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Lord of Danger was another Anne Stuart book that intrigued me when I read the blurb. I dived into it not really reading too many reviews, but I had heard of it before being one of her classic HRs. My first attempt at her big backlist wasn’t very successful. Didn’t like that book much but I was enough ensnared into the magic of her writing that I wanted to read more. And man was I struck surprised by this one! Lord of Danger, simply put, just worked for me. So marvelously that... ah!
I’m a big fan of well-written medieval romances doesn’t matter whether the hero is a big, grumpy oaf in need of some loving or a straight bad boy who likes to hide away his heart of gold because he feels vulnerable to expose that part of him to the world. Our H, Simon of Navarre falls under the latter category. And though I’m not always fond of bad boy rakes, sometimes even I have to give in and admit defeat to his mastery. I can only say that I don’t blame Alys for falling for Simon.
Alys and her younger sister, Claire, had been living with nuns since they were young. Both born on the wrong side of the blanket so their only eldest half-brother, the legit heir to everything Richard the Fair, send them to the convent. Alys was barely a few yrs old when she was tore away from her ill and dying mother’s arms, never to see her again. I don’t really know much about Claire, only that her mother was either a prostitute or a tavern maid who abandoned her after she was born. Well, yep, their father was a piece of work who couldn’t keep it in his pants. Who knows how many of his bastards roamed all over England! Richard has duly, and may I say proudly(?), followed his father’s tradition in that regard. -_- Both Alys and Claire were much younger than him so when his father cocked up his toes, he banished them ASAP not wanting brats underfoot.
Years have passed, and after Claire joined Alys, she’s taken care of her little sister and now they’re quite inseparable. Alys had grown up to be the thoughtful, duty-bound one whereas the beauty of the duo, Claire is quite rash and immature. Then again Alys was barely 20 and Claire 17 so, I don’t know. But Alys had a good head over her shoulders and she balanced out Claire’s stupidity with her intelligence. But in the end, both sisters were extremely inept to be on the outside world living so sheltered all their lives; though our Claire would like to argue on that matter since she thinks she can do anything and can control anyone with her beauty. -_- Hell she even openly calls Alys...um, spinsterish and not so attractive. :/ Really Claire? Not that she’s intentionally mean, just that Claire knows her beauty to be a fact, but it also goes to show you how her brain works. Alys would be irritated but she’d tolerate because she loved Claire and knew her sister was basically harmless.
Though both sisters thought they’d live out their lives in the convent since there was no chance Richard would ever want them back, he does just that suddenly one day. A summon to ‘come home’ so he can marry them off to further his greed for power and money. Richard was another piece of work, much like his honored (?) daddy and you can’t help but feel nauseated whenever he’s in any scene. Yuck! He’s just nasty. Anyway, his sole plan was to marry off Claire mainly knowing her to be the beauty, but Alys will do too if it helps further his ambition. He cared naught for their well-being just like he never had, and never will.
Alys and Claire reach Richard’s home knowing Alys is going to get married to his right-hand man, long time employee, his eeeevailll wizard ‘Grendel’ as Richard calls him affectionately. :P Everybody was afraid of the man whom they knew to be the very devil; someone who had a crooked hand to go with the whole visage. In short, whoever married him was DOOOMED! Claire the Air-Head was sure that Alys was going to be sacrificed to the devil himself and whined all the way knowing there’s nothing they really can do about it once Richard’s mind is made up. On the other hand, though Alys was afraid she didn’t believe in those claptraps so she tried to think logically. She knew she has to do it for Claire’s sake. It’ll have to be her, no questions asked cause knowing her sister, Alys knew Claire won’t fare very well. Soon they find out who it’s gonna be when they meet ‘Grendel’ for the first time in Richard’s home. Richard was sure he’ll pick Claire seeing she’s the beauty (Richard is shallow that way :D) but aforementioned Grendel surprises everyone by announcing that he’s interested in Alys, not Claire.
