|The Dukeís Captive is written so well that it binds the reader like a slowly wound rope.†I didnít realize that I was spellbound until I sadly finished the last page.
The widowed Lady Cheshire is finally out of mourning, as stated in the curt missive sent to Ian Wentworth, the Duke of Chatwin.† Ian immediately makes plans to go to London, to hunt down the woman that heís planned his revenge against for five long years.† First, he hires an investigator to tell him where Viola Bennington-Jones lives, and where she might be now that sheís no longer draped in black.† Then, he arranges a seemingly innocent introduction to the stunning widow through a friend.† And he sets his plan in motion to destroy her life.
Viola is excited to be back out in society.† Sheís glad to be able to see her friends, wear cheery, brightly-colored gowns, and be distracted from her many secrets.† Her only purposes in life now that her husband has passed on is to pursue her love of painting while keeping a spotless reputation to protect her young son John Henry.† Viola is truly enjoying her first evening out in a long time, at her friend Isabella Summerlandís party.
Until sheís introduced to Ian again.†This time, however, heís acquired the title of duke, and she is now Lady Cheshire.† Viola is stunned by Ianís sudden reappearance into her life and is only slightly comforted by the fact that he seems to be clueless about the fact that they have met before.
Five years earlier, Violaís sisters captured and held Ian captive for ransom.† He was drugged, chained, and subjected to all manner of neglect and shame while the Bennington sisters waited on the diamond payments from Ianís sister Ivy.† Now that both sisters have been punished, Ian has stewed ever since that the third sister Ė Viola Ė seems to have escaped completely unpunished since she is rumored to have helped with his escape.† Ian has very little memory of the time of his captivity, but he canít let the beautiful, now titled widow pretend to be an innocent, loving woman while he still suffers nightmares and shame about his captivity.† He knows for certain that Viola was there while he was imprisoned and that she didnít let him go, and now heís going to give her a taste of the agony that he suffered at her familyís hands.†
What Ian doesnít remember is that something strange happened between himself and Viola while they were alone together, and that she might be guarding a few of his secrets as well as his own.
The Dukeís Captive is an intriguing, beautiful tale of revenge, redemption and love.
There are so many subtle layers to both Ian and Viola that itís difficult not to be completely enthralled by them both as a reader.† Ianís painful emasculation by Violaís family is laid out in precise, believable but not grotesque detail.† His pain is even more believable because of his clearly understandable reaction to it.† He is a powerful man who intends to keep himself under control but sometimes canít, as his pursuit of revenge illustrates.†
The revenge and awakening portion of the story is like a slow motion train wreck.† Ashworth has built the characters at the point when the realizations start to flow, and itís difficult to take sides between Viola and Ian.† The reader knows that there will be painful, startling events but canít help compulsively turning the pages to find out what happens.
My only real issue with the story was that the build up to the fiery impact was so slow, and then the events all unraveled so quickly and the story was over.† It seemed like I had to go back just to be certain that the sudden ending really happened.† And then I was left with a bit of an unresolved feeling, as if I had heard just the tail end of a great story without getting a chance to ask questions about how it ended up.
Nevertheless, The Dukeís Captive might be the best read of the summer so far.†
--Amy Wroblewsky †