My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The Guardian's Witch by Ruth A. Casie is a Paranormal Romance with a very interesting storyline. I’ve never read anything by the author prior to this book, so, storywise I have to say I enjoyed this book. But what bugged me quite a bit was RAC’s writing style. Let me see if I can elaborate in my review.
I felt the writing style a bit vague, unclear. When I started reading, it felt like I’m reading in the middle of a book or a series. There was no backstory, and everything was sort of slapped on my face in a way that I felt lost. I did begin to have a grip on the story as I got deeper in it though. Then, there was the POV shift from one character to the next. Many-a-times, I couldn’t tell who is saying which part of the dialogue, and I had to re-read that part to get to the bottom of it. All these confusion throughout the book hampered my enjoyment. This is the only big complain I have, but I don’t want to scare people away since this might not even be an issue for the others.
Lisbeth is the daughter of an English Lord, Wesley Reynolds. She’s led a very troubling, oftimes tough life because of her special ability. Lisbeth has had ‘visions’ since she was a child and I tell you, it was not a happy state to savor. I’d go as far as to say that her life was quite gloomy. For one, this is the medieval times and the word ‘witch’ can lead to your death. So she has been hiding her abilities all her life. Then, she had to suffer through the deaths of her parents and her older brother. She saw the visions of her brother, Robert’s demise more than once, yet was unable to do anything about it. When Lisbeth went to confide her mother, she didn’t... couldn’t help her because Lisbeth’s mother, Darla, had the same ability and she’d also had the same vision of Robert’s death in a battle. When her parents died in a horrible accident one night, Lisbeth was with them. She begged them to not leave but because of her father’s urgency, they had to. She was there when this happened and though bruised and badly injured, she was the only survivor.
It’s been suspected by the family that Darla and Wesley’s deaths were not accidents but murder. Wesley’s lands borders with the Scots and the deaths were blamed upon them. Unfortunately, Lisbeth’s younger sister, Laura is married to a Scottish Laird, Jamie. Wesley never had any problem with the Scots and Jamie-Laura’s marriage was a love match. Because of her visions, Lisbeth stayed single but it’s also said that talks of her marriage was going on before that fateful day 3 years ago. She was supposed to have been presented at the court and a betrothal was planned after that. Sadly, none took place. Afterwards, King Edward (“Longshanks” is my guess) send protectors to protect Glen Kirk, Wesley’s castle. One of the protectors marked a visibly shaken and bruised Lisbeth as a ‘witch’. But when they left, they never reached the King to give their reports. One by one, they all disappeared… and the blame was given to a supposed curse of the Glen Kirk.
After this incident, Lisbeth had taken herself away from the castle and her own people to a hunting lodge deep inside the forest. She’s been living there mostly alone, only going out to hang charms in and around the forest surrounding the castle to keep good vibes all around or to heal people who needed her help. Yes, Lisbeth is also a very skilled healer and loves what she does, though all her skills have proven to be nothing but burdens to her. Her people want her to return, but Lisbeth doesn’t want any trouble for them, especially because of her special abilities. Her only visitors are a few servants and her BIL Jamie, sister Laura and their children.
Alex is the seventh son of a seventh son. A lord on his own, Alex just won Glen Kirk from the King. Oh there was some bet I don’t remember well but Alex is tricked by the King to marry Lisbeth by proxy. Even though he knew he’d have to take a wife sooner or later, this is not how he wanted to get married. But who is to say ‘no’ to the King? Then the woman who stands in for Lisbeth turned out to be someone Alex had a crush on when he was young, but was spurned. Alex became a joke in the court when the story of his humiliation spread via gossips. He was so embarrassed that he left alongside his immediate elder brother, Cameron and friend Bryce to join the King’s army. Many years have passed ever since. Alex knew Lisbeth and her parents as his own parents were good friends to them. He hasn’t seen Lisbeth for a long time (seems like she avoids him always) and doesn’t know yet how to impart this bit of news to her. He knows where she lives though, because Alex had been the last protector of Glen Kirk before he won it. But he doesn’t know why Lisbeth was made a part of this win. Oddly enough, Alex is haunted by dreams and the word ‘mine’ is often whispered in his head when he thinks of Lisbeth. So it definitely felt like they already shared some kind of bond, though none of them were aware of it.
