Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: "Captive Bride" by Bonnie Dee

Captive BrideCaptive Bride by Bonnie Dee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, can I say how much I love the cover of this book? It's not only beautiful but it fits the story too! That's quite a rare treat in today's crazy publishing world, LOL.

This was my second read by Ms. Dee and it was another winner. I'm not familiar with her backlist - but I definitely plan to be - so I don't know if this is her niche in writing, but I loved how she wasn't afraid of tackling "controversial" subjects in the two books I've read. So refreshing!

Captive Bride takes place in San Francisco, 1870 - which is an unusual setting in Romancelandia. Just so you get a better understanding of that time and place, here's an excerpt of the Author's Note:

"In 1867 the Pacific Mail Steamship Company began regularly scheduled runs between Hong Kong and San Francisco. Between 1870 and 1883 an average of 12,000 Chinese were arriving in San Francisco each year.

In 1870 California passed a law against the importation of Chinese, Japanese and Mongolian women for the purpose of prostitution.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed by Congress in 1882, was the only U.S. law ever to prevent immigration and naturalization on the basis of race."

Chua Huiann is one of those Chinese women who are taken from their home country to be a prostitute in San Francisco. The difference is, she and her parents have been lied to and believe that she's to marry Xie Fuhua, a Chinese businessmen who's made his fortune in America. When Huiann is taken to Xie's Pleasure Palace and finds out what he really wants from her, she pretends to be resigned to her fate in order to buy some time. She manages to escape before her virginity is sold to the highest bidder and runs to hide inside the first shop that catches her attention.

Alan Sommers is a solitary man who's still trying to forget the horrors he suffered during the Civil War. When Huiann bursts through the door of his shop and starts talking to him, he doesn't understand a word she says, but the desperation he sees on her face is enough to convince him to give her shelter from whoever is after her.

And so it begins... Huiann and Alan's relationship is very tentative at first, as one can't understand the other's language and have to communicate through drawings and signs. Alan hires Huiann as a housekeeper so she has a safe place to stay - and hide from her "owner" Xie - and they soon find themselves irrevocably attracted to each other. But what good can come from that? Xie's a powerful man, he wants his "property" back and, on that matter, the law is on his side. And even if Xie wasn't a threat in itself, the "good citizens" of San Francisco wouldn't compliment Alan on marrying Huiann, a woman of "inferior" race. Are Huiann and Alan destined to live in hiding?

This was one of the most romantic books I've read. Yeah, romance books are supposed to be romantic, I know, but this one was different. I don't know how to explain it, I can only say that I was very aware of Huiann and Alan's love for each other during this read. Something in Ms. Dee's writing struck a chord with me, even though I thought it was too poetic now and then.

I did have a problem with the pacing of the story, though. The first half was too slow and very descriptive. I could see why it had to be that way, considering that Huiann couldn't speak English and had to rely on her other senses to understand the new and sometimes frightening world that surrounded her, but I found myself wishing for a faster pace.

Overall, I really liked this book. It had great characters - yes, I mean not only Huiann and Alan, but the secondary characters too - and an engaging story. What's not to like?

Note: I received this eARC from Carina Press via NetGalley. That had no influence on my review/rating.

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