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Captor of My Heart
by Donna Valentino
(Topaz, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-40880-2
It's difficult for me not to recommend a romance that has a good historical plot and a fine ending. Especially considering the number of times I've read romances where the only reason for creating a story line of a few hundred years ago was to put the heroine in a bodice that could be ripped.

Ms. Valentino is too talented an author to write such a book, and Captor of My Heart is set in the time of Oliver Cromwell for a purpose. This story starts out great and ends great; it's the pages in between that are disappointing.

Royalist John Cameron Delacorte wants, no, needs revenge against Oliver Cromwell for the death of his younger brother and the taking of his lands and title. For Cameron, the best revenge is making certain Charles Stewart, the young king whom Cameron resembles, stays safely out of Cromwell's clutches.

In order to do this, Cameron is going to have to set up a route for the young king to use, if necessary, to get to France. Cameron notices how Jillian Bowen and her father, a physician, are allowed to pass at all hours of the night, with little attention from guards posted along the roads.

Cameron decides he will pose as an apprentice to Jillian's father. Once he becomes known to all in the area, Cameron will also be allowed to come and go as he pleases. And if the king should ever need to pass in their direction, he could pose as Cameron.

Cameron cares little about how Jillian and her father will feel about being accomplices to treason, he intends to force their compliance. And he is successful because he knows that Jillian will do anything to protect her father. However, Jillian is not exactly the tame little mouse he's expecting.

In fact, Cameron is impressed by her strength and he's touched by her vulnerability. He quickly discovers that he cannot treat Jillian as merely a captive. Cameron finds himself doing more and more to make Jillian happy because she matters to him.

Losing her mother at a young age has caused Jillian to develop a few phobias over the years. She has great difficulty leaving her home; in fact, Jillian is close to a state of panic when she has to walk out her door. But she manages to conquer her fears in order to attend to the sick -- Jillian's father has not been mentally all there for sometime so it is Jillian who usually ends up doing the work.

Jillian would do anything for her father -- a once brilliant physician who attended the young king and his father before him. When Cameron threatens to expose her father's illness, Jillian has little choice but to do what Cameron wants.

Although Jillian has to help Cameron, she doesn't have to like it, or make it easy. When her father embraces Cameron as a new apprentice, Jillian is hurt and jealous of the attention showered upon Cameron. Cameron notices her pain and tries to help; he believes in Jillian's abilities to heal and he encourages her. Despite her resolve to hate Cameron, Jillian is touched by his efforts to spare her any pain or embarrassment.

There is a lot to like about Captor of My Heart. I like heroes and/or heroines who are strong but flawed. Also, there are some wonderful lines and insights in this tale-particularly from Jillian's friend and substitute mother, Mrs. Hawking.

However, most of the story line is too slow. In addition, Cameron's almost immediate change from menacing marauder to fireplace lapdog seems absurd. I just couldn't buy the overnight change in his character. And, to be honest, as soon as Cameron changes into a politically correct and sensitive male, the story loses its tension and becomes a bit bland, that is, until the ending.

I truly believe this book would have been at least a four-heart read, if Cameron's better nature had taken its time coming to the fore. I also think it would have made more sense for his character to slowly let go of his thirst for vengeance.

--Judith Flavell

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