble, as his predecessors informed him. And he knew that she’s a conniving b*tch, who was also an assistant of Sharpe, the man who was responsible of the death of his men. The man he’s going to find and exert revenge upon or die trying. He would do it soon, but until then, he has to take care of this little mess. Cole would do whatever it takes to glean information out of this woman. None of his predecessors was successful but Cole doesn’t care. He would do it. So, yes, I couldn’t blame Cole for being a meanie to Devon for the first parts of the book. He didn’t care for her, or at least tried not to care at all and he didn’t believe in her words. Poor Devon, she couldn’t make Cole believe in her story, the almost true story (because she can’t reveal her true identity and Uncle Monty) she’d told to whoever asked her. The ride was fun, in a weird sort of way. Devon tried her best to escape from Cole but Cole was very hard to dodge and fool. Devon was caught more than once. It wasn’t out and out a ‘cat and mouse’ chase but close enough. There were many instances where she was being a bit foolish in her plans for escape (i.e. that reckless train jumping scene) but it was natural that she was so desperate for freedom. In between, there’s something else blooming too, against Cole’s better judgment. He didn’t want to care for Devon, whom he called simply Blake. Devon, after spending a few days with him, clearly got that this man is haunted by nightmares and can’t sleep at night. She too, was coming to care for the handsome captain, even though his somewhat harsh treatment of her should’ve made her back off. Soon after her escape on the train was thwarted, sort of, by Cole, he also beings opening up to Devon. Cole’s plan- to keep his enemy closer and be nice, so that she begins opening up too. We get to learn some of his childhood here but Devon remains vague about her origin. Then, they stop at an army camp, the general his close friend. I loved these scenes. But I couldn’t help my tears as I read about death of the general’s only son, who was just a teenager, on a skirmish. Cole was again reminded of Gideon’s death and his own inability to save his nephew. This haunted Cole for the half of the story, up till he bonded with Devon in a deeper and more intimately.

Something about Cole soon enough made Devon talk about her past, at least most of it. Even after everything, Cole hasn’t been abusive to her in anyway. She felt safe whenever he was near. It was apparent that both were forming attachment. Cole, by now, after spending much time with Devon, was beginning to believe in her story. One day, still on their way to Washington, Cole finally talks about why he wants this revenge on Sharpe. Devon is saddened. Then something sort of caught my attentions in a weird way. Many times Devon lifted Cole’s wallet without his notice but gave it back, entertaining me in the process. She also stole this watch from him, which had an affectionate engraving from a woman. Devon assumed it was either his wife or someone close. It disturbs her that he might have a wife at home. Later Cole confirms that he’s single, though getting women had never been a problem for him. He tells her that it was a gift from his SIL, Gideon’s mother. The thing is that, seeing Cole’s reluctance to accept it back, I had a notion, crazy but I had it. I actually thought she was once his lover, sweetheart or something but married his brother instead. The issue of Gideon looking like him was highlighted so many times that I thought there might be something going on here. But, it was never really confirmed or addressed later, leaving me floating a bit. Cole never explained why his SIL gave that watch to him.

Cole’s sadness and self-loathing eats at Devon. They come closer; there are kisses here and there to prove that they want each-other no matter what. Cole has already asked Devon to trust him. I understood why Devon said that she doesn’t know if she can. But, Cole made a plan anyway. He can’t marry her, because according to his assumptions, he won’t be a good husband to her. He won’t even think about it. Cole would take her to Washington and leave her with his friends to find Sharpe. Once Sharpe is brought to justice, Devon would be free to marry someone of the high society. Needless to say, the notion of Devon marrying someone else doesn’t sit well with Cole. But he’d help her anyway. Frustratingly enough, Devon didn’t know any of it and so, when she found him still determined to take her to Washington (even after her repeated appeals of letting her go back to England), she reasoned that a man so honor bound as Cole can never betray his people. So, after the chat about Cole’s past that night, they end up making love on Devon’s insistence, something they both knew was inevitable since their introduction. And the next day, she was gone.

This is where, IMO, starts the second part of the story. The adventures surrounding this part made me feel like I’m reading another book. It surprised me but in a good way. This part jumps three weeks and Cole’s been looking for Devon’s trail tirelessly. He has to find her and let her know about his plans... and possibly, his feelings. Cole knew by now that his feelings for Devon were deeper and stronger. Her trail leads him to St. George. At first, from the dirty looking innkeeper’s words that she’s working here, Cole thought the worse. But, soon, he knew how wrong his assumptions were. Trust Devon to find a not-so-obvious way to make money! As Cole waits for her, Devon comes in with two men, garbed in fashion and flirting profusely. It was clear how with her dramatics and other ‘useful’ skills, she’d take the money from the poor fools. Cole doesn’t waste the chance to make his presence known, astounding her. Devon starts to soak up in Cole’s presence. It’s obvious that she missed him a lot. Devon knew she was already in love but there was no other option in sight. Though she made contact with Uncle Monty, she was also trying on her own to save some money. Cole’s presence here would ruin everything. And worse is, she still thought that Cole chased her here to hand her over.

