There aren’t many writers where the mere mention of a new book of theirs sends me into a near frenzy, but when it comes to Kerrigan Byrne, her every comma gives me a fit of the vapours. There has never been a series of books that I have loved in its entirety as obsessively as this one, and this latest instalment has everything I could have ever wanted from a new Victorian Rebels novel—perfect pacing, an ever-thickening plot, suspense, characters I adored, and intricate relationships at every turn. Once again, Kerrigan Byrne crafts a marvelous love story laced with mystery and anticipation, written in such exquisite prose, and with female characters who are so wonderfully modern in their 1800s setting, every single sentence took my breath away.
Her touch was a balm he’d never be able to quantify. All he knew, was that her fingers were magic, and they quieted everything within him that threatened to become monstrous.
For the much anticipated and wildly speculated identity of The Rook to be finally revealed, we are taken back in time—two decades into the past—and to two young people whose first encounter came out of tragedy, but who would soon become each other’s whole world, albeit for too short a while. Although she was born the daughter of a nobleman, kind and gentle Lorelai Weatherstoke never enjoyed an easy life, her own lifelong suffering at the hands of an abusive brother moulding her into someone who easily identified with and always championed the weak and wounded. So when a nameless young man at the brink of death is found on the side of a road by her family, she not only insists on taking him back to their home, but also on nursing him back to health—slowly healing not only his broken body, but his heart, too.
She was his prayer in the night. His song in the dark. His past and present. His future. And he hadn’t even laid eyes on her yet.
An act of sheer cruelty, however, suddenly robs them of all their dreams for a future together, causing Lorelei to spend the next twenty years of her young life holding onto the memory of a man she once loved, never letting go of the hope that he would one day come back for her. But the man of ice and darkness that ends up coming back for her two decades later is not the same gentle, adoring man she once knew—in his place standing a violent being whose every breath demands fear and obedience.
“Allow me to properly present myself, Lady Southbourne. In the Orient, they call me the Black Dragon. In Africa, I am known as the Sea Panther. A warlord along the Persian coast once granted me the title, the Djinn of Darkness. I have many names, and even more titles, but first I am Capitan of the Devil’s Dirge, more commonly known in this part of the world simply as . . . The Rook.”
And so begins a furious yet passionate battle of wills between a tender-hearted damsel who refuses to accept that the boy she once loved is forever gone, and her mysterious captor whose desire to make his way back to her has kept him alive through twenty years of hell, and he is determined to finally claim her as his. Somewhere along the way, the man now only known as The Rook lost himself to a bloodlust of killing, wrath and vengeance, the monster created by a lifetime apart from his beloved no longer remembering how to love, or be loved. But his beloved is patient, kind, and steadfast with her love, slowly filling the hole in his heart that only ever belonged to her.
“How monstrous I am. I can kill a man faster than he can take a breath. I can wage war with the sea. But the stratagems of this battle remain unknown to me. The rules of society. The needs of a woman. When do I smile at her? When do I stand? And sit? I don’t remember how to laugh . . . And, how do I kiss her? And for how long? How do I make her want to kiss me back?”
A story fraught with danger and some very surprising revelations, the entire series comes full circle with this book, but it remains first and foremost the tale of two people who in spite of the many obstacles that life has thrown in their path remain devoted to one another. The unmitigated beauty of Byrne’s language is staggering, and she keeps elevating herself book after book with the quality of her storytelling, her vibrant characters, and the way she laces a stunning love story with a deliciously suspenseful tale of mystery and intrigue. An absolutely perfect addition to a much beloved series.
“I don’t know about heaven, but I know hell exists. I’ve spent most of my life there. But through all that. Through everything that’s been done to me, I’ve only ever believed in one thing.”
“What’s that?” she whispered.
“That the sun would set in the west, and that I would come for you.”
Close thunder shook the stones and rattled the glass of the oil lantern at the bedside table of yet another luxurious prison. The bed was comfortable, at least, and the room spacious, done in dark wood and autumn tones.
Still, the storm stirred a restlessness inside of her she couldn’t appease. Something wild. Something indefinable and unescapable. Like time or fate.
But didn’t she exist outside those constructs? It certainly seemed thus. Was she a married woman, or a captive? Her physical desires and her emotional ones were ever at odds when it came to the dark and damaged man who could in the span of a breath be both threatening and tender. It seemed if she were to search for Ash, he’d have to live with the Rook.
As much as the prospect terrified her, it thrilled her, as well.
And the question remained. Did she have a choice?
Did she want one?
A chill lanced up her spine, spreading bumps down her arms, and Lorelai knewhewas on the other side of her bedroom door. All six-plus-feet of him.
He hadn’t made a sound. He didn’t cast a shadow.
But he was there.
The electric presence of him radiated from just beyond the thick oak as extant and intense as the lightning outside. She was acquainted with his unparalleled strength. The barrier wouldn’t protect her if he decided to pit his body against it.
She didn’t breathe until the bolt slid open, the latch released, and he let himself into her room.
The sight of him freed the band from around her lungs and created a new pressure. One she’d felt awaken inside of her more fervently with each moment they passed in each other’s company.
A lower pressure. A moist desire.
She’d not felt it since their kiss all those years ago. But it was different now. Less innocent. More insistent.
Lanternlight had a way of softening people, but not him. His eyes were too black, to fiendishly clever. His features—dark as a heathen’s—were too hard. His expression, intemperate.
He was a living, breathing sin.
In her bedroom.
Lightning blanketed the sky in blinding brilliance, shifting the deep hollows and broad planes of his features into a queer white light. For a ghostly moment, she caught sight of the boy she’d once known.
Ash. Her ash. All tender yearning and impetuous youth. Only Ash had gazed at her like that, once upon a time.
By the time the percussion of the thunder broke their stillness, his expression had again smoothed to that eerie tranquility she’d come to despise.
Instead of many, regular beats, her heart gave one great thump. Had he come to finish what he’d started in his quarters this morning?
She’d not known men were such creatures as he until revealed his unparalleled body to her. Now that she thought of it, most men weren’t.
There was no one like him.
Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.