Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 145 - 13 Reasons to Read Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell

I met Anna Campbell online through Christine Wells, when Christine used to be a co-contributor to my group blog, Popculturedivas.

Anna and Christine contribute to their group blog, Romance Bandits.

I quickly noticed that whenever Anna posted, the comments section immediately turned into a party and the comment numbers shot up into the 100-200 mark. No exaggeration.

This didn't happen only at the Romance Bandits - no. Whenever Anna posted at her other group blogs or did a guest post, the comment numbers shot up there, too. It's not like I was stalking her or anything. But I did follow her around slavishly to all her blog posts in the hopes of winning a copy of Captive of Sin - which I finally did! Woo hoo! Yeah, baby.

Check out a few of her bloggy gems:

The Sex is Never Just About the Sex guesting @ Vauxhall Vixens
Dust Never Sleeps @ the Romance Bandits
Christmas Reading Bonanza @ Tote Bags 'n' Blogs

1 - Captive of Sin is an Avon Historical Romance imprint from HarperCollins. It released last November in North America and more recently in Australia, Anna's home and native land.

2 - Captive of Sin is Anna's fourth book. She has also published:

Claiming the Courtesan
Tempt the Devil

Upcoming in June:

My Reckless Surrender

3 - Anna takes us into the world of Regency Noir. A phrase coined by Stephanie Laurens in a quote for Claiming the Courtesan, Regency Noir has since become a subgenre that gives the normally light Regency period a Gothic undertone, for those of us who love our heroes to be tortured.


4 - We meet Lady Charis Weston, who gives a false name to the man who discovers her cowering in the inn stables after she escapes a brutal beating at the hands of her fortune-hunting step-brothers. Being a wealthy heiress has its advantages. But Charis has yet to experience any of them, and now doubts she will live the few weeks till she reaches her majority, when her funds will finally be at her disposal.

5 - Sir Gideon Trevithick returns from India a national hero, having survived capture as a spy and imprisonment under intolerable conditions. Named 'the bravest fellow in the empire' by Wellington and knighted by the king, all Gideon wants to do is return to his family's seat in Cornwall - and forget.

But the battered young woman he coaxes from her hiding place in the stables brings his own torment rushing to the surface.

6 - Those who know me, know I love a tortured hero. It has been ever so. As a child I was wildly attracted to the animated sight of Sleeping Beauty's Prince Philip chained up by Maleficent.

He doesn't flinch from fighting off the dragon version of the evil fairy, even when her enormous size and strength dwarfs him as he takes refuge under his shield. But Prince Philip never loses his grip on his courage or his sword, and I know he's the archetype of all of my favorite romance heroes.

Including Gideon, who was awarded the 2009 KISS Award (Knight in Shining Silver) from Romantic Times

7 - Publisher's Weekly named Captive of Sin one of their top 100 books of 2009: "Gideon tries to fight their growing attraction, believing the beautiful and warm Charis deserves better than a man so damaged by trauma and survivor's guilt, but Charis's clever plan to heal his wounded soul reveals delightful insight and leads to luscious love scenes."

8 - Remember the noir in Regency Noir. I like my characters to truly suffer on their way to a happy ending. I love to feel my heart crush in my chest in sympathy with the hero and heroine. I love brushing tears away when my heart springs back to life, just when I thought there was no possible way it could ever work out for them.

As I read about Anna's book, and as I pursued my copy with the hope-hope-hope that it would come to me, I felt the wild dream burn in my heart that a truly gutsy story with the perfect hero was waiting for me between those pages.

Once I got to the reveal about Gideon's past, I was truly impressed by the nightmare of his imprisonment. Many stories promise tortured heroes, but few actually deliver. For a woman like me who can't resist Joe Harmon from A Town Like Alice, Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo or Anton Gorodetsky from Night Watch and Day Watch, Gideon lives up to every expectation and then takes me even deeper into Noirsville.

9 - Something that really shines about this book is the youth of the heroine. In fact, I'm certain this love story is only possible because the heroine is young enough to truly believe in the healing power of her love for Gideon. A more seasoned woman would be put off by the warnings of Gideon's post traumatic stress disorder. Despite that youth, Charis, having been put through the mill herself by her own relations, has that essential common ground to answer Gideon's litany of reasons as to why she should forget him.

10 - Anna really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"Wheels clattered on cobblestones. A moving carriage forced people out of the way.

'Come on. Run. And keep your head down.'

She scuttled at his side, floundering to keep up with a man who made no allowance for her shorter legs or her injuries.

Akash flung open the carriage door and tossed her inside. She landed against the seat with a jolt that sent pain slicing through her. Ignoring her discomfort, she slid across the seat to press her face to the carriage window.

Through the joyful hordes, Akash pushed his way toward his friend. Gideon retained that frozen, remote expression, but he didn't break away from his devotees.

