From the blurb:
Katherine has been let down by men before. Can she trust the man who captures her?
England, Summer 1132
Valens is an arrow-maker and spy for Lord Sebastian (the hero of Sebastian the Alchemist and his Captive, Medieval Captives 1). His beloved sister Julia has died, leaving an infant who needs breast-feeding. Valens is still single, so needs to find a wet nurse for the baby.
He kidnaps young Katherine, and her baby, Jack, from a camp of women. Can Katherine save Edith, Valens’s little niece? Can she trust the handsome Valens, share her secrets, make a life with him? Can she recover Jack’s lost inheritance?
Ordered to court Katherine by his lord, Valens slowly begins to understand that he loves Kate, that he loves making a family with her, Jack, and Edith. Does his realization come too late? When, on their wedding day, a plot between Valens and Sebastian is revealed, can Katherine forgive Valens? Can she trust a spy?
I read this book in a single – blissful – sitting. Pure, wonderful, indulgent escapism; I was drawn into 1132 and the characters’ lives so thoroughly that the tea I’d brewed to sip as I read grew cold, forgotten at my side.
Having very much enjoyed Sebastian the Alchemist and his Captive, I knew I would like the premise of this book: the captive falling for her captor. There is always the risk in such a set-up that the situation is contrived, or that the captor will be aggressive and threatening, but the author diffuses such tension from the outset. Valens may have kidnapped Katherine, but he does so in such a gentlemanly way – and he is in fact saving her from a far worse fate.
Valens is a hero par excellence. I love the balance of qualities the author bestows onto him: talent in his arrow-making; determination to protect his orphaned nephew; a great deal of honour and respect; a tenderness that made my heart melt; and a dash of male ineptitude when it comes to matters of the heart that made me smile and like him so much. I especially like his physical appearance, a break from the mould of ‘tall, dark and ravishingly handsome’. I also enjoyed learning about his work as a fletcher; there is some fascinating and well-researched historical context here.
Katherine is a very engaging heroine with powerful drivers: love and a lioness’s protection for her son; a maternal quality that sees her bond at once with the orphan Edith; a desire to work in her own craft, weaving; an untamed passion that she worries is shameful; and, above all, a fear of being hurt as she was by her lying husband and her treacherous step-son.
The story that Ms Townsend expertly weaves is a fantastic mix of romance, intrigue, drama and the unification of new family. I love how each thread is retained; for example, throughout a serious conversation about their relationship Valens and Katherine constantly break to talk to and play with the children. The pressure put on Valens to marry Katherine by his canny lord, Sebastian (it is so wonderful to see him and his lovely bride back!), drives the story forward, forcing the characters to get to know each other quickly. But trust cannot be forced, and poor Katherine struggles greatly to trust Valens, who has, after all, kidnapped her and who admits to being a spy for Sebastian. And yet, she admits that she has gone from being ‘necessary wet nurse to well-loved wife’.
I must also note the writing style: effortless, and full of wit. There’s wonderful grounding in the era; Valens wonders whether the girl he is to kidnap will be ‘as pretty as a beech nut or as ugly as a gall apple’. I especially loved the use of bathos. For example, poor Valens is imagining what a handsome man Katherine’s husband must have been compared to him; in the next line, Katherine states matter-of-factly: ‘Eric had missing teeth and he limped whenever it rained.’ That made me laugh!
The ending delivers everything you could want in a romance novel, with plenty of drama and a great deal of emotion. I wouldn’t want to spoil it here, but suffice it to say that I finished the book with a wide smile on my face – and eager to read the next in the series. I look forward to seeing what captive situation the author will weave next time.
Valens the Fletcher and his Captive is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.