His Captive Bride by Shelly Thacker

October 18, 2014 Reviews, Romantic Fantasy 0 ★★★★

His Captive Bride by Shelly ThackerHis Captive Bride by Shelly Thacker
Series: Stolen Brides #3
Published by Summit Avenue Books on December 6, 2013
Pages: 334
Format: eBook
Abducted from a trade fair by a mysterious warrior, Lady Avril de Varennes awakens on Asgard Island, an enchanted paradise cloaked in mists and mystery, kept secret from the world for centuries. Against her will, Avril weds her arrogant captor, Hauk Valbrand--even as she vows to escape. Hauk believes himself beyond the reach of love, until his fiery captive bride begins to melt his heart of ice. But soon he must reveal the stunning truth about Asgard and its people--and Hauk and Avril must choose between love and honor, duty and desire... now and forever.

Hauk Valbrand is the peacekeeper of Asgard, a timeless island paradise shrouded in fog and hidden far from the machinations of warring kings and violence of man.  The people of Asgard have lived in this paradise for hundreds of years.  But while the island provides everything the inhabitants require, the native women cannot bear children.  So every three decades or so, some of the men choose to venture out and capture brides to bring back to the island to woo their hearts and start another generation of islanders.  Hauk, having been through this process twice at great personal cost, has no intention of ever taking a bride again, but as peacekeeper must travel with the men and protect the group.   The widowed Lady Avril de Varennes is visiting Antwerp with her friend Josette.  Quite suddenly, Josette is snatched from Avril’s side and hauled off by a hulking madman.  In a quick turn of events, Hauk must step in and save Avril from another member of the group by claiming her for himself.  Avril and Josette are taken back to Asgard and married to their captors.  But Avril has a three year old daughter left orphaned at home and vows to escape the island and her captor at any cost.

Avril is a headstrong and independent woman who is used to relying on no one but herself.  She stubbornly refuses to accept Hauk’s insistence that she is unable to leave the island, but quickly begins to catch on to the fact that something is not quite right with the island’s inhabitants either.  She is resourceful and intelligent, organizes reconnaissance missions with the other captive brides in order to gather information that may prove useful to their escape.

Hauk is a lonely, but honorable man with a strict set of ethical codes.  He is torn over his growing desire for Avril and the knowledge that he will eventually be devastated when she dies.  He’s buried two wives already and has no desire to bury a third, so he builds walls around his heart to protect it from being damaged further.  A little broody in the beginning, eventually he opens up to Avril and we see the poet inside — the passionate, devoted protector who yearns for a family of his own.

The love between Hauk and Avril is a slow burn, building gradually and blocked by natural obstacles such as Avril’s daughter to whom Avril is desperate to return and the fact that Avril is, for a while, in a forced captor/captured relationship with this unknown man.  Thankfully, Hauk respects Avril’s boundaries and does not press his suit where it is not wanted.  The relationship develops gradually as the couple spend time together and get to know one another.  Though they both recognize that they are perfect mates, Avril’s daughter and Avril’s captured status continue to press on their relationship; together they must come to terms with these complications and decide what is most important.

Overall, I’m glad I pushed past the initial balking at the Asgard fantasy element, as I usually don’t like romantic fantasy.  His Captive Bride, however, was thoroughly enjoyable with a rounded cast of characters, subtle, well-paced character development, and a plot that had me turning pages for hours waiting to find out what happened next.  I particularly appreciated the twist at the end (which did NOT go as I expected) and the satisfying conclusion of a mystery subplot.

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