Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: His Captive Lady by Carol Townend

Dear Mrs. Townend,

book review When I read the description for your newest book, “His Captive Lady,” all I truly noticed is that it’s a medieval and set in the fens of East Anglia. It’s not until I began reading it that it dawned on me that it’s also a Saxon vs Norman story featuring a Saxon maiden and a Norman warrior. It was with a sigh of relief that I realized it was different from the other 1001 books with this combination of lead characters. For one thing, Erica is an outlaw on the run and despite the fact that Wulf is, yes, a bastard, he’s also half Saxon and more willing to use his head and negotiating skills to bring peace than just randomly hack at things with a sword.

Sweet baby Jesus but Erica was determined to end the generations old blood feud! That might be taking things just a little too far for modern sensibilities. I’m firmly with Wulf on that one. But, having said that, I’ve got to admire her courage for being willing to go just that far. As Guthlac says, she’s a true peace weaver.

As the book progressed, I began to notice that Erica isn’t that great a leader. In fact, it seems that everything she tries – to end the feud, to raise money, to get back to her housecarls, to escape from Wulf – goes terribly wrong. By the point when Wulf yells at her that she’s a fool, I had already reached that same conclusion. She’s certainly willing to try her best but I think that secretly her people will breath a sigh of relief that Wulf’s the one in charge now.

I do like how you bring religion into the book. Claiming sanctuary, the risk to one’s immortal soul for violating it, and the marriage ceremony were all central to the book. I found it interesting that Guthlac, the rebel POS, wouldn’t haul Erica out of the chapel but Wulf would. Would this perceived risk to his soul impact his marriage to Erica or not since they married under Saxon law? And why did Wulf initially make such a big deal about the fact that de Warene wouldn’t give his consent to the marriage if in the end, it didn’t matter so much anyway? Would people of this era have used the word “hell” as a swear word as we do? I’m just curious.

This is the way I like to see past groups/sets of characters revisited. We get to see Rose and Ben are happy in their lifestyle, still doing the things they love – music and sewing – but you don’t have to haul them into the main action of the story. What they do is important to the action of this book and not just an excuse to see them again. Thank you.

The setting and the weather of this book reminded me so much of Ariana Franklin’s “Mistress of the Art of Death” series. I’d love to see the fens. Or have they all been drained now? The whole idea of traveling mainly by boat or skates as an everyday occurrence is fascinating. And then the frozen, bone chilling cold felt immediate – something which is nice with the current heat and humidity of a Southern summer beating me down every time I go outside!

I like how you make the distinction between Saxons and Normans evident by the description of their dress and hairstyles. Erica’s costly silk veils, wonderfully dyed dresses and beautiful arm bands, bracelets and rings show her high status among the cultured Saxons. Wulf’s desire to cut his hair and shave reveal his Norman leanings. I thought it was a nice touch for Erica to be able to determine Wulf’s feelings for his long dead Saxon braider mother from how he treasured what she had made for him.

So, despite the fact that the plot for the book has been told any number of times, you do add enough twists to the cannon to make the story different. I liked that in the end, Erica makes the decision to “cut her losses” and stop resisting the inevitable Norman rule instead of having it forced down her throat. I just wish that you’d picked another name for the hero besides one that so strongly reminds me of Wulfgar. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

5 Comments

  1. Carol Townend
    Jun 27, 2008 @ 16:06:54

    Hi Jayne,
    Thank you so much for reviewing the book!
    To answer some of the points you raise, with regard to language and swear words (or words or any type for that matter) the language we use today is so far removed from that of 11th century England, that I came to the conclusion that it has to be a matter of trying to convey a flavour of the period. I am not into ’tis, and ’twas etc, but that is largely a matter of taste. People of the time certainly knew what hell was, and so…it was my judgement that ‘hell’ was acceptable. Not everyone will agree.
    Wulf as a character (in answer to your point in paragraph 4). Wulf is an outsider who wants to become an insider, this is why he tries to keep so precisely to the letter of the law over the commands he has been given. But his lord, De Warenne, being secure in his position, is able to waive the rules.
    I can’t say much about the choice of name for the hero. Of course I have read The Wulf and the Dove but that is not why I chose it. I chose it partly because of the time of year in which the novel was set (the month of the wolves) and partly simply because I love the name Saewulf, which is so redolent of the Norman ties with the Vikings, and also partly because of a certain friend of mine. She knows why!
    The fens are still there, most of them. We visited Wicken Fen last year and its stark beauty helped inspire the novel. I do love using different settings in my stories.
    Best wishes
    Carol

