As his men are slaughtered around him, legendary Irish warrior Finian O'Melaghlin is held captive by the despised English Lord Rardove. Struggling to break free, Finian finds aid from an unlikely source: the beautiful Senna de Valery, who is also trying to escape Rardove's bloodthirsty grasp. Risking both their lives, Senna releases Finian from his shackles so they can both flee, but their plight has just begun...
Seeking safe refuge, Finian and Senna have only each other to depend on for survival. Neither can deny their immediate attraction, but indulging their desires will put them both in grave danger. Finian vows to protect the woman who saved his life, but he soon learns she is a pawn in a much larger battle. For Senna has an unbreakable link to a priceless treasure many centuries old. It is the stuff from which dreams are made and for which men will kill--and not even Finian may be strong enough to save her...
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Hard to put down!
Posted June 09, 2010 by Paramance , Jax, FLKennedy is now toward the top of my favorite author's list. I read this one before The Conqueror but both were amazing. There are quite a few "scenes" so I wouldn't recommend for non mature readers but the plot is thick and winding and keeps you reading until the end. A lot of romance books can get stale after a while but with the tons of books I've read I'm always delighted when I come across one that trulely holds my attention.
2 . Slow Start, Odd Cadence
Posted June 07, 2010 by Carrie , SpokaneI would've given 1 star had I just rated the first half of the book. The flow seems jerky, the characters shallow and hard to understand. But it does get better the last half of the book. Turns out the author is fairly intelligent and seems to be more interested in Ireland and it's history rather than the story. But it was fairly well done in the end. Worth the read for free, but not great by any stretch.
June 01, 2010
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Excerpt from The Irish Warrior by Kris Kennedy
Early autumn, Northern Ireland, 1295 A.D.
"It's simple, really," drawled the voice from the shadows. "Submit, or men start dying. The choice is yours."
Finian O'Melaghlin, Irish noble, warrior, and chief councilor to the great O'Fail king, finished his grim smile. Everything was going as planned. Or rather, as expected.
From the moment The O'Fail sent Finian to accept Lord Rardove's long-standing but ultimately treacherous invitation to meet, Finian had been separated from his men, plied first with food, then with prison. Rardove was proving predictable. And dangerous.
Finian had argued against the meeting, but his king insisted. The Irish suspected Rardove was up to something. Something dangerous. Something related to the legendary Wishme dyes.
Unfortunately, Rardove suspected the Irish were up to something as well.
Pain shuddered through Finian's body from the savage beatings he'd already suffered, but that meant nothing. All that mattered was finnding out what Rardove knew and preventing him from finding out any more. For that, he and his men had committed to die if needed.
"Somehow, Rardove"--he angled a glance over his shoulder--" I don't feel I can trust ye."
The guards holding his arms eyed him warily. Shackled around the wrists, cast in a prison with a blade at his throat and a guard on both arms, he was scaring them half to death. He could see it in their anxious eyes, smell it in the stench of fear rising from their pores. He growled once, to warn them and amuse himself.
Iron chains bit into his wrists as one of the soldiers twisted his arm up and into his spine. Lord Rardove, baron of a small but strategically important fief on the Irish marches, stepped out of the shadows and made a slow circuit around the entangled foursome.
"Stop scaring my men, O'Melaghlin," he said, and deposited a disgusted glance on a soldier who'd backed up a pace at the feral growl. "Join with me and you'll be a rich man."
Finian laughed hoarsely. "Rich, is it? I'd have something different in mind than to be fettered in chains and thrown in a prison."
Rardove gave an exaggerated sigh. "You did not begin in chains, did you? We began in my chambers, with wine and meat. Now look at us."
Finian glanced around the small cell, where the stone walls wept rancid water from above stairs and old blood from previous guests. "I agree. We've deteriorated."
A wan smile crossed the baron's face. "You will find me a most accommodating master."
"Master?" Finian spit the word from his mouth. Tall, ruddy-faced, blond, Rardove was the English ideal of noble handsomeness. Finian wanted to kick his teeth in.
"A hundred marks to you personally if you secure The O'Fail's goodwill in this matter."
"Rardove," he said wearily, "ye've been here for twenty years, and the land is dying under ye. The crops don't yield, your people die of ague, your cattle from murrain. Yer overlord can't stand ye, and neither can I. Why on God's good earth would I align with ye?"
The careful mask of calm covering the baron's visage cracked slightly. "Your king sent you here to parley, did he not?"
'Get inside the bulwark of Rardove Castle,' was actually what his king sent him here to do. Step one, accomplished.
"Parley?" Finian retorted. "Is that what ye call this?"
"I call this a necessary measure."
"My question is simple, Rardove, and has not changed since I knocked on yer door: what would ye get out of such an alliance?"
Step two: Ascertain what Rardove knew, how much he knew. And above all, stop him from learning any more. The baron waved his hand through the air, a vague gesture.
"Reduced threat of war on my borderlands. An end to an old feud." His voice slowed. "Perhaps, say, access to some of your Irish documents."
And with that, Finian had his answer: Rardove knew everything.
