Two damaged people find each other.
Christian Donatus Severn, eighth Duke of Mercia's damage we can guess at. Gillian, Countess of Greendale's is more hidden.
I took these two straight to my heart. Wonderful characters demonstrating true courage despite the atrocities they both endured.
Christian, a prisoner of war, Gilly a prisoner of her marriage.
Gillian flees to her cousin by marriage, Mercia, some time after her husband dies. She intends to take Mercia to task about his daughter Lucille. Mercia's wife Helene is Gillian's cousin. Mercia's daughter Lucille has not spoken for some time and needs her father. Gillian also needs a place to live. There's hints of trickery and treachery but her trusty solicitor Stoneleigh sets Gillian on the right path. More than once.
Christian is the 'lost Duke', 'a high ranking officer captured out of uniform' by the French, held and tortured. It is here in France that we again meet one of my heroes Devlin St. Just. It is he who shepherds Mercia back to England and helping him and and understanding him as Mercia fights towards healing.
Freed after Napoleon has been captured Mercia returns home to many changes. The scene in France in the English camp where he is finally recognized as the lost Duke is vivid and wrenching, and we are treated to an unexpected degree of dignity from this shattered man.
I loved Gilly and Mercia. Her trueness and his damaged heart. The simple act of eating an orange becomes part of the dance between them and is displayed with a fine sense of delicacy, reflecting another facet of the person that Gillian is.
Gilly's embroidering of acres of flowers as a weapon is striking. Wonderful! All I could think of was William Morris fabrics. I know he was a later era but I was seeing complexity and colour and the steadfast tramp of flora being embroidered on everything until all else is obliterated. As Christian later tells Gillian, 'you made your needle a weapon.'
Certainly the whole idea of torture, endurance, rebellion and suffering are examined. As is to some extent the relationship of tortured and torturer.
I find Girard St Clair, now Baron St Clair, a puzzle and can't work out just what he is hiding or was about. On the surface, he is Christian's tormentor, an unpleasant man. Certainly my sympathies are against him, tied up as I am with the treatment he metered out to Christian. What was Girard up to then? What is he up to now?
There is no denying that the physical damage to Mercia has been great but the psychological damage has been extensive. Later though, Gilly treats us to an interesting insight about Girard. He 'is a man--a flesh-and-blood man, with regrets and scars of his own--behind the beast who's haunted Christian's dreams.'
As we come to see this work's title, it's idea, 'The Captive' operates on a number of different levels.
Another excellent and fresh look at Regency times from Grace Burrowes. This time addressing the results of the Napoleonic wars on the psyche of those who were not only at the battle front and all it's horrors, but those who were treated abysmally. Something we today also have difficulties coming to grips with.
I think Burrowe's dedication says it all.
'To those at war, especially the wars nobody sees, may you find peace.'
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