laurendane.com: Vincenz Fardelle, exiled son of the Supreme Leader of the Imperialist Universe, has spent much of the last ten years working to stop the threat his father poses. But he’s not alone in his quest. Julian Marsters has lost his best friend and countless others in the war and has made vengeance his only goal. In each other, Julian and Vincenz find not only like minds, but kindred spirits.
However unexpected their relationship, everything changes for Vincenz and Julian when Hannah Black comes into their lives. Having been captured and held in near total isolation by imperialist troops, their immediate response is to protect her.
Emotionally shattered but resilient, Hannah rebuilds herself. Because of the warm safety she finds in the arms of Julian and Vincenz she becomes someone harder, stronger and bent on preventing the Imperialists from harming anyone else.
For the two men, wrestling with their passionate feelings for Hannah is only the beginning. War is about to send all three into harm’s way and an equally dangerous secret could tear them apart.
My thanks to Lauren Dane for supplying an ARC of Captivated. It released on Tuesday, and if you don't already have it, you should run out, or run to your device of choice and buy it now.
What I liked:
Julian - so conflicted. So afraid to open himself up again. And yet he's let Vincenz in. He's all protective alpha, but still angry, and underneath all that anger you can see what an amazing man he is - a standup friend, a supportive lover, and a fierce warrior.
Vincenz - I love how he balances Julian, grounds him. He gets all soft and mushy around Hannah, showing a different side of himself. The betrayal he must feel and the strength he showed by leaving his family and 'verse to do the right thing is astounding. Although Julian has a much stronger presence, it's Vincenz who is the glue holding them all together. Steadfast, strong, loving.
Hannah - I liked that Dane gave her lots and lots of time to recover from her ordeal, and even at the end, there are still times when she retreats into herself. She makes the guys see that there is more to life than fighting the war, and makes them want to be better people. For her, for each other, and for themselves. We see her come back to herself, into her strength as she undergoes treatment to regain her memory of things she might know that could help win the war.
The relationship(s): I loved the way the relationship between the three grew. As Vincenz and Julian bring Hannah into their home and she begins her recovery, it's about offering the quiet strength and support she needs. Eventually, this grows into love and sex, but it's the underlying trust that drives everything between these three. I enjoyed the realistic struggle when Hannah wants to contribute and accompany them on their mission - they want to protect her and wrap her up, and she views it as a way not only to avenge her capture and torture, but to make Julian and Vincenz see her as whole, as a full participant in their relationship, as unbroken.
Geek/nerddom showing, but as I was writing this, the image of a Venn diagram came to my mind - the three pieces intersecting independently as well as joined together in the center. Each man has an independent and different equal relationship with Hannah and with each other, and yet the three together are at the center of the relationship in its entirety, irrevocably joined together. As I said, I'm a math geek. Sue me. (And who says math can't be beautiful? LOL)
The sex: Between Julian and Vincenz, the only word I can come up with that sums it up is masculine. It's sometimes rough, sometimes tender, but always manly. These guys are both alpha males, and I love watching the changing dynamics between them, not just, but especially during sex. There's a level of trust between them, a safety and reassurance that is tangible and real in their world gone crazy. We always say that sex should be about forwarding a relationship and this is it. (Oh, and another word? Hot. Yeah.)
Between the guys and Hannah, it allows their soft sides to come to the surface. I love that the relationships are established before the sex begins, that the guys feel secure in their relationship to be freely affectionate in front of Hannah, and that she's not threatened by it. Not are either of the guys threatened when they each have sex with Hannah separately. When the three are together, each of the men can go from being forceful to sweet, and neither are threatened by the presence of the other. (Side note: Obviously something that continues to permeate every book I review with a permanent triad in it... I just don't see how a non-competitive, non-jealousy-laden triad is really possible, but Dane makes me believe in it even as I question the lack of competition and jealousy. That's talent.)
Worldbuilding: Once again, excellent, although because so much of this book took place within Julian & Vincenz's house, the worldbuilding wasn't as explicit and easy as in other books in the series. It's enough that popping in to the series in this book would provide context and worldbuilding enough to understand and enjoy the story and overarching series plot, but truly to understand the entirety and the fullness of the world Dane has created, I insist that you read from the beginning. Or at least from book 2 in the series, where to me, the worldbuilding took its greatest shape.
The war: The war is escalating and treachery and deceit are the name of the game. It's an interesting contrast to the core relationship, where being open and honest is so vital for trust. Anyway, all the books have been leading up to the downfall of Vincenz's father, the mastermind of the attempted takeover of the Federation by the Imperium. When that confrontation happens, it was a wee bit anticlimactic, overshadowed for me by a surprising conclusion to Vincenz's search for his mother and desire to rescue her from the prison her own home has become.
What I didn't like: Not much. But as I alluded to earlier, because so much of the book was focused on the relationship (a plus!) and took place within the confines of Vincenz & Julian's home, I missed so many of the subtle, little touches that were in the other books that really bring this world to life. Many of the anachronistic references were missing from this one, and as a result, the world felt less rich and full to me.
That said, the focus of the book was twofold - the dichotomy between the slowly evolving, sweet and beautiful relationship between Hannah, Vincenz, and Julian, and the harsh horrific world of war outside their doorstep. It's a jolting transition each time we move from one setting to the next, as it must be for the characters as well.
This is another fantastic entry to the series, an emotionally charged, beautiful 3-way romance set against a harsh, unforgiving war. Dane, as always, manages both deftly and with care. I highly recommend Captivated, and the entire Federation/Phantom Corps series. Go forth and buy and read.