Author: Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan ByrneThe Duke with the Dragon Tattoo (Victorian Rebels, #6) by Kerrigan Byrne
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on 28th August 2018
Pages: 333
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…

He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…

A LEGENDARY LOVE

Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?

Kerrigan Byrne writes the most tortured, menacing and sinister men in Victorian Rebels, which is a feat considering this is no less than an old-school bodice ripper that can be indulged in simply because the story does turn out to be way more than the stereotypes it plays to.

Ash, first a victim of his circumstances, now an unapologetically ruthless pirate, leads the charge in Byrne’s sixth book as the predominant force that helps turn the pages. Rather, this shadowy and fearsome pirate steers not just his own ship but also the plot, looming so much larger than life that Lorelai, who, portrayed as the angelic, innocent one (though with some spine to her personality), pales in comparison to the darkness and the unrelenting personality that he has.

The power of fiction here however, lies in its ability to bestow super-human strength and resistance to its protagonists, though truthfully it’s still difficult to swallow the incredulity that keeps popping up each time Byrne puts Ash through the wringer only to survive it all under such dire conditions when lesser people would have long succumbed to heinous illness.

In fact, I constantly wondered how Ash lived past the age of 18, from the very day he was found by Lorelai—given the brutal, unsanitary conditions of Victorian times and all—, let alone through nearly 40 years of cruel, indentured servitude. Consequently, a lot is packed into a reunion after 2 decades apart (through no fault of the protagonists at all), and Ash powers through it in a dazzling contradiction of emotions dictating his actions, while Lorelai remains the genteel Angel determined to reclaim the boy she once nursed back to health.

Ash/Lorelai’s relationship however, characterised by Byrne’s prolific purple prose, simultaneously enraptured and bothered me. Hyperbolic descriptions of every emotion and every touch stretch into embellished metaphors and analogies, made for both passionate, poetic moments—that undoubtedly made her characters wonderfully nuanced—and cheesy over-doneness.

In any case, along with the growing action towards the end and Byrne’s revelation of the intriguing connections between her male protagonists, I’d say this is enough of a hook to keep a watch out for the next book to come.

four-stars

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

The Highwayman by Kerrigan ByrneThe Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels, #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on September 1st 2015
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More, is a ruthless villain. Scarred and hard-hearted, Dorian is one of London’s wealthiest, most influential men who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on those who’ve wronged him…and will fight to the death to seize what he wants. The lovely, still innocent widow Farah Leigh Mackenzie is no exception—and soon Dorian whisks the beautiful lass away to his sanctuary in the wild Highlands…

But Farah is no one’s puppet. She possesses a powerful secret—one that threatens her very life. When being held captive by Dorian proves to be the only way to keep Farah safe from those who would see her dead, Dorian makes Farah a scandalous proposition: marry him for protection in exchange for using her secret to help him exact revenge on his enemies. But what the Blackheart of Ben More never could have imagined is that Farah has terms of her own, igniting a tempestuous desire that consumes them both. Could it be that the woman he captured is the only one who can touch the black heart he’d long thought dead?

Rarely do I venture into the historical romance world anymore, unlike the way I only read them…back in the day, when it was customary for men to be rakes and women as blushing virgins despite their fiery tempers and it all ends richly, wealthily happy ever after. But not being able to get anything contemporary to hold my attention, ‘The Highwayman’ seemed like a good and random dip back into it.

And it was an awesome read, for most part, but I suspected it appealed precisely because it read very much like a 21st century re-invention of the Victorian romance, complete with an anti-hero (no badly-behaving Dukes or Earls or Viscounts here because their aristocratic statuses allow them the liberty) who is as black as sin, the raunchy language of today’s sexy times and a spit-fire sassy woman who could probably run for a place in political office if she wanted. Kerrigan Byrne’s unapologetic portrayal of the king of the underworld and the rediscovery of his soulmate was enthralling and the reason for his cruelty towards others underscores just how much he had been stripped of dignity when it all began. That Byrne wrote a heroine to match is remarkable: one who never gives up, with the right balance of naïveté and sass that apparently proves sufficient to even turn the blackest heart around, even if the thought of loving a jaded, cynical man back into wholeness seems like a cliché to an equally cynical reader like me.

(It’s smartly done, nonetheless, leaving me with the burning but probably insignificant question of how Dorian’s eyes changed colour.)

The dramatic—sometimes overly so—descriptions got on my nerves a bit towards the end because I could only laugh at the elevated way both Farah and Dorian thought about their emotions always bursting at the seams. But I was still captivated by how Byrne put away the polite rules of Victorian society here to write by her own instead, leaving me never feeling out of place in a period that should be suffocating me with corsets, manners and stuffy shirts.

four-stars