Captives of the Past by Robyn Donald
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
"Captives of the Past" was one of those nostalgic grabs I made, having remembered this distinctive cover and that it was an angsty read. I do like angsty books, and I like how the old school HPs had a lot of emotional payoff.
Robyn Donald is known for her cruel, jerky heroes, and Rafe is definitely one of them. His treatment towards Jennet was reprehensible throughout the book. Yes, he does apologize and feel genuine remorse at the end, but he didn't quite feel redeemed to me, consider the pain and anguish he put Jennet through and how he turned a blind eye to her legitimate suffering, doing it all out of selfishness because he didn't want to love her or desire her because he resented her mother so much.
Jennet inspired a lot of sympathy in me as I read this book. Her situation was much like being between a rock and a hard place, although part of me wished she never returned to her step-family's cattle station. I understand why she did it, because she was concerned for her sister Melly taking up with her ex-husband, who was abusive, and was more than likely to continue being so, despite any excuses he might make.
It was inexcusable that Rafe would rationalize Jennet's being abused by her husband out of jealousy because Derek claimed it was after she initiated an affair with his cousin. Does that matter?
Rafe comes off as phenomenally self-absorbed, caught up in his unwanted feelings towards Jennet and his rage at his father taking up with Jennet's mother so soon after his own mother died. Funny how he was not angry at Melly existing, considering that Jennet's mother got pregnant with her immediately after taking up with his father. His feelings for Jennet were never rational though. While I like my possessive/jealous heroes, I think Rafe is definitely the dark side of that kind of hero.
This book is full of intense emotions and tackles some serious issues such as spousal abuse. While Rafe's viewpoint about it was ridiculous and reprehensible (even though it was because he was believing lies), I think the author gets points for making it clear that Derek's problems are his own, and that they are not Jennet's fault for not loving or being attracted to him. Regardless of how their marriage started, Derek's responsibility was to love his wife and care for her, and love comes as a result of being loved. Maybe if he had done that, things would have turned out different. Yeah, I know that wasn't likely based on this being a Harlequin Presents romance where Jennet was eternally in love with Rafe, but in real life, things aren't so cut and dried.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
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