As I mentioned before, I tend to see romance books in falling in one of two categories: light and fluffy or dark and dangerous. Light romances include a lot of humor, tend to focus on social misunderstandings, and usually don’t involve anything too unpleasant. Dark romances include violence; a seedy, criminal element; quite foul language; and very graphic sex scenes. This new series by Kerrigan Byrne falls firmly into my “dark romance” category.
THE PLOT: Dougan Mackenzie and Farah Townsend meet as children in an orphanage. They bond when Farah is kind to the injured Dougan, and the two become inseparable. Dougan is especially protective of the younger Farah, whom he calls his Fairy. When Dougan is 13 and Farah 10, they perform a “handfast” marriage so no one can ever separate them. But when Dougan kills a man who tries to hurt Farah, he’s sent to Newgate Prison.
Seventeen years later, Farah (using the name Mrs. Mackenzie) is working for Scotland Yard when Dorian Blackwell, king of the London criminal underworld, is brought in. Dougan died years ago in prison, and Dorian was one of his cellmates. Upon his release, Dorian kidnaps Farah and takes her to his estate, Ben More. He tells her they will be married so he can pay a debt to Dougan by protecting his “Fairy” and helping her reclaim her true identity and inheritance. As her husband, Dorian will become an earl and gain a seat in Parliament. Dorian prefers a marriage in name only; his prison experiences have left him unable to touch or be touched by another person. Farah wants children, though, So somehow, they’ll have to navigate an actual marriage.
It won’t be easy. Both have baggage; Farah still grieves for her lost Dougan, and Dorian fears his own violence and its possible effect on Farah. Has Dorian been far too emotionally damaged to ever tell Farah the truth?
MY TWO CENTS: To me, this book has a similar tone to Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series, even though they’re set in different time periods. This is the gritty, dirty underworld of Victorian London. You can just imagine the smokey effects of the Industrial Revolution, the docks crawling with pimps and prostitutes and murderers. The setting sets the tone; there are no pristine, pretty drawing rooms or Regency balls.
More the an anything, this is book about healing. Two traumatized people have a very long way to go before they will trust anyone, let alone each other. It is NOT a polite romance. Profanity is used liberally, and it seems appropriate for this story in this setting. The only thing clean and untouched in this book is Farah herself…which is exactly why Dorian wants to stay away from her. He’s afraid to contaminate Dougan’s Fairy with his filth. Farah will have quite a job convincing him that she’s a person with faults and desires, not a perfect object he’ll ruin.
The author is definitely not afraid to pull punches with this book! She jumps fearlessly into the prison element, and has the reader rooting for the criminals. That may make some readers uncomfortable. I liked it, enough to add its upcoming sequel, The Hunter, to my must-read list.
BOTTOM LINE: If you don’t like your romances to have super-alpha heroes with a tragic background; profanity; sex scenes that are more graphic than romantic; and violence, this may not be the book for you. If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Hoyt, I recommend giving this one a try.
TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available September 1, 2015, in paperback and eformats.
Note: Review is based on ARCs provided by the publisher via Netgalley and Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.