Though she has started to get more attention, I still consider Helen Kirkman to be something of a buried treasure. Her distinctive style fits her chosen time period well, and every time I pick up one of her books, I feel transported back to the Dark Ages and the clashes between various English peoples and Viking invaders. In that sense, Captured is no different. Though not quite so vividly moving as the earlier books in this series, readers still get an unusual and intriguing tale.
Rosamund, a Mercian princess sent into Viking captivity by a king wishing to curry favor with the invaders, has no future other than life as a concubine. She has lived this life for three years and sees no end in sight. Then one night, she stumbles across a chained Mercian prisoner. Moved for reasons she almost cannot herself understand, she wagers on him in a game of dice.
The prisoner Boda is startled to learn of the princess’s actions and of her identity. Even though he knows her to be a fellow Mercian, he does not fully trust her with the truth of his identity. Yet, even as Boda does not trust Rosamund, he knows she harbors a secret and he is determined to get at the truth of her life and that of her mysterious maid. As Rosamund and Boda travel together with the Viking party, they are thrown together, with each feeling passionately drawn to the other even as their minds try to caution against it.
While some of the intial mental lusting is a bit overdone here, the chemistry between Rosamund and Boda feels real. At times Rosamund seems like the most clueless concubine on earth, but her inner strength goes far to save her character. Boda is a likable hero. In the beginning, he is frustratingly enigmatic, but as the reasons for this become clear, it makes sense within the story. Rosamund and Boda’s relationship feels a touch improbable at first, but as the story moves along, a believable spark builds and my attitude went from puzzlement to finally feeling invested in the story.
As in her other books, Kirkman evokes her setting well. The inner power struggles among the Vikings and the political landscape of a divided England come to life as a necessary part of the story rather than being delivered as a series of stilted lectures from the mouths of characters. As a result, Kirkman’s world has an intriguing feel to it. The taut suspense of the story, heavy with foreboding, mixes with the historical setting to create a mood that feels in part like a gritty historical saga and partly like something from classical drama. Told in the author’s characteristic style using comparatively little dialogue, the result is a tale that keeps readers turning the pages.
Though Captured takes longer than strictly necessary to hit its stride, this adventure romance is still worth a read. The author has an unusual style that stands out from the crowd, and I appreciate her willingness to take risks. Those who enjoy trying new styles or different time periods will likely appreciate this book. While the earlier books in this series are stronger entries, this story still has qualities to recommend it, and I am glad I read it.