Wednesday, December 12, 2007
An Oldie But a Goodie -- Captive Passions by Fern Michaels
To me, this is THE definitive romance novel. It has everything: pirates, conspiracy, smugglers, vengeance, psychotic villains, native island princesses, treasure maps, an intrepid cabin boy, implausible plot twists, a double life for the heroine, and of course, the handsome hero and some seriously steamy sex.
Originally published in 1977, I came across this book in the mid-80's on a recommendation from my college roommate. It's the book I recommend to people if they've never read genre romance before: completely over the top, politically incorrect, purple, lurid. No review could be accurate without the inclusion of the word "rollicking" in some form. The thing I love the most about it is that it doesn't take itself seriously. It's almost a parody of itself, as though it were written on a dare and succeeded wildly just to spite critics. I would love to include a sample snip for you but my copy has gone AWOL, probably because I've loaned it out many times. Amazon will let you read a few pages, though.
I mentioned the madonna/whore dilemma in an earlier post, and nowhere is it done more dramatically and less subtley than in Captive Passions. For <plot device> reasons, when she arrives at the island home of her husband-to-be, Serena decides to pose as a very religious, devout woman who spends long periods of time in seclusion. During those times, she sneaks out on her pirate ship and wreaks havoc on the high seas as The Sea Siren. C'mon, does it get any better than that??
It's been reprinted. You have no excuse. If you love romance, you need to read this book.
Now, Fern Michaels is still in the writing business. Sadly, I haven't really enjoyed much of her stuff outside the Captive series. The Texas, Vegas, and Sins books which immediately followed seemed a bit overly influenced by the 80's TV shows Dallas and Dynasty. Recently it seems mostly to be "women's fiction" more than romance. Every now and then I pick one up and try again but they have never really "captured" that sense of fun and wild abandon from the Captive books, or maybe I just don't care for her contemporary voice. Although I have no substantiation, least of all from any published biographical material, I once heard a rumor that the original "Fern Michaels" was a team of two women, both of whose husbands were named Michael. I've always wondered if the Captive series was a collaboration, and subsequent books the work of the slightly less humor-blessed half. Pure speculation on my part, but it would explain a lot.