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Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Captive Bride

Bonnie Dee
Historical Romance/Erotica
Published in 2011

H/h - Alan Sommers/Chua Huiann
Setting: San Francisco, 1870.

Read in Aug, 2011.
My rating:

                                                                 [spoiler alert]

Let me tell you the first and foremost, I loved Alan. I simply adored him and I’m going to gush about it throughout my review. He was so sweet from the beginning, I knew I’m gonna like him very much but boy as the story progressed, I fell in love... Huiann, you might have to scooch over dear! :p And, Bonnie Dee’s stories do have something so earthy and special about them, from Bone Deep to A Hearing Heart and now Captive Bride, another winner for me. The whole premise was very interesting and a Chinese heroine, a first for me. I loved the description of the post Civil War era San Francisco and its China Town. BD does have a gift for narrating history without making you bored and runny eyed. I absolutely loved the way Huiann and Alan’s relationship was described, which blossomed into love without even communicating properly. It proved that words don’t always have to be the means of communication for two people who are meant for each-other.

Huiann came to SF with a dream to be a bride to a businessman, only to find herself into a web of deceit and lies by a dangerous mafia boss of the China Town. Her parents sent her so far away from home because they didn’t have enough money to marry her off. When the messenger from this wealthy businessman arrived with the proposal, it was godsend to them. Huiann is young, petite and very beautiful. She’s their youngest daughter. They didn’t care for anything else and signed the contract on spot. She journied to this foreign land with the man and a woman send by her prospective husband to accompany her. On the ship, while touring it she finds out many women, slaves it seems, kept in such inhuman conditions that she decides she’d ask her husband to help them. Upon her arrival, Huiann is taken to a house. She didn’t like it’s decoration on the first glimpse. It was bad and vulgar. She kept planning how to do this and that and change the house when she’s taken to a room and the woman, Madam Teng, asks her to strip, wear only a robe and follow her. Huiann felt the first apprehension but obeyed nonetheless. And soon, from Xie Fuhua, her prospective husband himself, she finds out she’d been lied to and paid for, to become a famous courtesan. Huiann is in shock and in denial first but she realizes she can’t do a thing to escape, unless she plans carefully. Xie threatens her that an escape would certainly mean something horrible for her. So, she’s kept locked away but only for the prospective customers, who wanted to have a ‘look’ at her. She had to strip down, feeling humiliated and disgusted. It’d like some cattle they’re measuring the market for. It was so disgusting and some men were too, I kept shaking my head reading their tasted. Just perverts! Then Madam Teng teaches her the ways of whoring herself properly. Huiann has no other option but to listen to her. Soon, one distasteful white guy becomes the higher bidder for her virginity and she was being ready to be taken away to the man’s house as his ‘bride’. On the way, Huiann is given a chance and she takes it. She runs for her life and hides into Alan’s shop.

Alan is a war veteran but he didn’t fight, mostly spent his time in a prison where he was taken to just after the war started. He feels guilty for it. As far as I understood, he has mild PTSD; nightmares from his stay in that prison, in an utterly inhuman condition no doubt, some of which comes out later in narrative. I felt for Alan from the get go. After he was released, he just couldn’t pick up his life so he left his home town and moved to SF, without any ambition in mind. It’s been 5 yrs and he’s now a successful salesman and owner of a grocery store. He’s also ambitious about his budding political career. The China Town is nearby and he knows some vendors, from whom he buys his supplies. One day he’s out there shopping and decides to take a walk to the port. On a ship, he sees this beautiful Chinese woman and instantly felt something. Even after coming back, he kept on thinking about her like: why she is here, if she was here to marry etc. I so understood his yearning since he’s a lonely man. His clerk Jeremy is his only constant companion as they work in the store throughout the day. Then a few days later, when that woman rushed into his shop, it seems like running for her life, Alan decides on the spot to help and shelter her.

