The Captive by Grace Burrowes

captive

He’ll never be free…

Captured and tortured by the French, Christian Severn, Duke of Mercia, survives by vowing to take revenge on his tormentors. Before the duke can pursue his version of justice, Gillian, Countess of Greendale, reminds him that his small daughter has suffered much in his absence, and needs her papa desperately.

Until he surrenders his heart…

Gilly endured her difficult marriage by avoiding confrontation and keeping peace at any cost. Christian’s devotion to his daughter and his kindness toward Gilly give her hope that she could enjoy a future with him, for surely he of all men shares her loathing for violence in any form. Little does Gilly know, the battle for Christian’s heart is only beginning.

Rating: A

I’m a big fan of Grace Burrowes, as anyone who knows me or reads my reviews will already know. The Captive is the first book in her Captive Hearts trilogy, and is one of her most emotionally poignant and insightful stories yet.

An officer in Wellington’s army, Christian Severn, Duke of Mercia was captured by the French, held prisoner and tortured for months until Napoleon’s defeat ended his ordeal. Physically and mentally scarred, Christian returns to England a shadow of his former self, unable to eat or sleep normally, unable to feel much when informed of the deaths of his wife and young son, he is sustained principally by thoughts of taking revenge upon the man who tortured him.

Recently widowed Gillian, Countess of Greendale is related to Christian by marriage, having been cousin to his late wife. She arrives at his London home unexpectedly one evening bringing the news that his eight-year-old daughter, who is residing at his country estate, has stopped speaking and has begun to refuse to go out. She needs her father, and Gilly is adamant that he return to Murcia as soon as possible.

He agrees to go, but on one condition – that for the remainder of his stay in London, Gilly moves in to run his household, and that she will travel to the country with him to fill the same position.

Broken as he is, Christian can sense that Gilly is not comfortable around him, although, in his weakened mental state, he is unable to discern why that is. He ends up putting it down to the fact that she must have heard the rumours about him being unhinged, and to her discomfort at being left alone with him while they discuss the reasons for her visit.

Comfortably installed at Murcia, and with Gilly’s concerned prodding – making sure he eats and at least tries to sleep – Christian’s recovery comes along in leaps and bounds. He regains his health and strength, bonds with his daughter – who he comes to realise is not prevented from speaking by any physical problem – and continues to make discreet enquiries as to the whereabouts of his torturer, Girard, who, it transpires, is actually half-English.

As Christian’s friendship with Gilly begins to blossom into something of a more romantic nature, she is suddenly beset by a couple of potentially serious accidents – which Christian suspects are no such thing. Someone is trying to deliberately harm her, although neither of them can think why or who would do such a thing. Christian must protect the woman he loves – but he cannot bring himself to abandon his quest for revenge upon Girard, and that could spell disaster for all of them.

Ms Burrowes has once again crafted a beautiful and heartfelt love story, this time between two emotionally damaged characters who have to learn to trust, to talk and to listen. Interestingly, it’s Christian who is the more forthcoming of the two, gradually opening up to talk about what happened to him and to admit to his tangled feelings of anger, guilt and shame. Gilly is far more reticent, having hoped to keep her private torments private – suffering the guilt of a victim who believes herself to be responsible for what happened to her at the hands of her family and her late husband.

The author’s exploration of effects of the torture Christian suffers are both gripping and somewhat unsettling. Her descriptions are not graphic, but she doesn’t pull her punches either, especially when it comes to exploring the more emotional side of Christian’s experiences – the mental cruelty rather than the physical, and the methods he found to deal with both.

The Captive is a thoroughly engaging story, which is perhaps a little darker in tone than the majority of the author’s other books. Ms Burrowes’ writing is, as ever, lush and lyrical, full of tenderness and poignancy; and the romance between Gilly and Christian is beautifully developed.

Through the course of over twenty published novels, this author has created a world which is distinctly her own, while retaining (mostly) the conventions of the period. Her characters act and speak in ways which are unique to her books and she’s one of those writers whose work can probably be identified from reading a page or two anonymously.

She has also a large cast of characters she can re-use and re-visit. Why bother to create a dashing cavalry officer when you have Devlin St. Just in your casting directory? Why invent a capable solicitor and man of business when you have Worth Kettering at hand? I enjoy the way she brings in characters from her other books and series to play secondary roles and cameos – it provides a sense of realism and interconnectedness that I find particularly appealing.

The ending of The Captive nicely sets up the next book in the series, The Traitor, which will tell Girard’s story. As someone who absolutely loves stories which turn villains into heroes, I can’t wait.

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