NOTE: In late August, Jenny won an ARC of Anna Campbell’s Captive of Sin from us, and we asked that she review it for us after she read it. Jenny is as thorough in her opinion as we are in ours – way to go, Jenny. What follows is her review.
Lady Charis Weston, the wealthiest heiress in England, is fleeing from her wicked stepbrothers (yes, there are wicked stepbrothers in this book). She manages to escape them one night and hides in the stables at the local inn, where she’s discovered by Sir Gideon Trevithick. Charis gives him a fake name and a lame cover story and even though he doesn’t believe a word of it, he offers her his assistance. Charis doesn’t trust him but, out of options and desperate to get out of the village before her stepbrothers find her and drag her home by her hair, she decides to use him for a ride out of town. Somehow she’ll then manage to escape from him and keep safe and out of sight for three weeks, until she turns 21 and gains control over her inheritance. As plans go it’s a poor one, but heroines in romance novels have a bad habit of plotting daring escapes from the noble hero only to end up in trouble that’s a million times worse.
In Charis’s defense, she’s had a rough few weeks and isn’t in a good position to blindly trust any man she meets—not even the tall, handsome ones. Her stepbrothers have been abusing her, trying to force her into marriage with a disgusting lecher of an earl, and as her guardians they have complete control over her under the law. She’s also so ridiculously rich that she’s afraid Gideon will lose his head when he finds out how much money’s at stake, especially since his estate is in need of some cash.
Gideon is a former spy currently lauded by society as a war hero for what he’s suffered in the line of duty. His only concern is making his way home to escape society and nurse his wounds, until he finds himself caught up in Charis’s lame escape attempts. One thing leads to another, and next thing you know they’ve entered into a marriage of convenience (yay!) on the understanding that Charis will go her own way once she’s of age.
Charis has developed quite a crush on Gideon, what with all the rescuing he does, so she quickly decides they should try to have a real marriage. Gideon likes her too, but his experiences have left him so deeply wounded that he doesn’t think he’s capable of having a successful relationship. And you know what? He was totally right. There were times, as I read this book, that I was convinced the poor man would end up locked away and Charis would find her HEA with a handsome young alienist working at the local bin. This is where Captive of Sin succeeded for me because MAN but Gideon needs to work on himself. Had he not ended up married to a beautiful virgin with a magic coochie, there would have been no hope for him at all. The descriptions of Gideon’s struggles were so gripping that at the end I was much more frightened that Gideon would backslide into insanity than that the villains would injure anyone.
Which brings me to what I found less successful—his recovery. This book didn’t feel rushed, exactly, but it was definitely thin. We don’t get much about either protagonist’s background other than the usual “I’m an orphan,” “OMG, me too!” conversation. Certainly there was nothing that indicated to me that Charis possessed the kind of skills one would need to single-handedly cure PTSD (or whatever it is—I’m not a mental health professional so can’t claim to know). Had she not been incredibly naive, I doubt she would have been willing even to tolerate his symptoms. And without going too far into Spoilertown, I have to say that I found her loss of virginity scene to be rather creepy and was amazed by how little she was affected by it.
Gideon’s mental recovery wasn’t terribly convincing, especially given how condensed the timeline is, and I wish this book were a hundred pages longer or that the scenes we’re given were a bit meatier. There’s a lot of potential for awesomeness in this book since Gideon’s particular problems are not ones that I can remember reading about in another romance: I felt sorry for him, I wondered how he’d ever recover, and I felt there were some enjoyable Beauty & the Beast elements to the story. Unfortunately, the heroine (sorry Charis!) and a lot of the plot felt generic and everything is magically resolved. We’re told again and again that Charis is richer than God, but what does that mean? How does that really affect her personality or change her daily life? Given the amount of control her stepbrothers have over her as her legal guardians, they could have seriously done some major damage to her. But conveniently enough, it seems they didn’t hit on the brilliant idea to sell her off until a couple of months before the birthday that would set her free of their control.
A longer page count would have allowed the author to go deeper with the characters and really bring them to life. Elements of this book (tortured hero who can be a bit of an ass, magic virgin heroine, purplish sex scenes) would have fit right into an old school 80s romance, but the length is straight-up modern. The one thing I miss about the old school romance is length—couples used to have some adventures, did they not?
In my mind there’s a huge pile of books I’ve read about tortured heroes, and Captive of Sin will never rise to the top of the heap. The writing is solid but other than an unfortunate use of the phrase “tumescent flesh” it wasn’t terribly memorable. I enjoyed reading this book, but when I think back on it I find myself imagining what it could have been instead of relishing what it was. I give it a B-.