Tuesday, March 2, 2010

retreat into romance

Niki Bruce reviews a racy, romantic read that is perfect for your summer holidays.

EVERY now and then I am convinced to pick up a book in a genre other than my usual favourites of fantasy or science fiction. Usually this is because I'm stuck somewhere on holidays and have read everything else.

So when recently faced with a choice of an historical tome on Australia's experience of World War II and Anna Campbell's latest raunchy Regency romance novel, I went with the romance. And I wasn't disappointed.
Australian author Campbell is renowned for her traditional, sexy historical romances and has a string of successful novels to her name including Tempt the Devil, Untouched and Claiming the Courtesan.
In all her novels the heroines are feisty, beautiful waifs in some sort of situation that leaves them open to being saved by a handsome, aloof man – usually a lord of some kind. Captive of Sin, the latest novel, is in exactly this vein.
While it is commonly accepted that romance novels like these are not exactly 'fine literature', what is less well known is that they are some of the most popular books in the world and are hugely lucrative for publishers.
Raunchy romance novels – these are the ones with all the 'throbbing manhood' and 'heaving chests' references – are obviously guilty pleasures for all sorts of readers; including myself it seems.
In Captive of Sin the darkly brooding (sorry, can't help myself) Sir Gideon Trevithick is returning home to his Cornwall manse when he stumbles across a badly beaten waif. His intrinsic nobility ensures that he helps the young woman, despite knowing nothing about her and also being aware that she's been lying to him about her circumstances.
The pitiful waif, despite her beating and many injuries, shows she's got manners and some backbone, nicely convincing Sir Gideon of her own nobility. Naturally enough, the waif turns out to be a very rich heiress in fear of, if not her life, than definitely her virginity and her fortune.
On top of these problems, it seems that Sir Gideon has a dark secret of his own, something that haunts him from his heroic past. Of course it's the young heiress who is going to manage to sort out his problem and after a number of adventures where they prove themselves to each other there's a happy ending.
While the formula is obvious, and highly unlikely to have occurred in real history, that's not the point. The point of reading something like Captive of Sin is to enjoy another form of complete fantasy. After all, what girl hasn't once dreamed of being swept off her feet by a handsome, lordly man who'll love her passionately and solve all her problems?
At least in Campbell's books, the heroines are quite able to stand up for themselves and often manage to be the ones to save the day – as occurs in Captive of Sin. So, any feminist reading this won't be too disturbed by the whole 'macho' tone of traditional romances.
If you're sensitive to 'sexy' writing, be warned, there is a fair bit of explicit sex going – but the pair involved are married, so that may soothe some feathers and ruffle others however.
Captive of Sin isn't high literature, but it is a good bit of summer fun, romance and fantasy.
Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell is published by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins and is available at good book stores and online.

First published on The Straits Times blogs on January 11, 2010 


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