Now our Simon, he’s a smart one. No, he’s actually a brilliant guy who has done whatever it needed to survive. Being a knight who fought in the Crusade, Simon had seen the nastiest, most horrifying things imaginable. It had also killed his innocence and awakened the deep-seated mercenary man in him. He knew it’s all about the survival of the fittest; and the smartest too. And he did whatever it took to come this far, Simon’s own ambition being his motivation. His manic motivation to become someone powerful had made him create another character, the wizard that Richard and his people saw and was scared of. It was all very carefully planned cause Simon had learned stuff in his travels far beyond this land. He had acquired the knowledge to manipulate herbs and potions. He knew he was totally able to pull it through.
Simon had no one but a manservant who had followed him from one of the many lands he’d travelled before settling down in England once more. He knew the less ‘burdens’ he had, the better he’ll fare. However, he had also come to realize that to become someone powerful he must marry into a family that’ll give him an identity, cause otherwise he was from a poor family that he’d lost young (though no one really knew of his background—you’ll have to read the wild speculations about Simon’s background by the superstitious folks to believe it!). Now in the quest for an ‘identity’ other than Richard’s pet Grendel, Simon decided he’d marry into the Summersedge family. Richard’s own. In the regard of lineage, he’s from a good stock going far, far back and has ties to the Crown by blood as well. So marrying one of his sisters will be the best thing Simon can do to advance in his plans.
Oh Simon knew Richard was basically dumb, even if he liked thinking he’s smart (he was one of those peeps ya know?). But he also knew that Richard can’t always be manipulated. He sometimes showed astonishing shrewdness that is rather scary. And Simon knew if he’s ever under any suspicion his end will not be, um, nice as Richard was known to relish nasty punishments. You have to be on your tip-toes around that POS. Yet Simon had kind of mastered the art of manipulating Richard so he was fairly sure he’d be just fine until....Until he had to do what Richard has been nagging him to do. Make a ‘potion’ for a specific nefarious plan of his. But seeing children involved Simon had not been feeling up to it so he’s been dragging the whole thing out, even knowing it’d be any day that Richard snaps.
Right now, Simon is more surprised by Lady Alys and why she continues to bedevil his thoughts, when she really isn’t the beauty among the sisters. Alys is on the plump side, has dark hair and eyes. Her beauty is not as vivacious as Claire’s blonde, blue eyed sparkle. Aly’s beauty is more subtle. She even likes to dress the part, as drab and dull as possible, so no one really pays her any mind. Brilliant, right? Anyone with a bit of brains can’t possibly deny the intelligence that shines in those eyes. The eyes that found him the moment they entered Richard’s house even though they’d never met before. While the others of the entourage were in awe, checking out their surroundings, Alys had only looked straight at him as if to size him up. Simon would very much like to know what goes inside that brain of hers, so intrigued by her was he. Oh he already knew all there was to know about Richard and his sisters through spies he’d carefully planted everywhere. But right now, what he was more interested in was to get to know Lady Alys better. Way better than he’d thought he would if is body’s reaction was any indication. Surprising but not unwelcomed. Hence Simon knew his fate was entwined with Lady Alys of Summersedge, however long that may last.
Alys and Simon’s chemistry was very instant though, in her naiveté, Alys didn’t really understand the ‘spell’ he’d cast on her. Their first meeting without any other audience was due to Alys’s bravery. She was super sure that the wizard will choose Claire so she had to make sure she did everything in her power that he chose her. She still had no idea about Simon’s decision, but oh if only she knew what was going through his head where she was concerned. ;) That lone meeting sealed her fate and Simon was ever so determined that it’ll have to be Alys because she was brave, kind… and loyal. Something that could be useful to Simon later on. No, there was no sex involved as Alys didn’t even thought about it until Simon began making innuendoes that almost made her swoon (which felt good and Aly was surprised that she’d find such talk from Simon… stimulating. :P You know raised in a convent and all that). Simon knew he had to be patient with her, and it paid off in the end.
