Top critical review
2 disappointing & unsexy stars
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 31, 2020
This one started off with a strong premise, but the execution fizzled...
Life-long warrior Hugh has recently inherited an earldom from his uncle, and he finally feels that his life has taken a turn for the better. His father was the second son who left the life of an estate steward to become a knight for hire when he had a dispute with the former earl (Hugh's uncle); thus, Hugh moved around a lot as a child and his family did not have much money. When he was of age, he fostered with a warrior and became one himself, but as warriors do not generally have lands, titles, or funds, he was rejected on the marriage mart. Now he will have all of those things that he was found lacking, and he hopes to find a lady to marry and make his life complete. HOWEVER, the best laid plans...
One of the conditions of his inheriting the money is that he wed his uncle's ward - a young woman known as "Willa" who has been living near the property in a small cottage with an elderly witch; her rescued wolves her only companions as she learned very early in life that having friends meant placing them in danger. Though she has no memory of her true parents and no one seems to know who they are, she has called the earl her "papa" all of her life; now that he is gone, she must move to the main estate and marry a man she has never seen before but one she has known she would wed one day. As a girl, she dreamed he would be handsome with gleaming long blond hair, kind to all, strong enough to protect her and her loved ones, and he would arrive on a white horse. When she meets Hugh, he fulfills most of her wishes, but Hugh wants nothing to do with a woman he believes is ill suited to be an earl's wife, so he initially rejects her. But when he learns she was raised as a genteel lady and that he must marry her to gain the funds he needs to run the earldom he has inherited, he realizes he has made a mistake and must do all he can to win her over.
In his quest to earn her trust, he spends 2 days and 2 nights guarding her (as that is the only thing he knows he is best at), and on the second night, he is attacked. Though the attacker is dispatched, it becomes evident that Willa's life is in danger, and he will have to do all he can to keep her safe. As they wed and begin to grow closer as a couple, Hugh finds it will take all his skills as a warrior to investigate why Willa has become a target for death and to be sure he does not fail to protect her at any cost. But will that be enough to stop the force that has been determined to end Willa's life from the very moment it began? And can they find the culprit(s) before all they have begun to build together is lost?
What I liked:
--- As I mentioned at the start, the premise was interesting with a mystery girl who has grown up with a witch who doles out cryptic prophecies... the set up sucked me right in
--- The mystery was there from the start and continued to keep my attention
--- The steamy goodness that was in the book was good
What I didn't like as much:
--- As my rating suggested... yeah. What the what, Lynsay? On their wedding night, Willa becomes very ill and pukes all over her new groom who is naked, so it basically ends up in his lap (and he runs for help like that, so we are treated to descriptions of vomit crotch a few too many times, with 1 time really being too much)
--- And if that wasn't off-putting enough, as a result of Hugh standing guard for 48+ hours to prove himself to Willa (and because it rained pretty steadily much of that time), he develops a large carbuncle on his hindquarters that the witch then drains and he has to lay there for a few days with a poultice on his rear with his new wife while she recovers from the illness that struck her on their wedding night - that's just not sexy. At. All. WHY??? Why did we have to be subjected to vomit and huge butt boils? It obviously dampened things considerably in terms of trying to visualize and enjoy the love scenes (of which there were not as many as typically found in a Sands HR)
--- The mystery aspect fell flat for me once all was revealed - maybe my expectations are too high, but it was pretty anti-climactic after all the build-up
Overall, it started off with a bang but ended with a whimper. Definitely not Sands' better work nor what I would expect from this author. Thankfully, I have read many other Sands' HRs before this one, so I know the others are MUCH better than this one.
Plot --- 1.5/5
Main Characters --- 3/5
Supporting Cast --- 3/5
Steam Level* --- 3/5
Violence --- nothing graphic
Language --- not egregious
POV --- 3rd
*Note that steam level is not a rating so much as a how hot was it: 0/5 - clean; 1/5 - mild; 2/5 - sensual but nothing descriptive; 3/5 - now we're getting somewhere; 4/5 - yes please! ; 5/5 - they did EVERYTHING in this one, y'all