Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91673-7
Historical Romance, 2016
Despite the fact that the guy on the cover looks just like the dude that played Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars movie, The Captain and His Innocent is pretty old school in that it boasts an action-packed, spiraling plot – something commonly found back in the old days, but not so much now that every other author finds it more marketable to go the romantic comedy route. I’m not sure how to give a synopsis of the story without giving away some spoilers here and there, and there is one story where one’s definition of that word may vary, considering that what seems like basic plot detail may be kept from the reader until later on. I have to mention those details to give a coherent synopsis, though, so use your own discretion when reading this review. The back button is only a click away!
Ellie Duchamp has a secret: she is the daughter of the man who mapped and designed the roads in France, roads that played an integral role in Napoleon Bonaparte’s expansionist campaign across Europe. Her father eventually had an attack of conscience, so the two of them went on the run. Eventually, the father died, but not before making Ellie promise that she would follow Lord Franklin (who showed up unexpectedly to claim her as a long-lost relative) to England. Well, when the story opens, she finds herself thrust into a creepy big house run by Lord Franklin’s mother, who makes no secret of her dislike of Ellie. Ellie also crosses path with Captain Luke Danbury, who is part of a band of brothers now seeking to locate his missing brother in France. He needs clues to his brother’s whereabouts, and guess what, he has his eye on Lord Franklin. Now that Ellie is in the scene as the mysterious French relative, Luke has his eye on her too.
At first, I’m puzzled by the use of the word “innocent” in the title, as Ellie doesn’t seem that much of a wide-eyed dingbat, but as I turn the pages, I soon realize that the title fits – perfectly – if I take into account how that word has been used for so long as an euphemism for the fact that the heroine is one bloody walking sack of dumb. My goodness, Ellie has no coherent personality of her own – she talks and thinks about her father so, so, so often because her father is the only defining reason for her existence. She has little thought or wish that is unrelated to her father. The only independent desire of hers is that she wants to get back to France, but even then, this want is still tied up to her missing her father so, so much, so ugh to that. Wait, the fact that she loves Luke may also be considered something that she comes up on her own, I suppose, but Luke is basically just replacing her father as her sole reason for living, so it’s still ugh to all that.
This story is as long as it is because of the stupid things Ellie does. She is driven completely by her emotions in this story, so expect a lot of dire things to happen to her. It’s hard to say that she doesn’t deserve to be mauled to death by rapists and other threats in this story, because she’s oh so dumb. For example, she keeps a prized memento of her father’s presence in her life… a compass given to her father by Napoleon, complete with an engraving that (a) thanks the father and (b) explains what the father did for Napoleon. Now, you’d think she would at the very least keep this memento under lock and key, away from prying eyes, especially when she’s heading over to England, one of the most anti-Napoleon places around, but no, there will be no fun if she does that, of course. What do you think happens when the hero finds that thing?
Also, when our heroine decides to go back to France, she just walks out in the middle of the night. Naturally, she gets mauled by rapists ten seconds after and guess who has to come rescue her. She has a pistol, and she claims that she can use it, but at the end of the day, she is still damsel-in-distress fodder. Even more tragic is that the author is aware of all this and remarks on it too in this story. I’m glad that she knows how dumb Ellie is being, but Ellie continues being a dumb-dumb anyway, so yes, ugh ugh ugh all around.
Perhaps the most tragic thing about this story is that the Ellie that everyone around her assumes her to be is a far more interesting character than what and who Ellie actually is. The imaginary Ellie is a sneaky and cunning spy who is here to cause trouble, which sounds way more fun than the actual Ellie who is constantly going eek-eek-eek about her father and how she must go back to England even if she has to wander aimlessly in the wilds like the biggest moron that has ever lived.
The saving grace of The Captain and His Innocent is that, later in the story, Ellie finally decides to let Luke do the bulk of the thinking and decision-making, and the story becomes much more readable as a result. Ellie is also finally in her element: serving and assisting a man whom she feels obligated or indebted to. With her getting to transfer the necessity to making key decisions to Luke, she stops being that idiot who does things to sabotage herself, and I feel the pain in my heart ebbing away.
Still, the first two-thirds of this book is excruciating reading because Ellie is clearly not cut out to live this world on her own, so approach this book with caution if you are not keen on the whole “Daddy! I want my Daddy!” shtick that defines the entire existence of the heroine.