I liked the way it all started and Alan and Huiann’s attempt at communication. They didn’t understand a thing they said to each-other. It was done very well IMO, their bits and pieces of conversations which started out as monologues from both sides; Huiann talking about whatever comes to her mind, Alan to his. Then, it was through pictures and pantomimes (sort of). Soon Huiann took over Alan’s household as his housekeeper. Alan asked Jeremy to keep quite about it. She did cooking, cleaning and all the other chores. She slept in one of the rooms in the small apartment over the store. Soon she meets Dora, a woman living close by with a drunkard who beat her daily after a few glasses of drink. Huiann felt a kinship with her and they become friends. Huiann also starts sewing, something she loves to do. At first, she sews curtains for the apartment, surprising and pleasing Alan. Then, from some of the catalogs that illustrate the recent womens’ fashion from Alan’s store, she decides to copy them and help Alan with his income. But in between, there was no denying the budding attraction, something that was becoming painful for Alan to keep in check. He just didn’t want to be lonely anymore and it wasn’t just sex that he wanted, as he soon realizes. But what can he do? He can’t make a mistress out of his own housekeeper, a woman he’d sworn to protect. He can’t make her live out the same fate she was brought here to live in the first place. But it was difficult since Alan knew the attraction was mutual.

And Huiann was attracted to him. Although at first, Alan’s alien American features, great height and bright blue eyes seemed unappealing to Huiann, soon she found him attractive. The more she saw him, the more appealing he became. He was also kind and generous; she never thought she’d ever find someone like him after the game fate played with her life. Alan was meanwhile teaching her to speak English, with a little help from Jeremy and Dora, while Huiann would tell him, in broken sentences about her life and some Chinese customs and games. Alan brought her gifts, with the help of one of the Chinese vendors he regularly purchased items from named Dong Li. Huiann was beyond pleased by his gestures, even though some of the gifts were inappropriate for an unmarried girl. But of course, Alan didn’t know about it. In the meantime, we met some of the SF’s elites that were interested in Alan’s ambitions and his position as an ‘eligible bachelor’. One of them, the Dodges would invite him to their house, mostly because of their daughter Cynthia. Alan had no interest in her but he knew he had to keep his connections to further his goals to become a successful politician. He also knew that the words of a Chinese woman living in his house can destroy everything for him. By now, from Huiann’s gesture and a few broken words, he knew what happened to her and that it was the mafia boss Fuhua who was responsible. The police steer clear of the China Town, so no help would come from them. Alan knew if Fuhua takes Huiann somehow, no one would help him out.

Every night when Alan would go to bed, Huiann, knowing it was wrong would think of him. Would he come into her room? Would he ask for more? Because she certainly wanted to give him what he wanted, something which was apparent from his looks and the way he studied her when he thought she wasn’t looking. I loved this little information and seeing things from Huiann’s POV. She was small and soft on the outside but inside, quite courageous and passionate. She knew she’d allow Alan anything he wants and it’s not entirely because of gratitude. There was something between them none of them can deny. Then one night, when he got up again (something he does often, Huiann guessed he cannot sleep or something; she was actually jealous when Alan would go out in the middle of the night thinking he might be visiting a woman, oh I loved it!), Huiann thought he’d go out. But sounds from the kitchen took her downstairs. I just adored this scene, the raw intensity and yearning coming from Alan and Huiann reciprocating:

The exhaustion apparent in his slumped shoulders made her heart twist. He looked so tired she wanted to rub his back and stroke his hair, as a mother would for a child. This was natural compassion, she decided, and walked toward him to give him what comfort she could.
He finally heard her and lifted his head from his arms. Locks of sandy hair fell over his forehead and he looked up at her with deep indigo eyes. Even in the dim light, she could see pain etched across his features. What horrors stalked his dreams? What could she do to help him sleep peacefully?
For a long moment they gazed at one another and then Huiann rested her hand on his shoulder. At the same time, Alan leaned into her body. They came together like two halves of an eggshell carefully broken. He slid a hand around her waist and pulled her closer. His face pressed against her breast. His arms wrapped around her.
She held him, cradling his head, rubbing his back. His body was so warm in her embrace. Her heart beat steadily and her stomach flipped in slow, lazy somersaults. The moment she’d sensed coming for so long was here. What would happen next?
For a long time, they remained locked in perfect union, contented, safe, no longer alone. As she caressed his hair, soft as she’d imagined, he tilted his face to look up at her. His eyes glittered in the lamplight. He wanted more and Huiann realized she did too.

