Captive Heart
by Sarah McKerrigan
(Warner, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-446-61616-8
***
Immediately prior to the opening of Captive Heart, Helena of Rivenloch in a drunken impulse attempted to assassinate her sister Mirielís betrothed husband, the Norman lord Pagan Cameliard, in his sleep. Paganís man, Sir Colin du Lac, stopped her, and as the story begins he is hauling her down the stairs.

The year is 1136, and King David of Scotland has sent Sir Pagan to Rivenloch to marry one of Sir Gellirís three daughters. Miriel is the youngest and most vulnerable of the sisters, and Deidre and Helena are worried what marriage to a Norman will mean for her. Helena is one of the Warrior Maids of Rivenloch and is second-in-command of the castle guards.

Even as Colin is imprisoning her, he cannot ignore how beautiful and desirable she is. After she is released, Helena turns the tables. She takes him hostage and forces him to an abandoned cottage in the forest away from the castle. Her plan is that she will hold him for ransom: Sir Pagan can have his man back if he marries Helena rather than her sister.

Sir Colin is insistent that Sir Pagan will not comply with her demands. It seems he may be right as the days pass with the two of them still alone.

In spite of this bookís having a number of characteristics I dislike in books, I got into Captive Heart immediately and never considered putting it aside unfinished. I canít remember the last time I enjoyed a book so flawed.

These are some of its faults.

  • The heroine is solidly rooted in TSTL tradition.

  • The plot depends heavily on coincidence and the readerís willingness to forget everything she ever knew about the 12th century and European history. I expect an historical romance to at least pretend itís based on history. The way these characters behave is way out of sync with the purported time period.

  • The characters are extremely unrealistic. The heroine seems to be modeled on Wonder Woman or Xena, Warrior Princess. The hero is a celebrated warrior whoís a gourmet cook and such a renowned gentle lover that women throw themselves at him. (At least he doesnít cook potatoes.) Twelfth century Scotland was never like this.

  • The cultural backgrounds are confused. Colin is a Scottish name, but the hero is from Normandy while the heroine with her classical Greek name is from Scotland. Go figure.

  • Thereís no explanation whatsoever for how Colin and Helena are communicating. Theyíre from different countries with different languages, but this issue isnít even addressed.

  • The story is heavily dependent on the first in the series, and thereís insufficient backstory for those who are unfamiliar with it.

  • The prose at times can be termed florid ... or worse.

  • Her tresses cascaded over her shoulders like the tumbling froth of a highland waterfall, and her curves were more seductive than the sinuous silhouette of a wine-filled goblet.

Ordinarily, a book with this many problems wouldnít be earning above two hearts, but since it passed the put down/pick up test so well, I promoted it to three hearts. My advice is that you not deliberately seek out Captive Heart, but if it comes into your possession, read and enjoy. Just donít expect it to make much sense.

--Lesley Dunlap


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