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Carla Capshaw

REVIEW: The Duke’s Redemption by Carla Capshaw

REVIEW: The Duke’s Redemption by Carla Capshaw

The Duke's Redemption by Carla CapshawDear Ms. Capshaw,

Thanks again for offering me a copy of your second Steeple Hill Historical romance, “The Duke’s Redemption.” But while I enjoyed the – once again – different setting used in this inspy – this time Charles Towne, SC in the waning months of the American Revolution – overall this book didn’t work quite as well for me as your first one.

He came to the colonies for one reason: revenge. Drake Amberly, Duke of Hawk Haven, won’t leave South Carolina until he’s unmasked the colonial spy who killed his brother. Yet the more he sees of spirited Elise Cooper, the more he’s moved by the happiness she brings him-never suspecting the dangerous secret she hides.

Her faith drives Elise to spy for the rebels, dreaming only of freedom for her homeland. Then she meets Drake, and learns that love could be hers, as well. When his pursuit of “The Fox” brings him dangerously close to the truth, she’ll risk everything to prove that love and forgiveness are all they need.

Well, it isn’t really her faith that drives Elise to spy, is it? Yes, she’s an American patriot but I get the impression that this isn’t what truly gets her motivated. Instead it’s a subplot that I give you lots of bonus points for including – the fact that her half sister is a slave and by spying, Elise has the chance to earn Prin’s freedom. I can’t recall many books utilizing this time period when slavery is mentioned at all much less one that has a major secondary character who is a slave.

Elise is a bit of a problem for me though. She’s supposed to be one of the best spies in the area yet how much spying is she going to be able to do when she’s always wearing a mask? I know this is to set up the mystery of her identity and allow it to remain until almost the end of the story but it makes little sense. And then she has initial doubts about Drake, feels he’s up to something and doesn’t trust him yet suddenly – when she begins to have feelings for him – she’s defending him to the other spies in her spy ring in the face of the mounting evidence of his real identity. In other circumstances I might buy her defense but in this case it’s her life, as well as those she cares for, which is on the line. Mention of how captured spies were normally hung is repeated enough over the course of the story.

Drake, once I got over the fact that a Duke would leave England on a mission of revenge thus leaving all his dependents, responsibilities and properties in the lurch, I feel plays his role better. When he’s given the standard “my wife didn’t love me and my fiancee was a cheating slut” background, I did worry. “Oh noes” I said, “Not one of those types of heroes.” But despite an initial scattering of mistrust of all women, Drake quickly falls for Elise and treats her honorably. Even after he discovers the truth about her, he still just mainly avoids her instead of taking his anger out on her. And when the rubber meets the road, he comes through and doesn’t drag out a reconciliation out of pique.

Another thing which impressed me about the book is the fact that no side is presented as a saint while the other is an evil ogre. There is good and bad on both sides. Each side makes mistakes and each can act honorably. The character of Zechariah is especially
multifaceted. He’s a true Machiavellian person willing to threaten some distasteful things to get the end he wants. Did you make him this way so that the English hero would be the more honorable man?

You create great conflict between your heroes and heroines. There’s no doubt that Elise is involved in the death of Drake’s brother even though she didn’t actually pull the trigger. The issue which could divide these two isn’t gray and there’s no perhaps or perhaps not. It’s something they will have to work out and accept. I like this in a book rather than some silly misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a short conversation. But the clearing up here feels rushed. I know that the actual amount of time is longer than it seems – I would think due to word count limitations – still I would have liked the appearance of more time spent coming to terms with the issue.

As a whole, this is a good sophomore book. I cared about the characters, I like the use of an unusual setting for an inspy – and appreciate the fact that the action, especially the spy parts – isn’t all sweetness and light. If the heroine had come across to me as a more competent spy and the conflict resolution had worked better, my grade would be higher but as it is, I’ll give it a C+

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REVIEW: The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw

REVIEW: The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw

Dear Ms. Capshaw,

0373828241.01.LZZZZZZZThanks for submitting your first historical novel to Dear Author for review and thanks to Michelle Styles, whose first book I read was also a gladiator novel, for suggesting it. Today we use the phrases “thrown to the lions” or “throw ‘em another Christian” in all sorts of situations but here’s a book where you actually do it.

He won his fame-’and his freedom-’in the gory pits of Rome’s Colosseum. Yet the greatest challenge for once-legendary gladiator Caros Viriathos comes to him through a slave. His slave, the beautiful and mysterious Pelonia Valeria. Her secret brings danger to his household but offers Caros a love like he’s never known-.

Should anyone learn she is a Christian, Pelonia will be executed. Her faith threatens not only herself, but her master. Can she convince a man who found fame through unforgiving brutality to show mercy? And when she’s ultimately given the choice, will Pelonia choose freedom or the love of a gladiator?

First off, I have to wonder at how leniently Caros treats Pelonia despite her numerous stated intentions to run away and her one attempt at it. Sure, he’s in love but, as he says regarding the jealous Lucia, he can’t afford to have anyone in the ludus or his household question his authority. So this whole part of the story, including the jealous female trope, I just had to accept and move on. Ditto on the pet tiger though you do use him imaginatively to save the day.

I appreciate the effort you put into choreographing the training and fight scenes in the story. Too often all I get is some generic “their swords clashed together” and that’s it. If the novel is about fighters, then I want some fighting action and here I got it. That being said, readers should know that the scenes in the Flavian Amphitheater might be more than they’re expecting in an inspy.

Since I come at inspirationals from a secular standpoint, I don’t want to be preached at. Sure I want to see how faith changes the characters and is part of their daily lives but I’m never looking for something along the lines of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” And as with the fight scenes, you come through in spades. Brava. What continued to strike me throughout reading this book is the immediacy of it all in a time when to be a Christian often meant a quick trip to an ugly death.

You also present the characters with all inclusive tests of faith. Pelonia gets to live the lament, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” She’s also forced to make a life or death decision about whether to renounce her faith and live, or stay true and be condemned. Added bonus: she’s watched Christians die in the arena and truly knows what she’s accepting when she makes her choice. Her friends are shown worrying about whether or not they’ll be turned in to the authorities thus living the question “Who can you trust?”

I think Caros’s gradual path towards his new faith seems realistic. At first, he’s just going to listen to Pelonia because, basically, he thinks it will get him laid. His change of heart is slow and due to incremental exposure to this faith which might offer redemption to even a former gladiator who, despite the adoring throngs of women, historically was fairly low on the social totem pole of Roman life. Added bonus two: his past, as an actual fighter in the arena, as well as a currently being a lanista who had supplied fighters who had killed Christians, beefs up the conflict between Pelonia and himself. Can she forgive this, as Jesus instructs? Added bonus three: Pelonia has to wrestle with her doubts and faltering moments of faith.

From early in the book, I had a feeling where the story was headed and I wasn’t wrong. But I do have a question. Now that Caros has saved Pelonia and committed himself to Christ, what’s going to happen to them? She’s been outed to the authorities and her evil uncle is still alive, though his power will undoubtedly be curtailed thanks to the political maneuverings of the Senator. I can’t see Pelonia and Caros being safe in Rome anymore – or anywhere in the Empire for that matter.

Books set in Rome were once few and far between. Thankfully, the setting appears to gaining popularity now. Yours is the first inspy I’ve read from Harlequin employing this setting but I hope it won’t be the last.


This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. The Amazon Affiliate link earns us a 6-7% affiliate fee if you purchase a book through the link (or anything for that matter) and the Sony link is in conjunction with the sponsorship deal we made for the year of 2009. We do not earn an affiliate fee from Sony through the book link.