As the story progressed, we’re shown more of such paranormal incidents, Lisbeth’s visions proving that she and Alex indeed share something. The first instance came when Alex is injured by a sudden attack. He and Bryce was returning to Glen Kirk from the court. Alex was thinking about how to break the news of their marriage to Lisbeth. Obviously he was not looking forward to another dismissal as Lisbeth avoids him. When he and Bryce were discussing about various matters, they’re surrounded by some men. And as he fights, Alex feels someone trustworthy at his back though he doesn’t know who it is. He becomes a little relaxed because of this, until all of a sudden, someone strikes him on his side. Even though Alex is able to take care of those men, he loses consciousness. It was apparent that Bryce was the one who brought Alex back. Lisbeth is summoned to take care of Alex’s injury. He didn’t want Lisbeth here but when after 2 days, the injury seemed infected, there was no other way.
Lisbeth knew about Alex being the protector of her home. But she has learned not to trust anyone for the fear of her secrets being revealed. Not even Alex. Lisbeth wasn’t happy about the protectors but at least, Alex is better than the rest. All of them, who came before Alex, looted this place to their heart’s content. Anyway, when she checks up on the injury, Lisbeth knows that it’s badly infected and she might not be able to do anything for him. Alex is vaguely aware of his surroundings and seeing Lisbeth after such a long time gives him weird visions and feelings. As Lisbeth takes care of the wounds she is overcome with different visions. One was the assailant Alex felt when he was struck. Even after cleansing of the wound, Alex keeps complaining about pain from the inside, which is how she brings out the broken tip of that knife. And then she sees the whole knife in her vision though she couldn’t recognize it. But she was sure of this knife, which was poisoned before the attack, no doubt intending to kill Alex. If only she could see who it was!
The story jumps a little from here, and we find Alex has already healed. The news of raids, looting, burning of houses and killing of the villagers by a band of robbers keeps reaching him. Alex is duly worried and mad that he doesn’t know who’s causing all these trouble. Everyone seems ready to blame the Scots. But Alex knows otherwise very well. He regularly meets up with Jamie in secret to discuss matters at hand. Jamie confirms neither his attack (as it was emphasized) nor the raids are caused by the Scots. It seemed like Alex had known Jamie for a long time and befriended him, but we don’t know how or when until at the very end. Jamie is also quite concerned about Lisbeth’s living arrangements. He knew Alex is married to her. He asks Alex to take Lisbeth inside the castle to ensure her safety and Alex assures him that he’ll do his best. That is what he does next, convincing Lisbeth to come and live in the castle. Even though he gives some clap-trap about the castle and her people needing her, I could see that Alex wanted her closer to him, and of course, in a safe place under his protection.
Lisbeth keeps having visions; nightmarish visions about her parents’ murder. I was very saddened by those visions that she had to live through. And she didn’t have anyone to share but Jamie and Laura. What she didn’t know that Alex had some idea and he had discussed about her ‘abilities’ with Jamie already. Jamie and Alex trusted each-other immensely. Jamie understood that Lisbeth needed Alex to be safe, as Alex did Lisbeth. When she was having those visions, Lisbeth realized she needed to know the truth behind her parents’ murder. She saw how the whole thing happened; she saw how her father was murdered afterwards... and men talking. Someone definitely wanted something badly enough to think her father was in the way.
