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REVIEW: Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell

Dear Ms. Campbell:

0061684287.01.LZZZZZZZI read your controversial debut and while I appreciated the chances you took, it didn’t inspire me to read your other books. When Captive of Sin arrived on my doorstep, I thought I would give the book a chance.

Sir Gideon Trevithick  finds a woman cowering in the stable where his horse is quartered.   She has clearly been beaten and when he extends his mantle of protection, she would rather be alone and in pain that accept his help.   Gideon will not be gainsayed and sweeps the woman into his carriage and away from the perceived danger.   He vows that he will not only protect her but he will not harm her himself.

Lady Charis Weston is one of the wealthiest women in England. Her stepbrothers are trying to force her into marriage with another man to pay off their debts.   Charis refuses.   She is only a few months away from gaining control over her fortune.   Her stepbrothers engage in a series of small punishments which crescendo into threats of rape and of actual physical abuse.   She runs away with no clear picture or plan, just an instinctive need to be away.   She doesn’t trust Gideon and tries to escape several times until she realizes she is in far more danger by herself than in the hands of Gideon.

Gideon is honorable and he has no intention of laying a hand on Charis.   He can’t, actually.   As a result of a year long incarceration as a spy, Gideon cannot bear the touch of another human being nor can he touch someone.   To do so triggers a serious PTSD response wherein he gets physically ill.

Gideon and Charis fall in love which each other although but are not able to overcome the Gideon’s aversion to touch.   This theme of this story is that true love conquers all and while I would like to believe it, I felt that Gideon’s trauma was so extensive that the good loving of Charis wasn’t sufficient to cure Gideon.

I felt emotionally detached even though there were two very moving scenes in the story.   I kept questioning the rapidity   Gideon’s recovery from his lack of desire to be touched.   I loved the idea that Charis would be proactive and that she was determined to play on his desire for her until she could break through.   But the trauma of Gideon’s captivity which built over a year’s time just seemed so quickly resolved under the seductive machinations of Charis.   I think I wanted to see more tentativeness on the part of Gideon; more days of seduction by Charis.   I’m not sure if the story was rushed or you felt that prolonging the “cure” would be tiresome.   My reaction was simply that Gideon was too damaged to merely succumb to the wiles of a pretty girl.

I also felt that Charis was wholly underdeveloped.   What was her character arc?   How did she grow?   What was her emotional conflict?

Given the dark tone of the story, I thought the ending was a bit too kittens and rainbows for the two of them. I think that had I been more emotionally attached to both I would have enjoyed the ending more.   As it was, though, I recognized this story was well written with good prose and emotionally moving from an objective perspective, but I felt that there was a barrier between myself and the characters, mostly because I doubted the redemption of Gideon from his self hatred to acceptance.   B-

Best regards,

Jane

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

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Barb
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 12:42:13

    I had this book on my TBR list, until all the reviews kept hitting the same point: Gideon being cured, in a relatively quick time, by Charis’ love powers.
    It is the same problem that I had with Hoyt’s To Desire A Devil: The power of the young woman’s Magic Hoo-hoo to quickly cure PTSD. Gaack!
    This is where I would really appreciate a longer book. Spreading the story out over a longer time frame would let the story unfold in a more realistic way; and I think, a more satisfying romance. YMMV

  2. Sandy James
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 12:52:07

    I might have to give this one a “look-see.”

    Writing about PTS is very difficult. You have to get the seriousness of the condition across while also giving your character hope for a chance to heal. Sometimes those heroes simply become too maudlin to do well in romance.

    I wrote a story about a soldier returning from Iraq (All the Right Reasons), and I had to do quite a bit of research on PTS. A “kittens and rainbows” ending, especially one that comes too easily, does a real disservice to PTS victims. Judging from reviews, I successfully avoided that pitfall. (Not braggin’, just reporting what others have said…) I’d like to see how Ms. Campbell handled her ending so I can make comparisons.

    Nice review, Jane. Thanks for covering a story with this sensitive topic.

  3. Sandy James
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 14:10:45

    Something about this topic has been nagging at me all day, and I just figured out why. I’d just read about it on another post on Dear Author. Joan/Sarah F just commented on this same sort of “glossing over” of PTS in her review of Thirty Days. One of the main characters is only “thirty days” out of a situation that “abusive” doesn’t begin to describe, and there is no mention of what is being done to help him recover, nor is his recovery ever explored as if his PTS really wasn’t all that important.

    PTS is serious business, and I guess I take it personally on behalf of people who have PTS when it’s glossed over as unimportant or fixed with nothing but a hot, sexual encounter. This, a magic hoo-hoo will not cure.

    So on second thought, I think I’ll skip Ms. Campbell’s story. It might just make me angrier.

    Sorry. Off pedastal now and going back into lurkdom.

  4. Carin
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 17:54:53

    I’m the adoptive parent of a severly abused child who has PTSD. She’s 8 years old and has been with us for 5 years and still deals with this every day. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say she deals with PTSD every moment of every day. I still have hope for her, and she’s come a long way, but when I read that people wish the book were a little longer… how long could the book be?

