Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis (review)

I became a Reader in third grade. After having been ill for enough of second grade that, if we hadn’t moved back to our home state, I would have been held back.  I tested low enough to be pulled out of my regular classroom for special help with reading and a bit of writing. In addition, my dad worked with me in the evenings. Once I had reading figured out, the school library became one of my favorite places. And in that library, where I first learned to find books by going through the drawers of index cards, I found three books that I read over and over for the next three years.

Ten or so years ago, I was feeling nostalgic and requested one of those books on captivetrail_susanpagedavis_moodypubinter-library loan through my local library. When it arrived, it was old and brown, vintage 1968 non-fiction. Perfect. That is, until I began to read. What I remembered as being detailed and exciting was actually very short, very dry and quite boring. The pictures were familiar, as were the basic outlines of stories, but the substance supplied by my childhood imagination was missing. I started to wish that perhaps I could, someday, write out my versions of those stories. Or find them already done. Captive Trail, as soon as I started reading it, was pure wish fulfillment. (though set in Texas, rather than colonial America).

Taabe Waipu has spent twelve years among the Comanche, first as a captive and then as an adopted member of a family. When an unwanted bride price is left outside her home, she takes the fastest of the four horses and flees. Travelling south, towards the white men’s settlements, she is injured and loses the horse. Found by Ned Bright, a mail coach driver, Taabe is taken in by a group of nuns who are starting a school in the Texas grasslands. As she heals from her wounds and re-learns English, she grows to love her caretakers, a young Mexican girl, and possibly even Ned. But always she is aware that Peca, the man who wanted her for his wife, will be coming for her. She has shamed him and the Comanche do not allow escape.

While this book is classified as a romance, and the romance is believable and heartwarming, that is not what takes center stage. Rather, it is Taabe’s journey to rediscover the identity she tried so hard to hold onto and to find her family. It is about the heartbreak of families who lost children to raids, and those who lost them in other ways, whether Comanche, white, or Mexican. It is also about growing in faith and understanding. And all of this is handled in a wonderful manner by the author, who avoids heavy handedness and taking the easy way of relying on a hero/villain dichotomy between Comanche and rancher.

I greatly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, romance, and tales of the American West complete with action scenes. I chose to read this book after having enjoyed the author’s more recent novel, The Outlaw Takes a Bride (read my review here). I was very pleased to see that Captive Trail is part of a six book series “Texas Trails” about the Morgan family, and that Susan Page Davis also authored another entry in this multi-author series. I think I’ll be giving the other 5 novels a try in the near future.

Captive Trail (Texas Trails #2) by Susan Page Davis | Moody Press, 2011 | 304 pages (paperback)

Review copy source: Library e-book

Other books mentioned:

Stolen by the Indians by Dorothy Heiderstadt, published by D. McKay Co, 1968 (children’s non-fiction)

The Outlaw Takes a Bride by Susan Page Davis, published by Shiloh Run Press, 2015