Alex and Jamie have already come to the conclusion that Wesley knew something was up, which is why he was murdered. But why Darla, too? Did they want to kill Lisbeth as well? Alex needed to find out who these people were. Now that it was confirmed that his life was at stake as well, Alex realized this might be related to Glen Kirk. There is another attempt at Alex’s life and Lisbeth, who saw the vision of Alex drowning, saves him. When Alex regains consciousness, he is a bit confused over it but later, seeing Lisbeth’s wet hair when he returns, Alex’s realizes that Lisbeth was indeed there. Alex tells her he remembers seeing her there, though Lisbeth doesn’t verify his claim. But whenever they’re together, Lisbeth and Alex both feel that strange pull between them, as if this is the most natural thing. Later on, both keep having erotic dreams as if they were sharing those dreams. Lisbeth doesn’t understand what that means, neither does Alex.
I was also having my own suspicion about a certain character. I didn’t know if he was involved in the whole betrayal though. I was a little confused over his friendship with Alex. One moment, it felt like they were good friends, the next as if they’re not.
Lisbeth was being bombarded by more visions, sometimes the same ones; her parents’ murder scene, attack on Alex and the knife used etc. She also started revisiting Robert’s murder scene. All these visions were horribly hard to relive (she felt like she’s in there with them, sometimes hovering like a bird, watching but not being able to do anything at all). Lisbeth is scared, miserable but what could she have done? The best thing among the misery was, the more these visions kept repeating, the more details she found in those. Not an awful lot but enough to piece things together. She is sure of one thing though, that all these incidents are interconnected and somehow, she’s also a part of this ugly, nefarious plot.
At some point, news reaches that Alex’s family (a large one with 6 other brothers, 4 SILs, his parents, I don’t remember if he had any sisters though) and the King is going to pay a visit soon. No doubt the King wants to be the witness to the official marriage between him and Lisbeth. His tight-knit family will also want to show their support and meet the new member. And Alex still hasn’t broken the news to Lisbeth, only telling her that the castle needs her care so that they’re ready to receive the King in a few weeks. Lisbeth gets busy with as much enthusiasm as she can manage. Jamie gently berates Alex for not telling her about the proxy marriage.
One day, Lisbeth has a vision of Laura and her children being at the hunting lodge and probably in trouble. She runs there, sneaking away (because Alex asked her not to go out alone) to deal with it. In there, she finds Bryce, apparently badly injured and in need of help. Lisbeth takes care of his wounds and somehow ends up spending the night because he needed to be watched over. At daylight, I’m still not sure how but Bryce convinces her to accompany him to his own place, rather than Glen Kirk. He promises he’ll help her return to Glen Kirk later on. Lisbeth goes with him, not knowing what trap she’s stepping into. Soon, she starts having the feeling that something is not right here... and sure enough, she’s locked away when they reaches Bryce’s keep.
Alex, on the other hand, had no idea that Lisbeth is not at the castle until at daytime, her maid informs him about her absence. He instinctively knew that Lisbeth is in danger. On the way, he gathers information of her being seen with Bryce. And at the hunting lodge, Alex sees Bryce’s blood on the bed (which later turns out to be not his blood at all) and interprets that Bryce and Lisbeth had sex and now she has gone with him. I was a quite frustrated by his quick assumption. But no matter how mad he was, Alex felt the urge to find her. Through his words exchange with Bryce, Lisbeth finds out that she’s already married to Alex. She’s angry too at his implication that she had sex with Bryce.
