Captured by Desire
Captured by Desire is a Tudor romance set in Scotland, with characters who are both commoners: The heroine is a goldsmith’s apprentice, and the hero is a huntsman for a nobleman. This scenario was certainly novel enough to catch my eye. But while the idea is fresh, the prose really isn’t. The love scenes and characters’ thoughts are so purple they verge on indigo; it’s the type of flowery language that was more common during the Woodiwiss era. Ultimately, that bogs the story down.
Florie Gilder has more than one goal when she journeys to the Selkirk Fair to sell her wares. All her life she’s owned a pomander from her biological father, a man of noble blood. While she’s at the fair she wants to track him down and find out the truth about her past. Matters go badly awry when her apprentice sells her pomander to Lady Mavis Fraser. Florie must have that pomander, so she takes it back – and though she also returns more money than Lady Mavis paid, Florie is branded a thief. She takes off into the forest, hoping to elude the men who are hunting her.
Rane MacAllister, huntsman to Lady Mavis’s husband Gilbert, happens to be in the forest illegally, poaching deer to feed Selkirk’s poor. He mistakes Florie for a deer and shoots her in the leg. Naturally, he feels terrible about it, and though she doesn’t trust him, he takes her to a small, run down church nearby where she claims sanctuary. He proceeds to nurse her back to health. At the same time, Lord Gilbert discovers Rane’s poaching and tells him that as penance Rane must watch over Florie and make sure she doesn’t escape.
What follows is essentially a cabin romance; virtually all of the book takes place in the old church or its immediate environs, with very minimal interaction with outsiders. This is interesting in some ways, because both characters at least appear to be religious, and most of the secondary characters are as well – they take the idea of sanctuary seriously. Rane is part Viking (Danish? Norwegian? I wasn’t really sure) and at least from his swearing patterns (“Thor’s hammer! Loki’s balls!”) appears to have a pagan streak as well.
The problem with the cabin scenario is that not a lot happens. The story bogs down about a third of the way into the book, and I had to force myself to finish it. At the same time, the purple prose kicks up a notch. How bad is it? Bad enough that I kept laughing out loud. There are repeated references to Rane’s penis as some sort of weapon or animal; “aching dagger” was probably my favorite, but it’s also a spear and a rampaging beast. He usually wants to sink it into Florie’s nether lips. Or maiden’s core. Or woman-flesh (yes, woman-flesh). Rubik’s cube and jeans with zippers on them appear to be making a comeback, but some aspects of the 80s are best relegated to a time capsule.
Captured by Desire is not terrible. The hero and heroine are not bad people, and their occupations are interesting. They even talk about them sometimes. Cabin romances can be intriguing too, and we don’t really see that many of them. But ultimately the flowery prose overwhelms everything. Kira Morgan used to write as Glynnis Campbell. When I went back and looked at another review I’d written way back in 2002, I was amazed at how similar it was (I thought her use of religion was interesting and the purple prose was ridiculous). My grade was even the same. I guess some things really don’t change.