My rating: 1.5 of 5 flames
This book caught me off guard. On page one, the heroine is trying to leave a man’s bed, but he tells her that her skills are not exaggerated and he drags her back. Afterwards, we see her ritual after a night like that, where she goes to the beach to clean off, and debates coming back up for air. She would end it all if she thought her sister would be protected.
Isabel is trying to protect her sister, so when her stepfather forces her to whore herself out so he can use the information she gathers against his enemies, she does so. He uses her sister’s welfare against Isabel in order to keep her in line. We are shown emotional and heartbreaking scenes where he has her leg broken, and then lets his men rape her repeatedly while her leg is broken. This made me just want to reach through the book and choke her stepfather. It was hard for me to understand, though, why Isabel was so ready to believe he’d abuse Thora, her sister. Thora was his blood daughter, and it would be to his advantage to get a good match for her. Isabel was not his blood relation, so while I loved her protectiveness of Thora, it made little sense that she believed her stepfather would harm the girl. I get that it’s the 11th century, but still, she had no reason to believe he’d hurt his “real” daughter.
I got about 85 pages in before I knew it, and I was blown away by the plot. Blown away. This book was a solid 4, until… the hero did something that floored me. It’s awful. And he did this more than once!
Duncan asks Isabel what she would like to do this evening. She dons her “whore persona” (she is a whore, btw, it’s all she knows, and he has paid her stepfather a ton of gold for a month with her).
“As she considered her words carefully before speaking he felt her retreating within herself, almost as if building a wall around her innermost thoughts and desires and needs so no one could touch them. The whore’s expression returned to her features and he wondered if she even knew when she used it.
“You,” she whispered in a husky tone. “I wish to do you.”
(…) POV shift here
His response was fast and almost furious as he crossed the few paces between them, pulled her into his arms and dragged her onto the surface of the table where they’d just shared a meal. When she tried to ease her hands free so she could touch him, he took them in one of his and held them above her head. Before she could say a word to him, he kneed her legs apart, pulled the robe and his shirt out of his way and thrust into her.
Isabel gasped in surprise, for he’d never done that in all their joinings. With no prelude and no attention to her at all, he shoved his cock until it could go no farther and then relentlessly sought his own release. Her body adjusted to his, her inner walls relaxing as they accomodated his length and thickness, pouring out moisture to ease his way. Just as her body fell into rhythm with his movements, his cock hardened and released his seed into her. His breaths were shalllow and quick, but he did not pause to relax after his release. Instead he withdrew from her and stepped away.
Laying exposed, her legs spread and his seed still escaping from within her, she felt like the whore she was…
“Now that Isabel the whore has had what she wanted,” he began in a low voice.
His words hurt her for some reason she did not wish to examine too closely.
“What does Isabel the woman wish to do this evening?”
“Have I angered you in some way?” she asked.
“If and when you act the whore, I will fuck you like you are one.”
Wow, he paid for a whore, got a whore, then got pissed when she acted like one?
Up til now, he’s been the model hero. Patient, kind, and generous. This passage makes me want to stab him. Duncan had been trying to help her see that she could become more than just a whore, and he wanted her to see her value was more than just what she did on her back. And then he pulled this. And he did it again later! What kind of man is that? Definitely not a hero.
Her sister is never told/shown her father has been using Isabel. She was used as well, just in a different way. And it felt like she was a cardboard character. She is just used by Duncan, and by her father, and even by the author as a plot device.
The betrayal, was such a huge deal, and completely under-used. Things that could have been used and could have been incredibly emotional scenes were glossed over. I mean, Duncan’s solution to free Isabel from her stepfather is a gut-wrenching decision. (won’t spoil it) But at the end, the solution is less than a paragraph. Way too easy, and too fast.
The paranormal aspect was mild, her water connection was never used to its fullest potential. Duncan is a healer, but he doesn’t understand his gifts. Isabel has a connection with water, but other than just looking refreshed after a rain, or understanding the storm and knowing how long it’ll last, there’s another plot device that could have been explored so much more.
I thought this book started off strong, amazing and intense. Then it fell apart. I’m sad I didn’t like it as the plot had the potential to be fantastic. It started off so well. But I lost all respect for the hero many times over. I liked the betrayal but it was glossed over. The ending was too easy.
***Kensington provided the review copy