Even though, she’s taken aback, a marriage with Alex is not really unacceptable to Lisbeth. She was always attracted to him. This explained why she kept having visions and dreams of them making out. The kisses soon turns into something more. I was pretty excited to see them coming together and consummate the marriage, but the next moment Lisbeth ruins it. Alex was so happy to have made Lisbeth finally his, he blurts out about his own dreams. Obviously, he had no idea of her reaction. An angry Lisbeth accuses Alex of ‘invading’ her dreams. She can’t take it that everyone is trying to control her life, now her dreams too? WOW, seriously, I wasn’t expecting this and was pretty annoyed at Lisbeth’s accusations. Alex also acknowledges that he knows about her special abilities but he hardly did anything to actually ‘invade’ her dreams! They just intermingled with his. This puts some distance between them. *sigh*
The next day, the guests start pouring in; among them were 5 of Alex’s elder brothers and their wives. Then Alex’s parents, Henry and Celeste, arrive at Glen Kirk. I really enjoyed the hullaballoo of this large family gathering and how they accept Lisbeth without any qualms whatsoever. It did feel like Henry and Celeste was expecting things to turn out this way. Lisbeth is a little more than overwhelmed to be a part of this family but would she remain a part for long? When they were quarrelling the other night, Lisbeth also asked for this marriage to be dissolved. Now she’s confused because she has come to rely on Alex. *SMH*
A day later, the King joins the party too. Alex was in for a shock when he finds that the woman who made him the joke of the court, Lady Catherine has accompanied the King. Moreover, she seems really chummy with Cameron. Earlier, I thought she was some middle-aged widow or something but then I found that it’s not the case. Indeed she was more attracted to Cameron than Alex and didn’t mean to embarrass him that way. She was mortified the way the gossip went out of hand but never had the chance to explain as Alex has avoided her ever since. Now, she and Cameron have reacquainted and supposedly are betrothed. Alex accepts her apology and congratulates the couple. Honestly, I could’ve cared less about them. I was becoming surer that it was Bryce and his father who was behind everything and couldn’t wait to see how things unfold.
My patience was rewarded as the story picks up its pace. Sure enough, Bryce’s father, Lord Ramon accuses Alex of treason in front of a full audience, all because Alex has close ties with the Scots and Laird Jamie. The King is not convinced but he is forced to have Alex arrested. Lisbeth is frantic with worry because she’s pretty much sure by now who are responsible for all the chaos in her life. She knows Bryce and his father will harm Alex. She also understands why her mother kept saying ‘he must never know’ before her death. All these time, Lisbeth thought that the King would’ve taken drastic measures if he ever learned of her abilities. Now she’s sure that it was not about the King. The King genuinely approves of her and Alex’s match, letting her know that her parents wanted this match to begin with. Lisbeth is surprised but not shocked. Edward definitely trusts and cares for Alex, and he’d certainly done his best to look after her. After the facts are known, Lisbeth looks inside her heart and knows she’ll do anything to save Alex from a certain death.
I must say the suspense absorbed me completely. I didn’t quite know what is going to happen next. From the paranormal activities, to Lisbeth’s determination to save Alex and Alex’s own thoughts of saving Lisbeth at all costs were done pretty good. I liked the bond they shared and finally accepted as something to be cherished. They also found a way to acknowledge their love for each-other. With Jamie’s help, Alex frees the King’s other protectors from Ramon’s dungeon and readies himself for a fight with his good friend, who has always saved his back before now but is now too engulfed in greed and desperation to care anymore; Bryce. I wondered why Bryce did what he did. When I begin having my suspicions, I was quite taken aback because Bryce didn’t come off as an evil person. Was it his father’s influence that corrupted him, convinced him that treason, murder and greed is the only way? I wish we had some answers.
When the story ended, it didn’t feel quite ‘finished’ to me. I could feel more installments coming. There is a legacy and a story from Alex’s side of the family about being the seventh son of a seventh son. This also connects his ancestors, I assume, with Bryce’s. There was an ancient challenge and a curse. No other seventh son could spin the wheel of that curse as of yet and break it. It is about conquering the seven deadly sins. Alex’s was Pride and he conquered it to be with Lisbeth. Now, his other brothers, Geoffrey, Bennett, Damian, Fayne, Edwin and Cameron have to conquer their own ‘sins’ to finally break the curse. At least that’s what I thought. I’m pretty excited about the other installments, even though not sure if I’m looking forward to whomever it is will have to deal with his Lust. *snickers*
This ARC was provided to me by Carina Press via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.