Captivated by Her Convenient Husband
I’ve always been fascinated by Sommersby-esque stories, where a husband returns from war a changed man, but that gives rise to doubts about who he is. Bronwyn Scott’s Captivated by her Convenient Husband is just such a romance, and while I liked the risk it takes plot-wise, the resolution didn’t quite work for me.
The story begins when Lord Fortis Tresham, believed dead for a year in the aftermath of a battle, has been found by his former comrades in the army. It has been seven years since he left to join the army, and at first his wife Avaline doesn’t know how to react. She married young and was in love with Fortis, but their parents arranged the match to keep her land safe, and Fortis wasn’t interested in being either a husband or a landowner. He consummated their marriage, spent his little remaining time in England with his friends, then went off with the army. Avaline wrote to him regularly, didn’t receive a single reply, and resigned herself to her situation.
When Fortis returns, though, he’s different. He makes a dramatic entrance at a party, where he saves Avaline from the unwelcome advances of Tobin Hayworth, who has his eye on Avaline and her land, and who was hoping to have Fortis declared dead. After that, Fortis settles down to manage their estate, and even helps the tenants thatch roofs, something he would never have dreamed of doing before. Although he’s disappointed that Avaline is not eager to welcome him, he doesn’t press her on this, and he tells her that decisions about the estate are hers as well as his.
Avaline soon realizes that her husband is much more interested in her than he was before, and it’s clear that he’s matured a great deal during his seven-year absence. Soon she finds herself falling in love with him. But two problems arise. The first is that Fortis has flashbacks to a time when he spent months in a cave with a man whose name he doesn’t recall but who he knows saved his life. His memory is a patchwork, thanks to the injuries his friends saw him sustain during the battle – except those injuries don’t correspond to the scars he now has.
The second issue is that Tobin Hayworth becomes convinced that this man isn’t actually Fortis, and he sets out to prove it. Avaline soon has her doubts as well.
Fortis loved her.
It was too good to be true. So, followed the perverse conclusion, if it was indeed too good to be true, then it probably wasn’t. The seeds of Hayworth’s claims took slow root and the beginnings of doubt coupled with her own fears threatened in the form of another wicked syllogism.
Fortis Tresham did not love her. This man loved her. This man was not Fortis Tresham.
I’ll try not to spoil anything, because the matter of Fortis’s identity was one that kept me reading despite the lack of conflict between Fortis and Avaline other than the way he ignored her in the past. Suffice to say, this story was not predictable with regards to who Fortis is, and this led to some difficult situations that were genuinely harrowing.
What I didn’t find plausible, unfortunately, were the reactions of Fortis’s family. Perhaps the length of the story didn’t leave enough space to realistically develop how parents and siblings might receive devastating news, or perhaps it’s because the HEA has to extend to everyone except the villain, therefore everyone is delighted at the end. Whatever the reason, I’d need an industrial crane to suspend disbelief here, and so this aspect of the book was not a success.
In terms of the characterization, Fortis stood out because of his struggle to deal with the past, and his determination to work his way back into a marriage he took for granted. Not to mention his growing conviction that his memory has played tricks on him to the point where he believes he’s someone he isn’t. Avaline, on the other hand, is a generic heroine, loyal and loving and beautiful. Their romance is smooth and sweet as whipped cream, though once the question of identity takes over, the story becomes more gripping.
Captivated by her Convenient Husband has its strengths and its weaknesses. Readers who enjoyed the series will want to see the Fortis plotline wrapped up, though couples from the previous books don’t shoulder their way into this one, so newcomers can start here without having to keep a large supporting cast in mind. For myself, this story was good but not great, and while I appreciate that it did not take the easy way out at first, the perfect Sommersby-esque romance remains elusive.