Captured - Victoria Lynne 3.5 Stars

"Devon, when I came up from the engine room and saw Sharpe's gun pointed at your neck..."

She gazed solemnly into his eyes. "Did you know I was making my last wish?"

Cole thought about it and remembered her lips moving in fervent prayer. Gently he asked, "Will you tell me what you wished for?"

Devon took a deep breath and gave him a trembling smile. "I was begging God not to send me to heaven if I died."

He stared at her in silent confusion. "Why?"

Her smile wavered as tears once again flooded her eyes. "Because I knew that couldn't possibly be where He'd have sent you."

Maybe I read too much crap. Okay, strike the "maybe". I definitely read too much crap. It's been so long since I've read a romance with action, plot, and likable characters that Captured caught me off-guard. I genuinely enjoyed this book. It mixes the best of the new and old schools of romance: slow-building romance, love/hate quip-offs, complex characters, and passionate love scenes that actually build the story. I know, right? Sex for a reason. It's revolutionary.

Captured tells the story - yes, an actual story with an actual plot (I'm amazed by the little things these days) - of Devon Blake, a thief and con artist, and Union Captain Cole McRae. Cole meets Devon when the Union orders him to escort her to a Washington prison. He's totally into this, not because she's hot, but because she's the convicted murderess who works for the British douche who killed pretty much his whole ship. But don't clutch your pearls, ladies. Devon didn't kill anyone, and she doesn't work for the British douche. Nonetheless, she's still a thieving scamp and therefore hard to believe when she claims her innocence. Cole and Devon journey through the wilds of Virginia with Cole acting like a vengeful bastard and Devon trying to escape at every turn. However, the more Cole gets to know Devon, the less he believes that she's capable of murder. Also: they make the sex so good together.

Who will win in this battle of wits? Can people fall in love while avoiding having their faces shot off by Rebels? Will Cole ever have revenge on the British douche? Captivating stuff all around, friends.

Cole and Devon are fun characters. They push each other's buttons, and I like couples who can do that and remain honest. Devon's very clever and leads Cole on a merry chase for half of the book, averting him at every opportunity. To be fair, Cole knows how to give as good as he gets, too:

"I can only assume that you are out of ammunition, McRae."

He frowned. "Why would you think that?"

"I can't imagine what else would have prevented you from shooting an unarmed, defenseless woman in the back. Certainly not your high moral standards or your righteous code of honor, as you appear to be deplorably lacking on both counts." Having scored her point, she turned her attention away from him and busied herself with brushing clusters of grass and leaves from her skirt. A shot rang out directly above her head. Devon shrieked and whirled about, staring at her captor with wide-eyed fear.

Cole simply raised his brows and cocked his head toward the smoking revolver in his hand. "What do you know about that," he said. "Looks like it was loaded after all."

Both characters have their own complicated and tragic pasts. They actually drummed up my sympathy, which is a feat because raptors find it very hard to relate to human problems. Devon was abandoned in her youth in one of those "Wait here, darlin', and I'll be right back!" scenarios, and Cole watched his crew and his nephew die violently in the war. I was entertained by the process in which Cole and Devon warmed up to each other and took difficult steps to heal their past wounds.

So why only 3.5 stars? Well, I adored the first half of the story, but the second half wasn't quite as strong. I enjoyed reading about Devon making Cole's "simple" mission a living hell more than flipping through pages of ship antics in the second half. The nautical stuff was well-researched, but I got kind of glassy-eyed during the blockade running portions. Devon's Uncle Monty totally saved the second half of the book for me. A wily old con artist who dressed in all plaid suits all the time and schemed people out of money with a smile, Uncle Monty was a good time. I don't care if he's old, often amoral, and probably not romance hero material. Give this man a book!

The other thing that bothered me about the second half of the book is that Devon loses her spark. All she does is whine and mope over her confusing relationship with Cole. I really preferred Devon the pick-pocket to Devon the love-struck fool. Love makes us stupid, y'all.


Despite the flaws, I'm anxious to read another Victoria Lynne book. She kept me interested and engaged my emotions. So, YAY! BAVR likes a book! >:D