After he possessively takes Devon from those men, Cole sets Devon’s worries to strait. He tells her of his plans. And OMG, surprise, surprise! Uncle Monty is here, with flairs that only he can muster! The man was something, I tell you, his works and actions glib and purposeful, mostly selfish but there was no denying that the man hides a heart. His adoration and love for Devon makes it more evident. To top it off, Uncle Monty and Cole start something in the lines of camaraderie as soon as they meet, their sole purpose to get revenge on Sharpe, astonishing Devon. Cole already proposed marriage to Devon but she said no. After they meet Uncle Monty, there was no nay-saying for Devon. I mean, it’s not like Devon was unwilling. She wanted Cole more than anything but she also knew this marriage would be unwanted. Again, frustratingly, she didn’t get the depth of Cole’s affections for her. This does create rifts in their relationship, this trust issue and these misunderstandings. After they marry hastily, Devon was happy and wanted to make love to Cole. So was he. But Cole kinda bungles it up. *sigh*

It starts with a gift that Devon gives him. Cole already didn’t provide the kind of wedding a girl, even like Devon, dreams of; no flowers, no wedding band, and no one present at their wedding. Devon was a bit depressed but she waved it off. Cole doesn’t even have a wedding gift for her but is happy to have this amber-stoned clothe pin that reminded Devon of his eyes. Cole promptly assumes that she stole it from some shop. He doesn’t judge her, oh no, but it glaringly shows that when you’re named a thief, you’re always branded one no matter what. This really shakes Devon badly and the fact that how unhappy she’s going to be in this marriage. She can’t possibly go on knowing that the man she loves views her this way. His kindness would rub raw every time. Cole doesn’t understand at first and seeing her withdrawing, he leaves her. But he senses that he had messed up badly… Now, please don’t judge Cole harshly for any of these. He was more than desperate to make Devon his, and so, he was focused only on the process of how to achieve that. He didn’t have a clue that he’s missing some important details. And then, the next day, before his ship sails to their destination, Cole is determined to buy his wife (oh, he loves the sound of it because it’s Devon) a new ring that would show off she’s his. In one of the jewelry shops, Cole finds something that drowns him into guilt again; Devon’s mother’s wedding ring, the one she always kept on a chain around her neck. Cole now despairs of making it up to her. He buys this enormous ring with emerald, the color of Devon’s eyes and at night gives it to her. He also gives back her mother’s ring. But it doesn’t wash away the distance. Cole is desperate and you won’t but feel for the man. He tells Devon that he’s always a bit late to get these things, but for me, the best thing was, he always did grovel and tried his best to make it up.

Later though, Uncle Monty shares his wisdom with Devon, telling her that she has to give this thing between them a chance to ‘take root’. By then, Devon was more than willing to... I found these bits and pieces of scenes really admirable. I also found it immensely satisfying that Devon takes pity on the poor man and makes amend that very night, totally surprising Cole. They have hot sex and I loved their connection. Even though, at times, I found a bit hard to connect with Devon’s POVs of life, her absolute support and loyalty to Cole won me over. She proved it many times in the later parts of the story. With this little development, their plans of finding Sharpe were on the way. Monty and Cole made plans together, of which Devon was largely unaware of. Cole, by no means, would let any harm come to her. They soon anchor at a port where Cole frequent for business and owns a house. Devon is happy about this place. It seems like a place she can call home. It’s beautiful and the servants are accommodating. They stopped here also because Sharpe wanted to see Monty (he didn’t know it was Monty though) in here. Now, in here, Devon and Cole’s relationship become stronger. But, for some reasons, Cole keeps asking Devon about trusting Monty. Devon trusts her uncle with her life but she’s also loyal to Cole and so, she becomes worried, maybe even a bit suspicious of Monty. The surprising twist on the climax of the story was heart-stopping... literally! Since Devon didn’t know Cole and Monty’s plans, she was caught off guard by something. I really ended up admiring her for her efforts in what she thought, was for saving Cole from Sharpe’s machinations. Good God, Uncle Monty, you gave me a heart attack, you SOB! It was nail biting, with some really heart wrenching moments accompanying. But the end result? I was sappy happy and had this loopy grin on my face for Cole and Devon. When I look back at their relationship in the beginning and now, Cole’s transformation from a broody, somber man to someone who always smiles sunnily up at Devon becomes very meaningful to me. It becomes really special. Oh, that man stole my heart completely.

I’m definitely coming to appreciate these elements of surprises more and more in VL’s stories. They would take you by storm but in a very good way. I also appreciate the emotions and the intensity that her characters share. Can’t wait to read my next VL book! 4.5 stars. Splendid!