Even though I loved Simon and Alys separately as characters, what I loved more was their odd chemistry that gradually grew into something extraordinary; that drove both insane for one-another. Neither of them had any idea how to deal with it but they still found a way to deal with it. So unexpected that it knocked the socks off of them, but mainly Simon who was more worldly of the two and didn’t even think he’d ever fall so hard for ANYONE. Alys was the one who first acknowledged her feelings for Simon but she was too innocent to know what to do. Then again, he was already slain by her so there was probably no need. Their first night after marriage was just... I won’t say totally magical, cause it wasn’t. There were debacles involved that thankfully doesn’t include any first-time ‘that-simply-won’t-fit!’ dramas. But it was magical for me nonetheless, especially when Simon finally acknowledges his feeling for her. Even if Alys was drugged and almost falling asleep (nope I’m not going to tell you what happened :P) and he knew she won’t remember it in the morning. But that scene, where Simon finally surrenders and this happens...
She was slipping down on the bed as the drug took possession of her, slowly, languorously. “I’m afraid of you,” he said, knowing she wouldn’t remember. “I’m afraid of loving you.”
She blinked, dazed. “You’re afraid of making love to me?” she said, her voice gently, sweetly slurred.
“No,” he said bleakly. “I’m afraid of loving you, when I haven’t loved anyone in years. It would destroy me.”
Her eyes drifted closed, but a sweet smile curved her mouth. “Then perhaps,” she whispered, “you need to be destroyed.”
...that fairly gave me goosebumps. I felt it down to my toes. That guy didn’t know what hit him and how where Aly was concerned. He never thought that this may ever become a reality for him. And Simon was scared because he knew Richard is always looking for his weakest points. Anybody’s weakest points TBH. So far, Simon had none. Now he knew that he had one and he can’t lose her, no matter what happens.
While they were at it, there was another fun secondary romance was forming between Claire and young, very handsome and very calibate Sir Thomas du Rhaymer who was given the task to guard her just because of that; his too zealous celibacy. Richard made sure no other Knight’s will be close to her because he had other ‘plans’ for his own younger sister. I’m not even gonna utter them here, he was so despicable. Eww! But Thomas and Claire’s attraction was instant, irrational and one of those feel-good thing that no one can deny. Both were gorgeous to look at (Thomas was tall, and blonde too). Anyone could see why they’d form an attachment so quickly. While Claire the Air-head was rash and would do anything, Thomas was the perfect man to keep her in line. But their way to HEA wasn’t smooth as Thomas was already married to a woman who’d was as faithless and as fickle as one can be. One of the reasons why Thomas decided to take the vow of celibacy. He would’ve joined the monastery but Richard won’t let him as he was a very skillful knight. Either way, after meeting Claire there was no going back. I really wish author gave them a separate novella because I wanted more pages on them! I was having fun seeing them together and finding Claire in love and trying to ‘corrupt’ Thomas in her own naïve ways. LOL
But for our Alys and Simon, things were beginning to get even more difficult. Their HEA won’t be so easy because Simon had trust issues and Alys had a dented self-confidence. And Richard was already on Simon to make certain his own nasty plan is put to motion ASAP. Trouble ensues when Simon begins hemming and hawing about that part of the plan because now his own plans have changed drastically. It now involved the woman he loved and he’d do anything to keep her safe. But will that be enough for them both?
I almost loved the ending until I found there was no epilogue. That’s the only thing that frustrated me—a very abrupt end. Just when our H and h were out of danger and should be enjoying their life together, the story just.ends. *SMH* This is the only reason why this book didn’t make 4.5 stars or above because otherwise, I can totally see the appeal of Lord of Danger to Anne Stuart’s fans. I LOVED it. It was so well-written; as fun and entertaining as it was as dark and foreboding. You get all that in one package. I highly recommend this story to the first time Anne Stuart readers or anyone looking for a great Medieval romance. 4.25 stars.