This I struggled to get into which surprised me. I think the second book in this trilogy was the strongest among the 3 books. I was hoping to get a lot of drama, adventure and tortured characters in this but the plot and set up left me wanting more. I found it lacking in areas. I thought the plot and timeline of this story was a little too similar to how The China Bride was set up. That made it a little disappointing and underwhelming. I felt it would have made for a more original story and less predictable if Putney changed things up a bit.
The story starts off with Captain Elliot, Gavin held in a prison after being convicted of murdering his wife Alex. The story flashes back to a year before where the protagonists meet and the story goes from there. Naturally the beginning for me was a little underwhelming, I would have preferred a new set up seeing as how The China Bride started out the same way. And while I love reading stories filled with adventures and travels to foreign lands I struggled to truly get into this story until half way in. I liked both characters I just wasn't as enthralled or convinced of their chemistry considering what Alex was put through and the awful position both of them are put in during the Lion Games trials. There is one scene in particular that is hard to get through and I felt was a little contrived and pushing it. It definitely caused great tension and anxiety between the two after wards.
The heroine Alex, was a very tormented character. She was captured and sold into slavery and lives through abuse and rape for 6 months in a East Indies country. She is put through a lot in this book and I appreciate the fact that Putney writes heroines who are brave, compassionate, courageous and have so much will and perseverance. They are unique in their own right. As Alex is described here, they are female warriors. I can't say I've read heroines like the ones featured in this trilogy, each having witnessed and lived through unimaginable tragedy and personal struggle. They really stood out to me. There was nothing I didn't like about Alex, she was incredibly brave selfless and has a big compassionate understanding heart. She's endlessly described as indomitable and should have been born a male because of her resilience and I can see why. But I found myself a little frustrated on Gavin's behalf (who is a complete patient understanding gentleman in this and never complained) with the distance Alex kept putting between her and Gavin. And it's not intentional, and completely understandable but still.... I found it unfair. And I hate using that word considering what Alex is put through and again, she has such a selfless heart and is a very tormented character but I felt myself getting restless while reading this with the slow movement we got between her and Gavin. I found the romance side of this story tepid because of it. I wasn't swept away by it. Alex tries her best to be a true wife to him and they grow close and confide in each other but I struggled to believe them falling in love. What I liked was their complete honesty and vulnerability with each other, this is the most selfless marriage I have read about. They both give as much as they took and tried to be fair and understanding of the other completely. I found that very honest and raw and refreshing which I liked. Unfortunately as far as the love story, I didn't feel it as much as I wanted to. Alex struggles throughout the book with putting her brutal experiences as a slave behind her. It effects her and Gavin's marriage and intimate relationship greatly. Gavin was a complete saint and wonderful friend, husband and lover. There really isn't much if any 'love scenes' in this given the circumstances of the couple's marriage. While I understood it and sympathized with Alex's struggle to move on, it tended to drag the story out.
Alex's daughter Katie was sweet but I was wishing to see actual bonding moments between her and Gavin. We are told that he adores her and is enchanted by her and happy to have a family of is own but minus a few moments on his ship together I really didn't see much interaction/dialogue between the Captain and his new step daughter. I was disappointed in that. Gavin has such a big loving patient heart, I really wanted to see more moments with him and Katie.
As for the 'twist' and villain(s) in this, I can't say I didn't see it coming. The female villain in this is truly terrifying and maddening how deranged she is but it did come off cliche. The plot to get 'revenge' was contrived and a little cartoonish for me but the wife did make me want to strangle her so I guess I was sold on the evil part. It was frustrating and difficult to read those scenes of the villain going on and on about ruining Alex and Gavin, gleeful to talk about deranged things like watching him die and wanting to describe it to Alex. Bleh.
All in all, it was interesting story and full of angst and tension. I really did enjoy and love the main characters Alex and Gavin. For me, this wasn't Putney's best but I will keep reading her other books after this trilogy for sure.