The Captain of her Fate
If, like me, The Captain of Her Fate intrigued you by way of the synopsis but it was the series name – The Other Bennet Sisters – that inspired you to pick it up, check it out, add it to your TBR, or all of the above, then please take this warning to heart : just go and reread Pride & Prejudice instead. In the course of two hundred and forty-one pages, Mason makes so many references to it that I honestly lost count (and was very glad I hadn’t made a drinking game out of it). References that include a summary of the plot, throwing in repeated comparisons of her characters to the iconic personas from the classic romance, and all of the above for Sense & Sensibility, too. So frequently did Austen pepper the pages that I feel like this read should have earned me an additional checkmark on my Goodreads Challenge total.
The characters of Mason’s own work, however, don’t measure up to the originals. In consulting the checklist of requirements that send readers of this genre clamouring for a new release, the author has included a few of the more trendy elements in her novel. We have a scarred/wounded war hero, Captain Raynalds, who is dead set against love and marriage because he has been scorned by his previous intended after the loss of his leg and who, as a result, can never trust a woman with his heart ever again. And then we have a bright, witty, intelligent – and don’t forget beautiful – heroine in Louisa Bennet who is looking to convince her newly arrived neighbour to marry her post-haste so she can dodge a union with her cruel and abusive cousin. Said cruel and abusive cousin also happens to mirror the behaviour of Louisa’s own father, a baronet, who enjoys employing a variety of birch canes on his wife and daughters when they displease him. Naturally, having grown up in this less than stellar environment, Louisa is keen to avoid marrying a man like her father and is willing to escape such a fate in any way she can.
She and Raynalds circle each other for a time before giving in to the inevitable, all the while tossing out statements of belief that later turn out to be hypocritical, details that are repetitious, and, in the case of Louisa, just being totally over the top. The reader is supposed to feel sorry for a heroine who has been subjected to cruelty and yet is also trying to hurry a man to the altar, a man who owes her nothing, by the by, and who resorts to stomping her foot and throwing tantrums when he is more than understandably hesitant to shackle himself to a woman who barely knows him and might never truly love him “but hopes one day she might.”
If that isn’t bad enough, this same heroine shows a startling lack of enthusiasm towards her intended groom when, finally guaranteed her happily ever after and in the aftermath of her dramatic rescue from Cruel Cousin Charles, she snarks out a response about being reluctant to be married over an anvil in Scotland (the standard Gretna Green elopement package). Raynalds, is understandably miffed about her snotty behaviour – did he not just move heaven and earth, suffer injury and more, to rescue her so they might be together? And Louisa is concerned about her white dress getting a little dirty and how this doesn’t match up with her dream of being married in a lavish church ceremony?
Honestly, this might have been a tolerable – if simple – story had Louisa just been a little more agreeable. She’s touted as being a reasonable, intelligent, rational woman, and yet in a moment of despair and depression, thinking her Captain will never find her, she not only contemplates suicide but also considers living a life as a hoity-toity whip-wielding pleasure worker. This scenario is apparently a totally realistic option because, believing herself to be pregnant, she doesn’t know what other options life might afford her if she ends up alone and childless without the support of her family.
There were so many times I had to set my Kindle aside because the temptation to chuck it against a wall was often hard to resist.
While Louisa was definitely more checked out of reality than her counterpart – a man whose only sins were to be too forgiving, have completely valid reasons to be cautious with his already-damaged heart, and yet also be really unkind to his sister for no reason at all – I do have to wonder at some of the choices the author makes along the way. There are so many scenes of mistreatment and unkindness but there are no corresponding reactions from those who are witness to it. Charles grabs, pinches, and hurls hateful commentary at Louisa – in one case all at once when they, and two others, are in a carriage together – and no one reacts. Louisa herself, even, is punched in the stomach by Charles in an attempt to help her miscarry, on the off chance she’s with child, and just… nothing. I don’t know about you but if someone punched me in the stomach I would a) cry ‘ow!’, b) slap my assailant, c) puke, or d) all of the above. Instead she just walks away and worries about the state of her maybe-baby. I’m just at such a loss.
The Captain of Her Fate might feature many of the things I love about this genre, but instead of making those elements appealing or interesting, they just feel one-dimensional. The book is over-the-top and too ridiculous to be taken seriously – but without any humour that might otherwise have made it bearable; and it doesn’t even feel like an historical novel; no matter how many relevant events in history regarding the war or Bonaparte are included (often out of nowhere, too). Ultimately, the abundance of villainous, or unfeeling, characters overwhelms the story in an attempt to disguise the weak, or questionable, personalities and choices made by our leads. As a result, the whole story either plods along or careens out of control; there’s no middle ground here.
Despite my love of Austen, or maybe because of it, this is not a series I will be continuing to read, and I have no interest in reading anything further by this author.