Captivated by You (Crossfire, Book 4)
Penguin (US, UK, & CA: 18th November 2014; AU: 19th November 2014)
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TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, sexual abuse, stalking, psychological abuse.
SPOILER WARNINGS: For the series, and this book in particular. But considering there’s not much plot, there’s not much spoiling.
Having grown up reading crime novels, I’m accustomed to the occasional point-of-view from the creepy guy. In the case of Sylvia Day’s Captivated by You, the creepy guy’s POV is every odd-numbered chapter. Yes, half the entire novel is narrated by the creepy guy…who is supposedly the “hero”. And this is supposedly a “romance”.
A common misconception of romance is that it has only one rule: The people in the relationship (commonly a couple, but also with multiple partners) must live happily ever after, or “happy for now”. Fair enough. But to me there’s a second important factor: The reader has to WANT the people in the relationship to live happily ever, or happy for now. If the reader doesn’t care, or would actually prefer the relationship NOT to continue (i.e. the characters would be better off on their own or with other people), the author hasn’t sold the romantic relationship convincingly enough.
Everyone reads subjectively, so what works for some readers may not work for others. But you know which category Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell fall into for me.
I’ve heard the author talk about how the Crossfire concept came along: a statistic regarding abuse survivors; that they often end up in relationships with each other. (As for the rest of the series…if I remember correctly, E. L. James is named in the dedication/acknowledgments for Bared to You. That explains a lot of problematic shiz in this series.)
I’m fed up with this new trend of book summaries written in the first-person and saying pretty much nothing about the plot. (It’s not just this series – I noticed it with J. Kenner’s Stark trilogy, too.) But I guess it’s honest advertising, when you read the novel and realise that there’s not much of a plot.
Let me save you 357 pages: Gideon and Eva’s engagement goes public (even though they’re secretly married), Gideon sees threats to their relationship everywhere, and Gideon keeps everything secret from Eva in order to “protect” her (or some shiz). Meanwhile, Eva realises her true calling: to help abuse survivors. Conveniently, Gideon’s business includes a foundation for that, so he offers Eva’s boss a job with him, hoping Eva will come along.
Eva has put up with a lot of Gideon’s faff, but she finally stands up for herself in this instance, and doesn’t let him off easy for potentially rendering her unemployed. It’s here, in the last third of the book, where the novel actually has a story and Eva asserts herself as being something other than Gideon’s doormat. She actually WANTS independence, including a life outside of Gideon, with HER friends, and work at a business that HE doesn’t own.
Gideon, meanwhile, already has his independence, and seems intent on keeping Eva from hers. And my word, he’s so freaking annoying for most of the book. He’s definitely psychologically abusive (trying to keep her from friends, trying to force her into working for him), and borderline sexually abusive, too (see the bottom half of page 9, and part of Chapter 14).
From page 9:
She stiffened and pushed at me, rejecting me. “Gideon, no…” […]
She struggled and I growled, “Don’t fight me.” […]
“Let me go.” She rolled onto her stomach.
My arms banded around her hips when she tried to crawl away.
Also, Gideon victim-blames Eva’s friend. Megumi was in a bad relationship, got out, and reluctantly returned, hoping the guy had changed. Instead, he becomes more abusive and harassing.
From page 102:
“Sounds like bad judgment all around,” I said. “One of them should’ve known what they were doing.”
From page 103:
“She broke it off, and then took him back. He might not realize she’s serious this time.” […] “I don’t have the whole story…”
Fark you, Gideon.
To his credit, Gideon begins to speak openly with his therapists, and realise that even Eva needs at least some degree of independence. But this comes far too late in the novel. Instead, most of the book is filled with repetitive shiz: “I love you more”, “I need you more”, “you’re the sexiest”, “YOU’re the sexiest”… Those scenes have absolutely no conflict, and don’t move the story forward. They don’t assist with characterisation, either, so they’re purely filler. Speaking of, that karaoke chapter is just terrible. Note: name-checking songs and musicians doesn’t make you cool – it ages your book, and I judge you for your song choices 😉
Gideon and Eva finally realise that a therapist had a point, when he said the couple needs to communicate with each other in ways that aren’t sex. (Sex talk doesn’t count, either.) They need to TALK to each other, WITH each other, ABOUT each other. And LISTEN, instead of just mindlessly reassuring or ignoring. And even their sex is repetitive (minus the swing scene, which needs more explaining). Mind you, the BDSM seems a bit thrown in via checklist, and doesn’t impact the story at all. Even Gideon tying Eva to the elevator handrail was half-heartedly BDSM. (He claims he does it to prevent Eva from touching him because “I’ll lose it,” which seems to suggest he would’ve raped her. So he tied her up “for her own good”, or whatever.)
I intend to read Book 5, Only with You, whenever it may be published. (I imagine it’ll have the same shoddy scheduling as this book – the release date only announced when the manuscript’s sent to the printers. For other authors and novels, their publication dates are announced whilst they’re still revising/copyediting.)
Credit to Sylvia Day: she’s created a series that makes me FEEL. Makes me feel ANGRY, but that’s better than feeling meh about it, right? If you want to yell at characters, you’ve come to the right book.