|Florie Gilder is an accused thief on the run from the law, when she unfortunately meets archer Rane MacAllister in Captured By Desire. Florie is at the Selkirk Fair in the Spring of 1548, selling her familyís wares. As her foster fatherís drunken sadness after her motherís death has nearly ruined the familyís reputation as fine goldsmiths, Florie has learned the craft. Much to the dismay of the other men in the goldsmithís guild, her foster father has taught her, and she is a very talented goldsmith. Her small hands were able to craft a gorgeous gold pendant for the Princess Mary, which she presented at Dumbarton castle recently.
Yes, it seemed that Florieís life was going to continue on a better path with that major accomplishment, even though she couldnít take complete credit for her work as she is only an apprentice. She may even have been able to escape her foster fatherís alcoholic household if she hadnít brought her motherís pomander to the fair.
Florie and the family servant, Wat, who was brought along for protection because he was huge and strong, are standing in the fairís booth, selling wares, when Florie has to leave just for a moment to answer the call of nature in the woods. The only thing she asks Wat to do is keep her motherís pomander safe. However, in the few minutes that Florie is gone, Wat sells the precious family heirloom Ė and the key to finding Florieís real, noble father, to the terrible Lady Mavis, wife of Lord Gilbert Fraser. When Florie returns to the booth, she tells Lady Mavis that the sale was an error, tries an exchange and when all else fails, throws Lady Mavisís money back on the table, grabs the pomander, and runs.
Now Florie is on the run from the powerful Lord Gilbert and his men, running through the woods on exhausted legs and burning lungs, hoping that she can find a place to rest for the night while she tries to figure out a plan. Florie remembers that not too far away is an old wayside church, where she can claim sanctuary, confess to a priest and be held safely at the church for forty days. She increases her speed, slightly more hopeful that she may get through the day all right.
Suddenly, Florie feels an intense pain in her thigh, and she thinks that she has been attacked by a wild animal until she sees an arrow protruding from her leg. She loses consciousness. Rane MacAllister, one of Lord Gilbertís huntsmen, is poaching on the Lordís own land to feed the starving crofters, and he has never missed a target before. Heís horrified to see that he has hit a lass, and begins to help her. Florie begs him to bring her to sanctuary, and he does, while trying to keep her alive. But Rane will soon find out that Florie is a fugitive who will do anything to escape, and Florie will find out that Rane is employed by Lord Gilbert, even though he must keep her in sanctuary until her forty days of safety expire.
Captured by Desire is a contrived love story, with very little else beside the set-up situation that the characters find themselves in to keep the plot moving. It has a few wonderful moments and then a lot of drab text in between.
Florie is our leading lady, and she is supposed to be brave, willful and strong. She is willful and strong, all right; unfortunately it comes across abrasively. Florieís two-dimensional persona started to annoy me fairly quickly. She acts like a spoiled little girl, she tries to escape sanctuary while sheís gravely wounded many times, and itís supposed to be an example of her bravery. Rather, it ends up making her look silly and shallow. Florie is also painted to be very attractive, but how a dirty, wounded, mean, grouchy, woman trapped in a decrepit church could be intensely attractive is beyond me. Florie is also incredibly self-centered. She doesnít see anyone around her in a favorable light, beyond what they might to do help her further her own interests. She constantly worries about herself, and finding her own noble, real father to further her own position. Is this supposed to be resourceful and strong? It comes across as weak and self-serving.
Rane is a golden god, attractive to all women, as good-hearted as Robin Hood and honest and true. Except that heís not, quite. Rane feels real remorse after shooting Florie, which is why he doctors her even though sheís far from sweet to him at any moment. He is friends with the old priest, Father Conan, and helps him feed the needy villagers. Rane is also tenderhearted. While these are all good things, Rane also lies to his Lord and poaches on his land to get the food to feed the villagers. Raneís thoughts and feelings are mostly left undetailed as Florie takes center stage for the majority of the story, so itís hard to know his motivation. He thinks that Florie is unlike other women and he likes the way she looks, but that canít be enough to sway the Lordís man into helping a fugitive and a thief, can it?
There are a couple of surprising, wonderful scenes in the story. The first one that I really enjoyed was Raneís reaction to having shot Florie and the immediately assuming the care of his victim. His emotion during that part of the story was wonderfully detailed, and he came through as a real, gallant hero for a few pages. I also loved the scene where Rane teaches Florie to play Hnefatafl, an ancient chess game that he learned from his father. They both engage in the competition with spirit as they are so bored from the days spent in sanctuary. Itís a bright spot in the middle of a dreary time, for both them and the reader.
Captured by Desire had some promise, but unfortunately I didnít like it. Read it at your own risk of boredom.