Nothing happened that day but a heartwarming kiss. And, then more kisses in the coming days. One day, Alan asks her to share his bed, only share and nothing else. Though he’d love to make love to her but even without it, he’d make do but he can’t sleep alone for another night. It turned into more soon enough. Alan kept his promise to Huiann though, that he won’t ask to have sex but they kiss and touch. Huiann, on the other hand, just wanted to give him something so much, so she used a bit of Madam Teng’s instructions...
When the last peak died away, Alan opened his eyes. Huiann was watching his face. He was embarrassed until he saw the glitter of tears in her eyes.
He touched her cheek. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…” His sticky spunk was all over her hand and his belly and he felt like a fool. He reached to grab the undershirt he’d tossed aside and wiped both of them clean. “I’m sorry.”
“No. No, Alan.” She touched her fingers to his mouth. “Gou. It is good. You face is beau-ti-ful.” She pronounced each syllable with exquisite care.
He kissed the fingers pressed to his lips. “No, you’re beautiful. A damn miracle.”

Huiann has already decided to give herself to Alan so she, with Dora’s help, visits a doctor to buy some medicine for precaution. On the way, she saw a man following them and ran back home. Alan was furious as he was searching for her when he found out she wasn’t anywhere in the house. Then he takes care of her blistered feet, so sweet of him. Then Huiann promises him about the night. When she goes to his room after preparing herself, seeing Alan through her eyes was just so sexy, my stomach fluttered too!Her protector and savior was shirtless and barefoot, dressed only in a pair of drawers. He stood beside the bed with his back to her, turning down the covers. She studied the rippling muscles of his shoulders and arms as he performed the mundane task. His back was a beautiful, pale canvas on which she could imagine painting letters and designs. She admired the bands of muscle and the shadows beneath his shoulder blades. His drawers sagged low, revealing narrow hips and the intriguing curve of his rear. Her sex tightened at the glimpse of his buttocks.
His face was in profile and his nose no longer seemed too big or his features too coarse as she’d once thought, so long ago it seemed. Instead, they appeared assertively masculine except for the thick sweep of eyelashes and the generous fullness of his lips.
Alan noticed her and turned. The blanket fell from his fingers as he gazed at her with the eyes of a hungry dragon. His lips parted and the exhalation of his breath floated to her across the quiet room. Then he walked toward her.

Soon, they make love. Alan can’t seem to get enough of her, yet feels guilty of this situation. He wants to marry her but knows he can’t, due to the social prejudice as well as his political ambitions. I didn’t, for once, felt that he was fooling around. I knew he was serious because Alan is the kind of man you trust, respect, adore and love. Huiann knew that too. Meanwhile, Jeremy, Alan’s clerk, a starry-eyed boy who falls in love with every pretty lady, seems to attract Cynthia Dodge’s attention. Oh Jeremy was a goner from the moment he saw her but Alan was a bit worried that the girl maybe was going to use him and then trample over his heart. Still, he helps Jeremy further his goal.

Alan was attacked on his way to the bank and warned by Fuhua’s men. He got worried for Huiann and decides he’s going to send her to a remote place he’s just bought, a big farm and let her continue her sewing there with some helpers she’s been asking for. So far, it’s been only her and Dora. Alan knew he should’ve taken in the fact that her whereabouts might spread out sooner or later. Huiann isn’t happy about it but she’s just too nice to say anything else. Alan understands that and at night, asks her nicely to move into the farm. She accepts. The man Dora was living with, one night beat her quite horribly so she takes shelter in Alan’s house. When the skunk threatens Alan that he must get rid of Huiann, I knew he’d be upto no good! The next day, Alan tells Dora that she can go with Huiann and live in the farm, helping her as she already did. But Dora reminds Alan, however unintentionally, about how very close Huiann’s current situation is to what she’s been originally destined for when she came here. Alan again feels guilty and I understood. It was such a mess, mixed marriages could ruin peoples lives back then but there was no doubt that Alan really wanted Huiann to be with him always.