She couldn't hear what Akash said to Gideon over the hubbub. She saw Gideon turn and head with jerkily precise movements toward the carriage. With visible reluctance, the crowd parted before him. Voracious hands stretched out to pluck at his clothing, delay his departure, compel his attention. Doggedly he continued his automaton-like progress.

He climbed in and sat opposite. He didn't speak. He didn't look at her. He didn't appear to know she was there at all.

Akash slammed the door on them. There was a burst of patriotic cheering outside. Someone started to sing
God Save the King.

The celebrity straightened and shot Akash an angry glare. 'For Christ's sake, let us go.'

'God keep you, my friend. I'll see you soon.' He stepped back and sent Charis an elegant bow. 'Miss Watson. Your servant.'

Before Charis could respond, Tulliver whipped the horses to a pace dangerous in town streets. She clutched at the strap and stared bewildered at her companion.

He looked ill. As though he suffered intolerable pain. With a shock, she realized the set expression was endurance, not distain.

Automatically, she stretched out to take his gloved hand. 'Sir Gideon...'

'Curse you, don't touch me!'

He wrenched out of reach. But not before she felt his desperate, uncontrollable shaking."

11 - The interwoven elements of impending doom turn the stakes up as high as they can go. Charis is pursued by her dangerous step-brothers as she fights to free Gideon from his personal demons. The genteel distresses of Regency stories turning on misheard phrases or undeserved reputations, and whether or not the heroine will be invited to the soiree, are laid aside in favor of cruel gender politics, psychological character study and personal redemption.

12 - Yet Gideon, for all of his haunted agony, is not called the Hero of Rangapindhi for nothing. His compassion for Charis and his assured offer of sanctuary when they come under physical attack sets Gideon squarely in the pantheon of great romantic heroes. Gideon has made many readers' Top Hero lists, and easily makes a place for himself on mine - right next to Jo Beverley's Rothgar.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"Half an hour ago she'd left him in the parlor. He'd been drinking brandy, and the bleakness in his eyes had made her want to weep. The desolation had always been there, but now she knew his past, it cut her to the bone.

She looked up from her troubled thoughts to see Gideon standing in the doorway. She hadn't heard him arrive. He always moved like a cat, so that was hardly surprising. His hair was ruffled, and one gloved hand negligently encircled a glass. He'd removed his neckcloth, and his shirt was open, giving her shadowy glimpses of his hard chest.

He didn't advance into the room.

She licked lips dry with nerves. His gaze fastened feverishly on the movement. His gloved hand tautened on his brandy. The warm air swirled with sudden sensual turbulence.

He cleared his throat and shifted his gaze above her head. 'I'm sleeping in the parlor. I think...I think it's best.'

With unsteady hands, she grabbed a shawl and slid out of bed. Ignoring the resistance in his face, she stepped close enough to read ravaging torment in his dark eyes. 'Don't be ridiculous, Gideon. It's cold and uncomfortable.'

He looked at her. 'After Rangapindhi, it's the height of luxury.'

'Oh, my dear, Rangapindhi is over,' she said in a low voice. It seemed a sign of progress that he mentioned his captivity without prompting. She extended one hand toward him, then let it drop to her side. 'You're free.'

His smile held no amusement. 'I'll never be free.'

This acceptance of his fate angered her. 'If you don't fight, you won't.'

His tall, lean body vibrating resentment, he stalked across to the fireplace. He tossed back his brandy and set the glass down sharply on the mantel. He focused a furious glare on her. 'Don't talk about what you don't understand.'

Her mind filled with a sudden memory of the stark desire in his face as he'd looked at her last night. Had she nerve to use that weapon to break him?

'I understand you've decided to wallow in self-pity for the remainder of your days,' she said, knowing she wasn't fair. But this wasn't about fairness.

'You have no right to say that.' A muscle jerked erratically in his cheek. He was close to losing patience. He turned away and closed his eyes as if he couldn't bear to look at her. 'I won't forgive you if you make this more a nightmare than it already is.' He flung his head up and glared at her like he hated her. His furious black eyes threatened to incinerate her where she stood. 'Damn it, Charis, I hurt you.'

'It doesn't have to be like that,' she said in a ghost of her usual voice.

'For us, it does.' He sounded heartbreakingly sure.

'I'm not giving up, Gideon.'

His mouth thinned with anger, but when he spoke, his voice was frigid. 'You will. This is a war you can't win.'

She spread her hands in helpless bewilderment. He had so much strength. Why didn't he enlist it in his own cause? 'Don't you want a real life?'

His short laugh was so harsh, it flayed like flying shards of glass. 'Of course I do.'

She fought the impulse to retreat. She'd known when she chose this path that her greatest enemy would be Gideon himself. 'Your memories aren't always in control,' she said hoarsely. 'I saw you in Portsmouth. You knocked down any man within reach. You weren't afraid to touch people then.'

'Yes, I find relief in violence.' His voice roughened into sarcasm. 'Are you suggesting I beat you?' "

- Anna Campbell, 2009