His Stolen Bride
His Stolen Bride is the second in Zebra/Ballad’s Brothers In Arms mini-series. Drake Thornton, who was introduced in the first book, and Averyl Campbell, daughter of the Chieftain of the Clan Campbell, are the protagonists. The book’s prologue backtracks enough that it will stand independently from the other books in the series.
Drake has been falsely accused of murdering his father by his half-brother Murdoch, who plans to marry Averlyn for monetary gain. There is tremendous enmity between the brothers even before Murdoch had their father murdered and tried to pin it on his brother. It did not sit well with Drake that Murdoch seduced his mother in the distant past.
Averyl begins the book as as a naive young woman. Having been verbally abused by her father, she has extremely low self-esteem but has developed an outspoken manner and sharp tonge as a defense mechanism. She is extremely sheltered, and her father has told her that she is plain so often that she has no idea she is actually beautiful. Averyl has high hopes of a loving marriage with Murdoch, since she knows nothing of his true nature and believes Drake is a vicious murderer. She is also counting on Murdoch’s money to save her impoverished clan.
Drake kidnaps Averyl to keep his brother from marrying her; he intends to keep her with him for the nine months it will take to void his father’s will and prevent Murdoch from getting their father’s money. Averyl is quite terrified of Drake at first, yet she stands up to him and challenges him at every turn. After several unsuccessful escape attempts she comes to realize that Drake is nothing like Murdoch had portrayed him. She begins to fall in love even though she is scared of what her future holds.
Drake is a troubled hero literally fighting for his life and the chance to avenge his father’s death. He forces Averyl into a handfast with him, promising to release her after a year. Even though Drake has many reasons not to trust or love, he finds that he cannot force himself on Averyl and ends up walking away on their wedding night, realizing that he cannot take her for revenge. Bradley takes what could have been a painful “forced seduction” and turns the storyline into a legitimate courtship. When Drake and Averyl do come together, their love scenes are ultimately quite satisfying and believable.
The action is non-stop and never drags. Even amidst all the action and a short separation, however, this is very much a romance. Averyl and Drake are well matched and a very likable couple. Averyl is a strong woman who literally grows up in the course of the book, and Drake realizes he is going to have to open himself to love or be alone forever.
Often in a captivity romance I have a hard time believing the heroine would fall in love with the alpha hero, as he is usually a complete jerk. But Drake is a troubled man who quickly realizes Averyl is special. Even though he restricts her freedom, he explains himself and treats her with respect and care. Thus as these two come to know each other, their love is easy to accept.
The climax is exciting and had me turning pages quickly to see the villain disclosed and the half-brother get his comeuppance. Also featured is Drake’s friend, Kieran, a happy-go-lucky Irish warrior, whose laughing surface obviously hides a troubled man. I look forward to his book, which is the final installment in the Brothers In Arms trilogy.