It was what he'd feared all along. Why would one of the most powerful lords in northern Ireland--powerful enough to seize these lands without his king's permission twenty years ago, then powerful enough to acquire the typically unforgiving Edward's royal dispensation afterward--now be begging for an alliance with the very people he'd conquered?
"Ye know about the dyes," Finian said slowly.
The mollusks, the Wishmes, had been forgotten for centuries, but their legends stretched back to the Romans. In a time when majesty was instilled primarily on the point of a sword, the indigo shade was allowed only for royalty, but it could make a man with the recipe richer than a king. Much richer. And more powerful. Disguise and rumor were half the game, and there was no disguise so rich, so stunning, so fueled by some inner blue-black fire, than the Wishme indigo of the Western Edge. Ireland.
Rardove's lips stretched into an insincere grin. "I haven't the faintest notion what you're talking about." Bastard.
The Wishme dyes were truly the stuff of legend. Stunning. Rare.
Slowly, like climbing down a rope, Finian slid down the cords of his anger, fighting the almost overwhelming urge to smash Rardove's face with his boot. Then slit his throat.
"Does yer King Edward know?" he asked tightly.
Rardove smiled. "At the moment, you ought to worry more about me."
"Och, don't worry, cruim--inside, I'm shaking like a lamb," Finian retorted absently, his mind turning. The recklessness that would prompt Rardove to imprison an Irish nobleman on a mission of parley bespoke grave desperation.
Urgency. Which wasn't surprising, because the Wishmes were generous with their perils.
As a color, they made a true dye that could drop a king to his knees. But that wasn't enough to make a lone English lord on the Irish marches goad his enemies with such abandon.
Weapons were. And the Wishmes could be made into a powder that would blow the roof off Dublin Abbey.
The question was, did Rardove know?
"Pretty, aren't they?" Finian said, testing. No use in subterfuge any longer.
"I do appreciate their hue," Rardove agreed, his tone musing. "But more, I like the way they explode."
Finian nodded coldly. "And yet, here I am. Ye might have the Wishmes, but ye don't know how to make the dye. Ye need the recipe. And someone who can read it."
Rardove smiled and spread his hands. "And thus, why should we not draw together, the Irish and I?"
Possibly because the Irish had lost the Wishme recipe hundreds of years ago. Were, in fact, on a desperate hunt for the dye manual at this very moment. But Finian saw no pressing need to inform Rardove of that.
"You don't like the terms?" the baron inquired.
"Let's say I don't like ye."
"Tsk, tsk." Rardove shook his head. "You've to learn manners, O'Melaghlin, like all your kind." He snapped his fingers at the guards. A smelly hand reached up and grabbed a lock of Finian's hair, wrenching his head backward.
The sound of groans drifted in through chinks in the stone walls. Finian tried to turn but couldn't. It didn't matter. He knew who it was: O'Toole, one of his best men, whose leg had been broken in the attack.
Every member of his personal retinue knew this might turn out to be a death duty. Finian insisted each man choose it; no orders accompanied this mission except his own. But while his men may have been willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of Eire, Finian wasn't quite ready to give them up yet. "And if I agreed?" he said quietly. Perhaps he could feign surrender, leave with his men.
"Why, you'd be free to go."
"Every day you don't return with an agreement from your king, I'll kill one of your men."
Barely able to see from the torturous angle, Finian freed his head with a savage jerk. He fixed the baron in a murderous glare, pausing barely a second to wonder on the wisdom of a God who would give a man so evil the face of a saint. "My men would come with me."
The baron shook his head in mock sadness. "You must agree I'd be a fool to release all of you, giving me no recompense were the terms of our agreement not upheld."
"I would agree ye're a fool."
Another thin, unwell smile lifted the baron's lips. "I think perhaps two a day," he mused, peering at his fingernails. "One in the dawn and one before bed. Like prayers."
"I'll sign the treaty," he said coldly. "Release my men."
"Release them? I think not. We sign papers, get witnesses, turn over the dye manual, all that messiness, before they leave."
Finian turned back to the wall in grim silence.
Rardove sighed. "Well, I didn't expect much wit from an Irishman." He turned to the guards. "Chain him to the wall and lay a few lashes against his back. We'll see if he thinks differently then."
They dragged him forward and shackled his hands in manacles dangling from huge metal braces bolted into the wall. A shield of dark hair fell forward as he dropped his head between his shoulders and braced his palms against the dank putrefaction, muscles contracted in readiness. He managed a brief prayer for survival, then one for vengeance, before the assault came.
It descended in screaming strips of leather, tearing open his flesh. Clamping down on his jaw, he scorned the agony, thinking only of what would happen to the spirits of his men if they heard him howling at Rardove's feet. Battered back, stomach, ribs; he'd been beaten into a bloody mess twice already. Once more couldn't matter much.
The assault was cut short on a shout from one of the baron's men, who came slipping down the moss-covered steps to the prisons.
"Good, my lord," panted the breathless courier. "Word has come. Senna de Valery arrives."
"Ah, my . . . betrothed." A pause. "Unshackle him."
Finian spared a brief prayer of thanks to the woman who had saved him from this beating.