marginalia || Captive of Sin, by Anna Campbell

I won Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell from an Avon Books Twitter giveaway, so yay. Anyhoo, I only got around to reading it yesterday, and it was amazing. Amazing.

One of the criteria I have on whether a book’s wunnerful or not is if it made me cry. (Which, people who know me would reason, isn’t even that rare a thing; I really do cry at long-distance telephone commercials, and bah, weddings.) Has anyone ever had that ache in your chest when you read? It’s an ache that radiates to the tips of your fingers, and it just hurts—because the scene was written so well (not because it’s a terrible book, hahaha.) You identify with the hurting the characters are going through, and the reader-character empathy is at its all-time high.

That happened with Captive of Sin. This is not a lighthearted read by any means. Neither is it an Uber-Gothic romance with grumbling/grunting alpholes. There’s a well-deserved angst between the characters, within the characters themselves. Sir Gideon Trevithick is one of the most damaged heroes I’ve ever come across, and Lady Charis Weston (who’s known as Sarah for a good half of the novel) was just admirable for her, hm, stalwartness in letting Gideon see that, hey dude it’s okay to lurve.

This is what the back of the book tells you:

He pledged his honor to keep her safe . . . // Returning home to Cornwall after an unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He’s dismayed to discover that she’s none other than Lady Charis Weston, England’s wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat. // She promised to show him how to love—and desire—again . . . // Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She’s grateful for his help but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

A recent complaint I’ve had lately, when reading romance novels, is that, well, that I want overwrought—I read Wild and Wicked in Scotland by Melody Thomas and my one paltry nitpick (aside from the matter of the toothbrush, but thanks, Carina!) was that: “My problem with the romance novels I’ve been reading lately is that, well, they’re not too terribly romantic. That is: I WANT OVERWROUGHT, PEOPLEZ… I just miss a good swoon, ya know? When was the last time I swooned?” I realize that romance novels have “gone a long way”—that they don’t linger over those breathless moments and focus on True Serious Love. Bullshit. I want romance in my romance novel, and I want it in heaps.

Ladies and gents, I swooned with this one. It was romantic, it had just enough angst in it, it was crazyfrazygood. Case in point: sometimes, I had to put the book down because the real world called. I put it down very reluctantly, and the story still lingered with me. And when I ran back to the book, it immediately plunged me into the story, and the experience wasn’t diminished, or the value of the scene.


[1] The conflict between the characters is not run-of-the-mill at all. Gideon is such a damaged man, and there’s so much strength in him too, so much kindness—not that he lets himself be aware of it. He’s been through unspeakable horrors, and this has wrought so much havoc in his life, in how he interacts with people. We’re quickly informed just how deep the damage goes: he can’t bear the touch of another person. And the complications that arise make for some of the most heartwrenching scenes I’ve ever come across—and those scenes were hella good. You know that reader-character empathy I was babbling about? Campbell serves it in bucketfuls.

See, I wanted to give Gideon a hug. But then that would be impossible (never mind that he’s fictional). Nobody could give Gideon a hug, not even a handshake. And that’s where Lady Charis Weston comes in. She is so obstinate in her loving, in her believing in him, that she goes on a campaign to break all his barriers. And nothing but conflict waits down that road, and, well, that’s where these two people become the most human. And it hurts.

[2] The writing was phenomenal. Campbell has such control of her prose that even though scenes were overwrought, she didn’t need to go overboard by showing us how overwrought things actually are, with all sorts of purple prose. Taking a step back might just tell me that there are all sorts of purple prose; however, it doesn’t matter, it’s not purple, it suits the form. I see I’m fumbling here too. Bah. It’s a good book, okay? [Why do I always have trouble talking about really good books? Bah.]


[1] Many who read this have argued that whatever change the heroine undergoes isn’t independent or individual. That is, her change occurs in relationship to her relationship with Gideon. I guess I should tell you now that you’ll end up reading the book for Gideon—not that Charis is made of cardboard. Gideon is just so compelling, and Charis is made compelling by how she loves Gideon. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; in fact, I didn’t mind at all.

[2] I wish it were longer. I wish the resolution didn’t come too soon, that we were able to see more of how Gideon and Charis dealt with their problems. I wish the ending hadn’t come too soon, I really really really wished there was that usual tired epilogue with heaps of children running around. I liked Gideon and Charis, I was rooting for them.

Miss Campbell, I do hope I get to see more of them. Maybe a sequel with Gideon’s good friend Akash is in the works? PLEASE? Or I’ll go Misery on your ass. [See how much I like this novel? I rarely ask for sequels. Thing is, Akash wasn’t so obviously set up for a sequel, unlike the characters in Liz Carlyle’s novel. So PLEASE.]

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