REVIEW: Winter’s Captive by June V Bourgo

Recently separated from her cheating husband and unaware of a budding pregnancy, Georgia Charles is on her way to Yukon to visit a childhood friend. After she’s attacked by unknown men, Georgia’s trip becomes a fight for survival. Escaping to the wild, she seeks shelter in an abandoned cabin.

With no survival skills and an impending childbirth, Georgia has to face the harsh elements of British Columbia’s Last Frontier – and her inner demons – in order to survive. As adversity and unrelenting conditions test her character and will to live, can Georgia save herself, and her unborn child?

Warnings: Abusive relationship, cultural appropriation

Category: M/F

Winter’s Captive is the first in the Georgia Series, a trilogy of survival thriller novels featuring the titular character Georgia. It is also a book that concerns a lot of exploration of growth, healing, and claiming of personal agency.

WRITING
In this book we are introduced to Georgia as a woman who has had a string of ill fortune, first with her husband leaving her, finding herself pregnant directly after, then being kidnapped by bank robbers only to escape into the harsh Canadian wilderness. The writing is pretty snappy, and it moves at a pretty good, even pacing. However, the dialogue can often feel pretty wooden and forced, so it doesn’t always flow as well as it could. But as a large portion of the story takes place with Georgia on her own in the forest, dialogue is not always a prominent aspect of the narrative. I do wish there had been more in the story of actual wilderness survival techniques, but it moves past the survival thriller stuff and into self reflection in her isolation pretty quickly, which I found less engaging. It’s much more a story about Georgia wrestling with her divorce than it is with her surviving in harsh climates which is bound to be a story some people gravitate more to than others.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
Georgia’s healing journey is… laid on pretty thick. This is a very character driven book, and its number one thrust is Georgia coming into her own as an individual with personal agency. She has a lot of baggage to unpack, from the gendered expectations she grew up with to how those expectations shaped and harmed her marriage. While all of that is all well and good, a lot of these reflections sound pretty textbook. They don’t feel as organic as they could, and sound more like parroting therapy sessions and feminist essays rather than being real in the moment realizations. For this reason, the book feels pretty cheesy, like it’s trying to force a message on the reader rather than letting both the character and the reader come to these ideas themselves. It can certainly not be accused of lacking in the emotional engagement department, but it isn’t as smoothly done as it might have been.

WORLDBUILDING
While this book bills itself as merely a survival thriller with its lead character having to rough it in the Canadian wilderness, it also has a supernatural aspect that I did not expect, and one that is of rather dubious political correctness. Georgia is aided while living on her own in the woods by a Native spirit guide, due to being on Native land. As a result, there is a lot of exploring of Tahltan beliefs and spiritualism. Now, I do not know how much research was done by the author into these beliefs, but Georgia is a white girl, and it feels rather appropriative to have this white girl running around talking about “her Native spirit” and calling herself “just like a brave on a spirit journey”. There are also some highly uncomfortable to read passages where she talks with the man who owns the cabin she found, who is Native, about his own beliefs and culture. The supernatural and spiritual aspect of this story would just have worked a whole lot better if Georgia were Native herself, rather than a lost white girl who gets to play at spiritualism she knows nothing about.

STEAMINESS
While there is a budding romance and relationship at the end of the book, we don’t get to see any sex as the one sex scene is a fade-to-black. I did really enjoy the way the relationship builds however, it was a bit of a slow burn and a lovely contrast to all of the toxic baggage Georgia works through concerning her ex husband. Here she gets to explore romance on her own terms, and with her own boundaries and agency, and that is very nice. However, I would have loved to see how that extended to her sexuality and her sexual desires and experiences. It is to the book’s detriment that it doesn’t seem to want to go there.

All in all, not a horrible book but I do wish that the author had given more thought to lifting spiritual ideas from Native culture and positioning them into the story of a white lead. While I like Georgia’s story a lot and think that this could be a very cathartic read for a lot of people, that cultural appropriation ultimately soured it for me.

Have you read Winter’s Captive? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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