Following up on Courted, I liked it enough to pick up Captured--and despite a few issues with Captured, I liked this one enough to buy the last two books in the quartet (I think it's just a quartet!) so that should give you some indication of how this went.
Captured picks up basically right where Courted left off, but with different main characters, of course. Lauren is the heroine in this one, and the hero is hunky bodyguard Dimitri--bodyguard and client are one of my favorite pairing tropes, which was one of the reasons I went for this one! Lauren and her friends are still hanging out in Garronia following Em's engagement to Prince Kristos, and figuring out what they're going to do next. Lauren slips away from a party to go down into the city and get drunk with the locals, and Dimitri follows to bring her back...at which point she discovers a package hanging out in the palace that she recognizes. It's from Henry Smithson, who has been sending Lauren packages in that style for years. Sometimes they contain lavish gifts--clothes, jewels, etc. Sometimes they contain more sinister things, like spiders, scorpions, or even what she suspects are the ashes of the family dog that went missing. But Henry is one of her father's best friends and business partners, and haven't believed her in the past when she expressed her feelings that something is very wrong with him, that he's stalking her, etc. and she's convinced the pattern is going to continue now. But it doesn't, because unlike her parents, Dimitri and the royal family, particularly Queen Catherine, believe her. And when Henry shows up with Lauren's parents at Kristos and Em's engagement party and tries to coerce Lauren into marrying him, they (well, Dimitri) spirits her off to safety.
Dimitri and Lauren are one of those couples that are attracted to each other, but get on each other's nerves. Dimitri annoys Lauren because he's a little overbearing, and she frustrates him because she acts like an ice queen when he suspects she's really not. I really liked this dynamic, and how it slowly began to unwind once Lauren felt safely away from Henry for a while. The chemistry between the two main characters was definitely there, and for most of the book I think it progressed in a logical manner. I wasn't rolling my eyes at insta-love the way I was for the entire first half of Courted. The whole "Lauren has a stalker" thing was a much darker and more menacing plot line than the "oh the media thinks we're together" plot that propelled Courted, and I think it was a nice change. And this plot also gears up the "search for the missing prince" plot that Courted only hints at.
That said, I did still have a few issues with this. For the most part, I think the romance progressed in a sensible way, but it did make a big jump to "Oh btw I love you and want to be with you forever" at the end, which seemed very abrupt in the face of how it had been building for the rest of the book. There's also an attempt to redeem Lauren's parents that I don't think really worked out. For so much of the book, they were portrayed as not caring, and then suddenly at the end they were like, "Oh, we cared the whole time, we just couldn't do anything about it then," which didn't sit right with me. I think Lauren's relationship with her parents in light of the whole Henry thing would have suffered a lot more, and the way it was so neatly tied up just didn't seem to fit properly.
That said, this does lay out the plot for the next book nicely, and I'm looking forward to it. Despite the darker plot of this book, it's still a pretty light series--but I think the plot here tempered it and helped stop it from being too sickly-sweet. The third book, Claimed, looks like it might be along the same lines, which is good!
3.5 stars out of 5.