Held Captive

7056653Title: Held Captive
Author: Joanne Kells
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


When Aaron finds himself attracted to his best friend’s brother, he tries to tell Nathan how he feels. But Aaron is only seventeen, and Nathan has to keep him at a distance, so he moves away. Devastated, Aaron turns to a close girlfriend for comfort.

It takes a heartbroken Nathan seven years to finally return to his home and turn Aaron’s life upside down. To move on, Aaron knows he has to break free of the pain and suppressed emotions of the past… and the glimmer of hope that Nathan might want him after all.


Aaron had been in love with Nathan since he was 17 years old, and at 24 he knew that his feelings would never change. He had tried having a relationship with his friend Ginny after his mother’s death but it didn’t work out because he wasn’t attracted to women and he couldn’t commit.

At 17 he was just finding himself and understanding his sexuality, and since the only person he wanted was not attainable he decided to capitalize on his love for the sea by working as a deck hand on several yachts for years, which kept him away from land 6 months at a time. This gave him time to grow up and also avoid any relationship issues. But eventually he had to come home and face Ginny.

Then  Nathan comes back on holiday, but he brings his boyfriend Greg. Aaron had long suspected that his love for Nathan was not returned because he had not heard from him in 7 years, although he still held out hope, but now his dreams of a life with the man he loved are finally dead. However, Nathan seems to be drawn to Aaron who doesn’t understand what he wants. Eventually he shows up at Aaron’s house and declares that he loved him all along but didn’t say anything before because he felt that at 17 Aaron had been too young for a relationship and didn’t  know what he wanted out of life.

This story had a lot of unrealized potential. I knew immediately I started reading it that a couple of issues would make it difficult for me to rate it highly. First of all there was a fair bit of head hopping, and a few editing errors, although not enough to be too distracting, but what really spoiled the story was the incredible amount of purple prose. Here are a few examples

The heaviness of need thrashed and crushed his heart, which felt full of loss. He opened the door and just stared,
the drowning man inside him clutching at an invisible life raft that didn’t seemed to be doing its job well.

It was a pure need to connect to his soulmate, the one person he needed above anyone else—
the only person who could make him truly whole.

He needed to have the light switched on in his body.
Darkness had been ever-present through the
years without Nathan and Aaron was tired of feeling lost
within it.

He felt like a submarine submerged, forever in the dark, murky waters, trying to find his way.
Now in the clear light of day, he was a ship gliding by on the horizon.
Floating with ease upon the calmness of peaceful blue,
he felt he was no longer holding on, waiting for
the water to surround him and drag him under.

The locked chamber now opened, where two hearts were beating as one, and both men were finally set free.

They had been joined together since the very beginning,
whenever that was. He couldn’t remember a time when he
didn’t feel this way, in love and alive with Nathan Adams by
his side. They were destined to be together, to ride the waves
over calm and rough waters. Both had nearly drowned but
had survived the most turbulent waters of all

The above is a small example of the prose. I don’t mind a bit of over the top writing but this continued throughout the book.

The plot is certainly not original and, in fact, has been done much better countless times in the past.  In this case the two men seem to live in a dreamworld around a book published by Nathan three years ago about their love. Even though the names of the characters had been changed, it was clear that the book was about Nathan’s love for Aaron, so I couldn’t understand how Aaron, who had the book, didn’t figure out that Nathan was also pining for him, and go after his man. It also wasn’t clear why Nathan never returned to talk to Aaron after he grew up, to find out if his feelings had changed. Many unanswered questions!

Neither Nathan nor Aaron really sparked or lit a flame in me and the entire book just seemed to lack any vibrancy, although the sex, when it did happen, was the one bright spot.  The supporting characters suffered the same fate as the protagonists. I never met Ginny in the book although Aaron reflected on their non-romance a few times but again, I could not understand how a young woman would wait for a man for 7 years who clearly was not interested in her sexually, and gave no indication that he wanted a future with her. Dan, Nathan’s brother, was perhaps one bright spot in terms of his characterization.

This book would be of interest to readers of the genre.


I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball


  • Larissa
    You said it! Wasted potential. However, this may have been a first or second book so there’s lots of time to improve. I wish authors didn’t write to impress but rather let the story tell itself, in simple language, and fix all of the editorial and other errors later.

  • Giving a bad or critical review of someone just starting out is fine. I would think the review could help them figure out how to do it better. But when you read a book by a well published author and don’t like it, what then?

    That purple prose would definitely trip me up too.

    • John
      I frequently have to write reviews that are critical – that’s part of the responsibility of the reviewer. We have to be unbiased even if we like a particular writer. It’s a thankless job but someone has to do it.
      Usually a lot of purple prose is the sign of a new writer, but not always, and some types of books (Regency historicals or chick lit) seem to have more than normal of this type of writing. Again, a generalization.

  • It’s too bad Leslie. I’m not sure if this is an inexperienced writer who needed a bit more guidance from someone who would would be honest and say “perhaps you need to change your writing style.” Maybe she thought that readers would be impressed.

    I always hate having to give a below par rating.
    However, as you and I both know, we all like different types of books and this story will probably appeal to some readers.


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