Locked in a deadly game!
Physically and emotionally scarred, Lady Taryn of Ossoria knows no man would want her for a wife. Nonetheless, she's determined to free her father from his merciless overlord and enlists powerful warrior Killian MacDubh to help.
He has his own motives for confronting the High King... Born a bastard, Killian longs to carve out a place for himself. Unaware of her true beauty, Taryn is an alluring distraction to his plan, but as traitors are revealed and loyalties tested, their forbidden love becomes the only thing worth fighting for!
Very good book and twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. Killian is a very handsome man who has scars on the inside from the way he has been treated all his life. Born a bastard to a woman who took refuge with the tribe, Killian has been treated as the lowest type of servant. He is determined to set out on his own and win a place for himself. The only person who has every treated him well is the girl he thinks of as his sister. Carice has been promised to the High King as his bride, but will do anything she can to get out of it. Killian has promised her he'll do whatever he can to help her.
Taryn is the daughter of the King of Ossoria. She was badly scarred as a child and has been rejected by many people because of it. The only person who has treated her well has been her father. Now he has been imprisoned by the High King and Taryn is determined to free him by whatever means necessary. Her mother has forbidden her to get involved, so Taryn sets off on her own.
When they meet, Taryn and Killian agree to a bargain. She will help Killian find a way to free his sister if he will go to Tara with her to free her father. Killian is a cynical realist and holds out little hope for Taryn's mission to be a success. However, he has his own reasons for wanting to go to Tara, so he agrees. Taryn has great sympathy for Carise and her predicament. She is also a person who believes in the good in people, so she believes that they will succeed. Things don't go quite as planned and early in the journey Killian and Taryn are separated from the group.
I loved the development of the relationship between Killian and Taryn. There is a physical attraction between them but each believes themselves to be unlovable. Taryn believes that no man will want her because of her scars, a feeling reinforced by her rejection at the hands of the man she was supposed to marry. Killian has been treated so badly for so long that he can't see any woman wanting him for himself, certainly not one who his so far above him. What I liked about the two of them was that they saw past the surfaces. Killian was aware of Taryn's scars, but they made no difference to him. He thought she was beautiful as she was and treated her that way. At the same time, Taryn never saw Killian as a servant, only as a warrior. It was interesting to see that neither truly believed that the other was honest in their treatment because of what they believed about themselves.
I loved Killian's protectiveness toward Taryn. Though he believed that her mission would end in heartache for her, he was going to make sure she got there. There were bumps along the way. Because of how she got her scars, Taryn is afraid of animals. Killian ends up being very patient with her and helps her overcome those fears. And despite knowing that she can never truly be his, he can't help but look at her that way. There is a possessive streak that shows up when they are at the MacEgan's that gets him in some trouble with her. I also loved Taryn's confidence in Killian and what he can do. She never shows any doubt that he can do what was promised. She finds herself falling in love with him, even though she knows it can't be.
Killian devised a way to protect Taryn that would also get him what he wanted. Of course, he doesn't take into account her feelings. Taryn resists his idea because she wants to be wanted for herself, not her lands. Then necessity forces them into a deception that throws them more closely together and their feelings become too much to resist. I loved the ending as they both realized what was more important, and through that got everything they could have wished for.
The story of why they are going to Tara, and the connections of the various characters to the High King was very interesting. Taryn's father has been accused of treason and is due to be executed. She doesn't believe her father is guilty and is determined to appeal to the King. Taryn's mother is equally determined that she not do so, and takes her own steps to stop her. Carise is supposed to marry him, but is terrified of his reputation as a cruel man. Killian is a bastard son to him, and has been ignored his entire life. When everyone converges on Tara, things get really interesting. There are several twists and turns that happen before everything is all over. I really didn't see the one involving Killian coming.
I loved the setting of this story and the chance to learn more about Irish history. The details of conflicts among the Irish tribes, the High King, and the Normans was really interesting. I was also intrigued by Killian's background and what his life had been like. This book also takes place during the same time period as the MacEgan Brothers series, and includes some of them.