Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 28th 2018
The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…
He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…
A LEGENDARY LOVE
Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?
It’s one of those, “It’s not you, it’s me” book moment that I dread so much. This is my first Kerrigan Byrne book, and in hindsight, maybe I should’ve started The Highwayman first before reading this book but my issues with this book goes beyond not reading the first ones in the series.
The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo started off with the younger versions of our main characters. Lorelei is 14 when they found a dying boy of indeterminate age on the side of the road. He can’t remember what happened to him nor can he remember his name. Lorelei named him Ash. And as he nursed him back to health, a friendship and then something else formed between them. But Lorelei’s cruel brother had plans for Ash, which he executed callously, and Lorelei is left devastated once again thinking Ash left her and went back to his old life.
They meet again 20 years later when Lorelei was about to be married to someone else. But the boy Lorelei fell in love with was long gone, only the notorious pirate The Rook remained. He killed Lorelei’s husband to be and brother, and kidnapped her along with her sister in law.
If I’m being honest, the book started unraveling for me the moment The Rook kidnapped Lorelei and took her to his ship. I actually did like the first part, when Ash and Lorelei met and fell in love. It was sweet and heartfelt. But even when I was enjoying what was happening on page, I was bothered by a few things.
One. Lorelei’s lack of agency. I understand this is a historical romance novel and that women during this period do not get to enjoy the same rights we do now, but agency isn’t dependent on existing laws of the land during the time period. A character can exist in a patriarchal society and still have agency. Lorelei’s life were controlled by men. First by her brother, who physically abused her leading to her being crippled. Second, she was basically sold into marriage to another cruel man, who again will have control over her life. Third, her rescue by The Rook isn’t any better because she is still a captive and under The Rook’s influence. She didn’t have any choice at all. She couldn’t do anything without a man involved. It was frustrating to read because even after the conflict was resolved, she still didn’t gain any agency. She basically went from one cruel man to another.
My second issue with this book is the way Lorelei’s disability was written. Let’s not forget that the reason why she had a limp is because of her brother and her family’s neglect. But the worst part for me was how everyone treated her as broken and an invalid. She’s was treated as less of a person because she had limp even though her brother certainly didn’t have a problem marrying her off to a wealthy man. I was even more disappointed that part of Lorelei’s conflict resolution was her getting surgery to make her whole again as if she wasn’t before.
I feel the author didn’t even need Lorelei to have a crippled leg. Lorelei’s circumstances were already dire and her situation made me sympathize with her. Adding a physical disability as a device to make the character even more helpless is annoying. Dear authors, if you’re going to write a character with physical limitations, make it matter. People living with disability can have a rich and fulfilling life even without getting “fixed.”
My third issue with this is Ash himself. I think Ms. Byrne did a better job at writing him. In a way, he is more complex than Lorelei. He has a rich backstory despite us not really knowing about it until towards the end of the book. But again, it’s like the author isn’t satisfied with just one or two misfortunes befalling our hero. Nope. There has to be more. And in adding more, it turned me off the story completely. I was rolling my eyes the moment The Rook started telling his first mate how he became a pirate and the hazards he faced from fighting the Chinese, the Japanese, the Indians, Americans, etc. Seriously, the only mention of people of color and they’re the villains.
I also find the romance lackluster. I definitely enjoyed the romance when they were younger but the romance they had as adults was practically non-existent. Lorelei was obsessed with Ash and going back home and The Rook was obsessed with Lorelei and finding a treasure. I just didn’t feel their connection despite the author’s attempt to highlight them. Most of the time, Lorelei was an unwilling participant of The Rook’s attempt at romance. There were moments when I really thought the story would turn around but it never did. At least for me.