REVIEW: His Captive Lady by Carol Townend
Dear Mrs. Townend,
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-