As acting high lord of the house of Toustain, it’s Lady Gwendolyn’s job to manage affairs of Dinasdale, and that includes managing her new unruly prisoner, Caden Maignart. Unfortunately it looks like the only way she’ll be able to manage him is to have him chained up in her bedchamber.
After thirty years of peace, tensions are mounting between Daleria and Dinasdale again. After receiving reports of Dalerians massacring a Dinasdale village and Gwen’s brothers vanishing after being attacked, Gwen won’t take any chances with the Dalerian intruders found on Dinasdalian land. But she quickly realizes just throwing them into the dungeon won’t work, not when one of them is willing to stir up as much trouble as he possibly can to be freed. Chaining him up in her bedchamber keeps him secure, but it causes a whole new set of problems. Like how she can’t hide her thoughts and feelings from him. Not to mention the growing attraction she feels towards him, despite him being the enemy and her being engaged to another.
I will say this: Elise Marion can world-build. Like damn! Not only did she bring two completely different cultures to life, but she also wrote intricate histories for both of them. And it is definitely amazing. I love both Dinasdale and Daleria equally even though I think I’d rather live in Daleria. It’s all woods and mountains and women can become knights instead of just marrying for status. And honestly, I like red meat, not fish, which is the main food in Dinasdale. Yeah. Marion can world-build. These feel like real regions instead of fictional ones.
Unfortunately, the world-building choked the story a little bit at the beginning. In the prologue, when the three kings met, I was having trouble just trying to remember who belonged to which country, let alone keeping the reason for their conflict straight. I reread entire passages three times or so before I gave up on matching the names to the countries and points of contentions. Luckily as the story goes on, I could figure it out better.
Another thing that was frustrating was how much this plot relied on slow communication. I mean, if this world had email then not nearly as many people would have been killed. I’m reading the second book now, and that is still the main plot device, which makes me impatient for the characters to get caught up to speed on what’s happening. But hey, it works, right? The dramatic irony was killing me.
Mostly, I really love this story. I mean as soon as I finished the first one I bought the second, which is very rare for me. But I love it a lot. In addition to the seriously realistic world-building, there is also a really great plot full of political corruption and mystery. Even though I don’t think Rowan’s character is at all realistic, I like the story. There’s a lot going on at once. My summary up top doesn’t really do the plot of the book justice, honestly. It’s very hard to explain how intricate the plot really is, so I highly recommend you read it.
And yes, the love story between Caden and Gwen is fantastic. Caden is a really decent guy, even to Gwen despite the fact that he’s chained to her bedroom wall. Despite being the high lord heir for Daleria he’s very just and noble, which is way more than what can be said for King Rowan or Prince Gawain. I mean, I just get angry when I think about those two. And Gwen is a perfect match for him. She’s as headstrong and clever as you can get, not to mention beautiful (and can I just say that I love that she’s not caucasian? Too often romances like these are very monocolored unless it’s really relevant to the plot. The different races is only mentioned as an identifying trait between Dalerian and Dinasdale, but not a point of contention between them. It’s incredibly refreshing).
She is definitely wasted as Gawain’s fiancee. She holds her own really well and unlike other “strong” female heroines I see sometimes in books like these, she’s actually really smart and fierce instead of being just sassy. I mean, she killed three men in the first scene. She rocks. Her family makes me angry, though. How can they expect her to just be married off to Gawain? Her mother is delusional and selfish, so I understand why she wants her daughter to act all ladylike, but her brothers should know better and so should her uncle! It’s really frustrating to see how they want to coddle her and get her out of the way all the time.
Gwen and Caden are fantastic together. I love the chemistry between them and how sweet Caden is to Gwen. The gods know she needs it after her rough handling from Gawain. One thing I didn’t like, however, is how Caden was reluctant to be with Gwen because of her engagement to Gawain. Yeah, I admire the need for loyalty, but when Gwen didn’t want to marry Gawain in the first place, Gawain tried to rape her, and he probably caused the rift between Daleria and Dinasdale, the value of an engagement should probably be meaningless. It’s also frustrating that he kept saying that she belonged to someone else. Like her family, he sees her a little bit like a possession, which was really annoying. I know that probably has nothing to do with her sex. He would probably say the same thing about a guy engaged. But that didn’t stop me from disliking him a little bit.
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