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Jun 27, 2008 @ 18:39:14

    with regard to language and swear words (or words or any type for that matter) the language we use today is so far removed from that of 11th century England, that I came to the conclusion that it has to be a matter of trying to convey a flavour of the period. I am not into 'tis, and 'twas etc, but that is largely a matter of taste. People of the time certainly knew what hell was, and so…it was my judgement that ‘hell' was acceptable. Not everyone will agree.

    Oh I agree on not using ’tis and ’twas. I hate those words. But my supreme loathing is reserved for mayhap. ;) I don’t know why but that word gets under my skin. I was just curious if you knew when the word hell began to be used as it is now. Of if it always has been.

    I can understand Wulf wanting to fit in and feeling he must obey every little decree. That makes sense.

    I’m glad to hear that the fens are still there. I had thought I’d read somewhere that a lot of them were drained in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    ReplyReply

  3. Carol Townend
    Jun 28, 2008 @ 01:51:55

    Dear Jayne,
    Have just bought a couple of books of (translated!?) Anglo Saxon poetry. A line in The Battle of Maldon has caught my eye: ‘wulf on wealde’, which means ‘the forest wolf’. It may take me awhile, but I will come back to you if I find ‘hell’ used as it is used in the novel!

    A lot of the fens were drained but some are still there. There is talk of letting some of the water back in, it is quite expensive keeping it at bay. As you may guess this is causing quite a lot of local debate.

    And I agree entirely about mayhap!

    Best wishes
    Carol

    ReplyReply

  4. Jayne
    Jun 28, 2008 @ 07:43:58

    A lot of the fens were drained but some are still there. There is talk of letting some of the water back in, it is quite expensive keeping it at bay. As you may guess this is causing quite a lot of local debate.

    Haha. Oh, I’ll beat there is – debate I mean. I read recently that Amsterdam is also thinking of restoring some of the canals that were filled in during the last century with hot debates ensuing both for and against. Apparently the homes on canals are going for higher prices now.

    And I found this.

    Online Etymology Dictionary – Cite This Source – Share This
    hell

    O.E. hel, helle “nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions,” from P.Gmc. *khaljo (cf. O.Fris. helle, O.N. hel, Ger. Hölle, Goth. halja “hell”) “the underworld,” lit. “concealed place,” from PIE *kel- “to cover, conceal, save” (see cell). The Eng. word may be in part from O.N. Hel (from P.Gmc. *khalija “one who covers up or hides something”), in Norse mythology Loki’s daughter, who rules over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all worlds (nifl “mist”), a death aspect of the three-fold goddess. Transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom, used in the K.J.V. for O.T. Heb. Sheol, N.T. Gk. Hades, Gehenna. Used figuratively for “any bad experience” since at least 1374. As an expression of disgust, etc., first recorded 1678. Hell-bent is from 1835. Hell-raiser is from 1914 (to raise hell is from 1896); hellacious is 1930s college slang. Expression Hell in a handbasket is c.1941, perhaps a revision of earlier heaven in a handbasket (c.1913), with a sense of “easy passage” to whichever destination. Expression hell of a _____ is attested from 1776. Hell or high water is apparently a variation of between the devil and the deep blue sea. To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare (1596). Snowball’s chance in hell “no chance” is from 1931; till hell freezes over “never” is from 1919. To ride hell for leather is from 1889, originally with reference to riding on horseback. Hell on wheels is from 1843.

    I wonder what the OED would say?

    ReplyReply

  5. Carol Townend
    Jun 28, 2008 @ 08:28:18

    Jayne,
    The Oxford Dict is pretty similar, it cites Hell as being both Old English and Medieval. And there are the definite links to the Norse mythology.
    Best wishes
    Carol

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: