Series: Victorian Rebels, #7
Published by Gnarly Wool Publishing on 2nd June 2020
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This Knight of the Crown is driven by a painful past and a patient fury… and his entire life is a lie.
Sir Carlton Morley is famously possessed of extraordinary will, singular focus, and a merciless sense of justice. As a man, he secured his fortune and his preeminence as Scotland Yard's ruthless Chief Inspector. As a decorated soldier, he was legend for his unflinching trigger finger, his precision in battle, and his imperturbable strength. But as a boy, he was someone else. A twin, a thief, and a murderer, until tragedy reshaped him.
Now he stalks the night, in search of redemption and retribution, vowing to never give into temptation, as it's just another form of weakness.
Until temptation lands—quite literally—in his lap, taking the form of Prudence Goode.
Prim and proper Pru is expected to live a life of drudgery, but before she succumbs to her fate, she craves just one night of desire. On the night she searches for it, she stumbles upon a man made of shadows, muscle and wrath… And decides he is the one.
When their firestorm of passion burns out of control, Morley discovers, too late, that he was right. The tempting woman has become his weakness.
A weakness his enemies can use against him.
‘A Dark and Stormy Knight’ is Kerrigan Byrne’s latest in the Victorian Rebels series, a book that I’d been waiting for simply because it features yet another dark-ish and tortured male protagonist in the form of the uptight, intense and very righteous Sir Carlton Morley. Eschewing the typical format of a historical romance narrative, Morley and Prudence Goode meet, have a smexy encounter early on…and face the consequences of that near immediately along with a marriage of convenience. There’s a bit of a murder mystery to solve as well, but it isn’t primarily the focus of the story as Byrne puts the stuttering relationship between Morley and Pru in the spotlight throughout.
Morley is quite the enigma, which pretty much kept me engrossed in the book. I liked Byrne’s portrayal of his many sides: the self-policing vigilante by night, the tough and rigid Chief Inspector by day and the tightly leashed man who’d emerged out of the ruins of a tragic childhood…yet one who secretly yearned for some tenderness in his life and needed a vulnerable and emotionally open woman who could unlock that part.
Yet pairing Morley with a hand-wringing, bosom-heaving damsel in distress was still a surprise somewhat; a needy and lonely Prudence faded in some ways in contrast to the very strong, volatile and very fleshed-out personality of Morley despite trying to stand on her feet to show him how she wanted him. I’ve made no secret about how I love my heroines capable and no-nonsense, who contribute to solutions instead of getting mired in problems (sometimes of their own making) and in this manner, Pru was disappointingly passive somehow (concessions must be made nonetheless for women of the time), having spent most of the book with little ambition other than to lead a happy and easy life with a husband who loved her.
And there’s something old-fashioned about the trope-laden ‘A Dark and Stormy Knight’ that I felt keenly here: the cover that reinforces the bodice-ripper reputation of historical romances, coupled with Byrne’s prolific use of purple prose which simultaneously elevates and overly dramatises the beauty of narrative simplicity and directness (this is admittedly coming from someone who is more steeped in all things contemporary).
Still, it’s a fun read—cringey at times to be honest, because of the prose that shoots emotion into the stratosphere—and an easy one for that matter. Byrne is an author whose books I normally circle back to after a while and revisiting her Victorian world is always a welcome escape.