Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Bartered Bride - Mary Jo Putney

After building a fortune amid the splendor and dangers of the China seas, American adventurer and merchant prince Gavin Elliott is sailing for London, where he intends to establish himself in the society that forced his family to leave in disgrace when Gavin was only a child. But fate intervenes on an infamous island in the East Indies when he tries to save a European woman being sold at a slave auction. By the sultan’s decree, the woman can only be freed if Gavin wins her by enduring an ancient tribal challenge that may cost him his life. Yet Gavin cannot refuse to help a countrywoman, especially one who touches his heart and soul with her indomitable spirit.

Alexandra Warren ventured to Australia as a young bride eager for adventure. A dozen years later she is returning home as widow and mother when a pirate attack separates her from her beloved daughter and condemns Alex to a life of servitude. Then a miracle arrives in the form of a steely-eyed Yankee captain willing to risk everything to set her free.

A shocking turn of events brings an unexpected alliance with her rescuer, and Gavin and Alex arrive in London as intimate strangers joined by too many painful secrets. Yet attraction and affection soon overcome the trauma of their first meeting. Until the past reaches outto change Gavin’s life–and threaten the passionate love he has found with his irresistible bartered bride.

After I started reading The Bartered Bride I discovered that this is part of a trilogy and that I had already read book 1. We have some information about the couple in book 2 in this story so you might prefer to read them in order. This is the story of Alexandra Warren and Gavin Elliott. When they meet Gavin is a guest of the Sultan of Maduri who is interested in doing business with him and Alexandra is a slave about to be sold at a public auction. She was traveling with her daughter from Australia when their ship is attacked by pirates and they are separated.

Gavin feels surprised and shocked to see a European woman like that and does his best to save her. Unfortunately when the Sultan discovers that Alexandra may be the key to Gavin's compliance to his wishes he is forced to perform a series of tasks to win her freedom. He succeeds, but to some cost for him and Alexandra. Afterwards, when she and her daughter are both free, he feels honour bound to offer for her, especially because she might be pregnant, but maybe also because he has started developing some feelings for her. They return to London and while Gavin is surprised to find that Alexandra's family is very well connected socially he is also surprised to find that he has inherited a title. But they also find some enemies in London who plot to ruin them.

The story has two very different settings, the East Indies and London. I must confess that I much preferred the first one, the story was more focused on Alexandra and Gavin, the setting was more exotic and the Sultan was an ambivalent bad guy who kept things interesting. When they arrive in London there are more distractions, the villains are less interesting and their subplot detracts a bit from the main story that was Alexandra and Gavin getting to know each other. There's one theme that runs through both parts of the story which is slavery. Having been a slave Alexandra is naturally revolted that anyone else may suffer the same and becomes a dedicated anti-slavery fighter. She also rebuilds her lost confidence and it felt odd when an intelligent woman like her fell into a trap that we could see was coming.

Overall I did enjoy it this story but I found the first half a lot more interesting than the second one and so I was left a bit disappointed. And although the characters of the second book seemed like interesting people, from what I got to know about them here, I'm not sure I'll be picking up their story soon.

Grade: 4/5

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