Captive Bride

Dee, Bonnie. Captive Bride (2011). 300 Pages*. Carina Press. $4.69

From Amazon

San Francisco, 1870

Huiann arrives in America expecting to be wed to a wealthy businessman. She no sooner disembarks from the ship than she realizes Xie is not looking for a bride: Huiann is worth more to him as a high-end prostitute. Though her fate is better than that of other Chinese women forced into the sex trade, she has no intention of waiting for Xie to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. At the first opportunity, she escapes and disappears into the city.

When a beautiful woman takes refuge in his store, Alan’s life changes forever. He’s spent the last five years trying to forget the horrors of war, and had almost given up hope of finding love. He hires Huiann as his housekeeper, and though they can only communicate through signs and sketches, they quickly form a bond that transcends the need for words.

But Xie is determined to recover his property, and love may not be enough to protect Huiann from his vengeance.

First Lines

Clouds were painted on the flat blue-gray sky, not even a gull disturbing the barren heavens. From great black stacks, ribbons of white billowed behind the rapidly moving ship. Although the steamer cut steadily through the waves, it seemed it wasn’t moving at all– as though Huiann would spend the rest of her life standing on this deck, waiting for her new life to begin.

When she imagined meeting her husband for the first time, she wavered between nervous anticipation and wrenching fear. Was he handsome, ugly, old, young? Would he treat her gently and listen to her thoughts or expect her to keep silent about her ideas as she tended his house? She hadn’t been allowed to ask such questions when her parents announced she was to be a bride.

Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this, but as the story unfolded, it became clear that this story was better than I had expected. It’s a romance, so it’s about finding love (in this case, interracial love when that wasn’t allowed), but it’s also about finding friendship, acceptance, and a home.

Alan came to San Francisco to escape  his past, and the dark memories which haunted him. It hasn’t worked too well, but he keeps hoping that will change. He has, however, done well enough for himself that he runs his own store, and lives above it. His life changes when a beautiful Chinese girl ducks into his shop, obviously hiding from someone, though she doesn’t know enough English to ask for help. Being a good guy, he hides her, and offers her a job as a housekeeper in exchange for a place to hide.

Huiann doesn’t know what to make of this strange man. The language and culture barriers between them keep things tense and awkward, but it’s clear to her early on that Alan is a good man. So she stays. And finds herself becoming more and more attracted to him as time goes on. It inevitably grows into a friendship, and then into something else entirely.

One of the biggest hurdles for Huiann and Alan is the language barrier; Huiann doesn’t know English, and Alan doesn’t know Mandarin. Nor does he know anything about her culture, though he tries to learn. I was a bit dubious at first, because the linguistic/cultural barrier problem is all too often botched, as authors use devices of convenience to rush the relationship. That didn’t happen here; Huiann struggles to learn English, and Alan tries to help her. In fact, their inability to communicate with each other leads to one of my favorite scenes as they take advantage of each other’s lack of understanding to confess difficult things to each other.

The romance was sweet, building slowly enough that it didn’t feel like a whirlwind, yet never dragging so much that it felt slow. That is to say, it was well paced for the page count, and I feel like it was handled well enough. It’s clear from early on that Alan is interested in Huiann, but it takes a while for her to become interested in him, which works.

Overall, I’d say it’s earned a 4/5. It’s not fine literature (most of what I read isn’t) but it was a good read, with good writing, and an interesting plot. (Plus, they didn’t completely botch San Francisco.) If you like historical romances, I’d suggest this one.

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Interested? Please consider buying it through this link, to support my blog.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

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* It is officially 75,600 words, which is about 300 pages at 250 words/page. It’s a digital-only book, so there isn’t a print page-count.

6 Comments

Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Chick-Lit, Historical Romance, Romance

6 responses to “Captive Bride

  1. “fine literature” is overrated. I’ve been reading sci-fi all month!

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    • Nothing wrong with a good science fiction novel. Read anything particularly good?

      I wish I enjoyed “fine literature” a bit more than I do. Some of it I enjoy (like Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” which makes me giggle every time) but there’s quite a bit I really and truly didn’t like (Dante, for example.)

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      • Ah, I love Dante: “Midway upon the journey of our life. I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost” LOVE IT.

        re: Sci-fi, you should read anything by China Mieville, he’s this amazing London writer. Alastair Reynolds is awesome too!!

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        • I went to a school with a “Great Books” program, so it wasn’t like we got to choose to read classics & things. I don’t know if I’d have liked Dante much even if I had chosen to read his work though.

          Are there specific books you’d suggest by those two? Or just… start anywhere?

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        • ‘The City and the City’ by China Mieville is mind-blowing. It’s about two cities that are built together; in the same place. And the citizens of one city aren’t allowed to have anything to do with the other. They have to ignore each other in the streets and not walk into each other’s buildings etc. If they’re caught mixing in the other city, then they’ve committed a crime called ‘Breach’ and all hell breaks loose. It’s AMAZING.

          ‘House of Suns’ by Alastair Reynolds is really great too: it’s a big, sprawling, mind-blowing sci-fi epic. You have to get used to weird sentences like ‘one million years later’ – but it’s darn good!🙂

          Tomcat

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  2. Mia

    I’d second China Mieville, although I’ve only read “Un Lun Dun.” It’s quite a good YA book. You have to be patient at the beginning, though–there are some hiccups and jerks that are explained later on by the plot.

    Back on topic, I read a review of this book on Dear Author a while ago, and now over here. It looks interesting. I tend to shy away from West-meets-East romance novels, simply because so often there’s that “exotic Asian girl give you backrub five dolla” feel that just makes me cringe so hard. This one sounds a bit more researched and culturally sensitive, though, so maybe I’ll give it a go.

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