    It wouldn’t surprise me that the first 3 years of my little girl’s life follow her long into adulthood. And while she will (hopefully!) function at a very near normal level, I’m not sure that her story (and that of people suffering from PTSD) make for a very good HEA. We readers (or me myself, anyway) want a HEA, and generally that doesn’t include the yucky stuff that won’t go away. In my real life, we change the definition of success – it’s not settling for less that you can have, it’s being satisfied with what you can get. And that’s not your typical, satisfying HEA.

    I’ve not read this book, but I’ve read some of Hoyt’s that have heros dealing with PTSD and my respect for how very well she’s handled the PTSD and my enjoyment as seeing someone overcome and get a HEA has far outweighed my annoyance at the miraculous healing. I don’t really even mind the kittens and rainbows. I want them IRL, and they feel far away. Oddly, it doesn’t make me bitter to read them… just happy and hopeful.

  5. sarah mayberry
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 18:56:37

    @ Carin

    For what it’s worth, someone close to me has been dealing with PTSD issues and has recently had some success and comfort from “eyes-closed” neurotherapy. I believe some returned Iraqi veterans have been exploring the same treatment in the US. It’s basically aimed at trauma formed on a subconscious, non-verbal level – particularly helpful for trauma that may have occurred pre-language, as in during early childhood. I gather there’s a bit of a groundswell about neurotherapy these days – lots of good research coming through, and it’s certainly helping a lot of kids with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Although, of course, it’s definitely in the “alternative therapies” basket.

    Re the review, I have this on its way to me and I can’t wait. I love Ms Campbell’s work and had the pleasure of meeting her at conference this year – she’s a fun, clever lady. I love the idea of two broken people healing each other. I also like the idea of truly exploring how powerless women were in Regency times – a lot of Anna’s work has touched on this idea, and while I am addicted to Regency/historical romances, I must admit the notion of how freaking powerless most women were is very, very scary. Plus I am a huge sucker for damaged heroes. Can’t get enough of them.

  6. Sandy James
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 19:22:06

    @Sarah

    Plus I am a huge sucker for damaged heroes. Can't get enough of them.

    I love them as well, especially if they’re well-written and show how the hero grows. Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers from the Storm” and “The Shadow and the Star” are probably my favorite books with a heroes who need saved. Put it this way, I love Damaged Heroes enough, I named my series after them. :-) I just want their portrayal to be realistic to help them reach an authentic HEA.

  7. sarah mayberry
    Oct 31, 2009 @ 19:56:28

    @Sandy
    I am on a Kinsale glom at the moment. I adored the hero in “The Shadow and the Star” – that whole book just made my chest ache. Am currently reading “For My Lady’s Heart”. Sooooo good, even though it took me a while to get into the swing of the middle English speech. Her research and commitment to the story and characters is truly inspiring/intimidating. Sigh. Gush. Sigh.

  8. Ellie
    Nov 01, 2009 @ 17:42:20

    I was wondering how to pronounce the heroine’s name. Is it a K sound (like Karis) or Ch as in chair-is? Or something else completely?

    I really enjoyed the book, but as a guilty pleasure. It took a huge suspension of belief to believe that Gideon could recover so quickly. It was a very romantic, emotional book that hit me in the gut. It feels like lately everything I’ve read has been paranormal/suspense with some romance tossed in. This book was IMO quite romantic (albeit unrealistic).

  9. Janine
    Nov 02, 2009 @ 01:16:54

    @Ellie:

    I was wondering how to pronounce the heroine's name. Is it a K sound (like Karis) or Ch as in chair-is? Or something else completely?

    I could be wrong but I believe the name Charis is Greek and therefore pronounced with a K sound.

  10. GrowlyCub
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 10:06:26

    I just finished this book yesterday and my main reaction was that it was all tell and not show. I kept thinking, ‘yes, you said that before about them, but I didn’t believe it then either and repeating it over and over again doesn’t do anything but annoy me’.

    I also felt very detached from the characters and I wonder if that was deliberate to convey Gideon’s isolation from society, but all it did was make me not care about him and Charis.

    Add one-dimensional villains, stupid sub-plot and this was a major disappointment before we even get to the magic powers of the heroine’s private parts… and again the book was way too short. It would have been much more interesting to explore their lives away from society and to see if this really would have been the problem for Charis that Gideon expected.

    What a let down. :( C- for me.

  11. Jane
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 10:25:15

    @GrowlyCub I don’t disagree with your assessment. I did give it a higher grade because I think Campbell is a superior writer even if she didn’t deliver on what the book seemed to initially promise. There seemed a lot of obvious author manipulation going on and the obviousness of it kept me from feeling connected, like you.

  12. GrowlyCub
    Nov 25, 2009 @ 14:19:38

    @Jane:

    Ordinarily, I’d agree with you on her writing skills, but I felt there was lots and lots of telling going on instead of showing, possibly as short-cuts to lower word-count. I’m getting really grumpy about all these extremely short books I’ve read lately that feel like the authors weren’t allowed to develop their stories.

    I’m still thinking the fault lies with the publishers, but maybe I’m being optimistic about that. This is the 5th or 6th book in a row that I feel needed another 100 pages to reach its potential.

    I decided I’ll stop buying new books for a while. I really feel like I’m wasting my money on these products that read more like early drafts than finished books. Very disappointing! :(

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