That same night, Alan had a ball to attend, courtesy Mrs. Dodge and ironically, he couldn’t dodge this party as he so wanted to because of his career goals. Jeremy had some plans for Cynthia. Alan kept quiet about it though he wasn’t sure if the boy was doing the right thing. Dora and Huiann dress in some of their own creations and dance with Alan. Alan felt bad for hiding Huiann out but dancing with her was pure heaven to him. Then he still didn’t know what’s waiting for him later that night. When Alan, surviving the boring party, comes back he finds his shop on fire and no Huiann on sight! Dora informs him that some men did this and abducted Huiann. Later on, it was revealed that the skunk has been talking to Fuhua’s men for a few drinks. Alan’s on his way to China Town, looking for her. He goes to the roadside shacks, where prostitutes serviced men, living like strays themselves. One of them recognized Huiann’s name and I knew that moment who she was. Lord, BD captured the whole sex slavery thing so well, I hated reading it but praised her efforts at the same time. It was so so horrifying, so utterly unimaginable the way those women were brought back from China and used. No doubt, Fuhua was the boss around here and his cronies took care of the business on his behalf. I’m saddened to think that even today so many women fall pray to the same kind of men and fate, something I wouldn’t even wish upon my enemy. Back to the story, Alan decides to take Jeremy’s help. In his apartment, Alan sees Cynthia and later it was known they got married the other night. From then on it’s an action packed rescue adventure into the brothel. Fuhua already beat Huiann to submission; the beating was done by his agent who brought Huiann back from China. I wanted to kill them both myself, felt so angry seeing the way they treated her.

Must say that when I read Bone Deep and A Hearing Heart, I thought those books should be made into movies. As I read on Captive Bride, I had the same thought whirling around my mind. I, for one, would love to see it. In the end, the two of course came together. Though at first Huiann didn’t want to become anymore trouble for Alan, they professed their love soon. After some days, they help saving some of those women in the shacks, as laws were being passed to rectify the situation and police investigating further into the happenings of Chaina Town. Alan’s political career was over but he didn’t mind a bit. Jeremy bought his shop, as he moved into the farm with Huiann with plans to make a family there. Huiann requests those women to earn their keep by helping in the sewing. I loved loved loved the ending. *sigh* They marry and oh, one hot love scene on the beach. Can’t you tell? I adore the notion of making love on a beach! *giggles*

A perfect 5 star for this book.

PS: This book was full of Chinese proverbs as Huiann remembers them to cope with her situations. There were also a few American ones, from Alan too. I really found them inspiring and a praiseworthy effort by the author.

Favorite Quote:

Huiann swallowed, her hands clasped together and her eyes glassy with tears, then she spoke some more.
“Her heart is full of feeling for you, but she knows it is wrong for her to stay with you. She wishes for you to find a white woman who will fit into your life and be the wife you need.”
Alan started shaking his head before Dong Li even finished translating. “No. Tell her she makes me happy. She is exactly the wife I need.” He breathed deeply, steadying the quaver in his voice. “Ask Chua Huiann if she will do me the honor of marrying me.”
Dong clicked his tongue, but offered Alan’s proposal.
Huiann’s eyes opened wide and she spoke rapidly.
“How would your family and your people react to you marrying a foreign bride? You would be ostracized. It cannot be.” Dong added his own thoughts to the translation. “The girl speaks sense and sees more clearly than you.”
Alan frowned. He couldn’t promise his family would accept Huiann or ever welcome them home as a couple, but he didn’t care. Maybe she was seeing reason, but he was only seeing her.

This is the picture of the Chinese fertility goddess Kwan Yin, a statue of whom Alan gave to Huiann as a gift. I could've find some statue pics but this one is just so beautiful, couldn't help posting!

Goddess Kwan Yin


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