Day 29: The Dark Lord by Kathryn Le Veque
Summary From Goodreads:
The year is 1180 A.D. and times are very dark. England is lawless for the most part and the people live in fear. Rising to power during this time is the vicious and brutal knight Ajax de Velt. His mission is to conquer a large stretch of the Scots and Welsh border, commandeering wealth and property along the way. He wants to be the most feared and powerful warlord in all of England, Wales and Scotland, and he is well on his way. The last in a long line of dark and brutal warriors, Ajax is the most ruthless and ambitious knight in the Isles; even the heartiest warriors fear the man for his coldblooded tactics. More than that, his bloodlust, as well as his sheer skill with a blade, is legendary. But as Ajax and his army conquer the latest castle in his plans to secure the borders, he unexpectedly meets his match in a spitfire of a woman named Kellington Coleby. Beautiful, intelligent and feisty, Lady Kellington refuses to surrender to the man as handsome as he is brutal. The warlord and the maiden go head to head in this unforgettable story of love, battle, devotion, fear and adventure.
The Dark Lord was a trip back in time for me to when I read about and adored ancient history, including the knights of old, though typically those weren’t so focused on romance. Le Veque paints a beautiful and realistic picture of what times were like during the time of Henry II’s reign and how differently politics and wars were handled then. Though there isn’t much detail given on the landscape, which is a shame given that the area the book focuses on is Scotland and surrounding nations, the reader does get a good feel for the interior of a castle which are described in much detail. I’m sure that must have been a result of painstaking research by Le Veque and it shows, certainly enhancing the experience especially for those like me who love historic buildings.
The characters do give me some pause though. I do like Lady Kellington, she’s feisty and refuses to give any ground if it goes against what she believes in regardless of the repercussions she would face. She fights for her friends and family and the innocent as well, even ones she doesn’t know, simply because it is the right thing to do, that says a lot. She also has a good sense of humor which helps to make her character a bit more human and less of an idealistic heroine, something that is crucial to giving her believability.
Jax on the other hand…well he annoys me. He’s supposed to be this badass knight with a screw-you mentality that only wants to capture more land for himself and his comrades, something that is quite fitting for that era. However, all it takes is spending a few moments with Lady Kellington and he instantly becomes a ball of mush, it’s just sad. I do not doubt the power a woman can hold over a man for a second, but he barely even puts up any resistance, it makes no sense. I don’t care how much he likes her in the beginning or admires her pluck, there is no way a guy like that with such a mean streak and history of violence would just start changing all of his habits, it isn’t happening. It just gets worse as the story progresses and he gets increasingly taken with her. Again, I don’t doubt the power love can have but I think Le Veque may have taken it too far.
The plot is really well done though. The story is intriguing, the battles, especially later on, are well done and include the usual array of tactics used at the time, details that are vital for a historical novel, even a romance-centered one. The pacing is good, if not stellar because of Jax constantly going back on his plans after being influenced by Lady Kellington, and keeps the reader engaged. I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it, always a great sign especially given how distracted I can be by the internet’s awesome.
Overall I enjoyed The Dark Lord, but Jax’s character being slightly infuriating kept me from giving it as high of a review as I might have otherwise. One other thing to note, if I never read “dual-colored eyes” again it will be too soon. Seriously, the amount of references to Jax’s eyes is ridiculous. Anyway, for anyone who likes historical romances this is a solid read if you haven’t already, and for those who are trying to broaden their genre horizons like I am this year this would also be a good choice. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 30!