Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian

With the ease of self-publishing, readers are seeing authors purchasing rights back on early, out-of-print novels and releasing electronic versions as well as paperbacks under their own imprints.  Kudos to them!  What may be low sales to a big name publishers is a tidy income stream to an author, and we readers love having access to favorites and early works that would otherwise be out of reach.  The book I’m reviewing today is just one of those re-released novels.  In fact, it was a debut novel for this author.

I picked up Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian (and previously published under the pen-name Tina St. John) a few weeks ago and read it this week.  I loved The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss when I was a teenager, and was hoping this twelfth century historical romance would be similar in feel.  It didn’t disappoint.

In the prologue we find young Gunnar dangerously injured.  His father had been killed in a tournament days before, and he’d just watched his mother murdered before his eyes for refusing to wed the marauding Baron who stormed their keep.  Chased down and slashed from behind, Gunnar is saved from death by a local healer, and vows vengeance.  As the story begins, an adult Gunnar still strives to avenge his parent’s death, even if it means his own.  But the Baron is no longer a fierce foe – he’s an old man.  Unable to find an opportunity to challenge the Baron hand-to-hand, Gunnar raids and vandalizes his various holdings, and finally kidnaps his daughter, hoping to force his foe to a duel for her life.

Raina is the feisty and beautiful daughter of the Baron, who has doted on her since she her mother died.  Dragged off by a man she finds both irresistible and terrifying, she doesn’t know who to believe.  Gunnar seems to be sincere in his portrayal of her father as a heartless murderer, but that doesn’t jive with the indulgent and kind man she has known her whole life.  How could her father possibly have done the things Gunnar claims?  The pair inevitably give in to their storm of passion, knowing full well that they face a heartbreaking end.  Raina will soon be exchanged for her father and return to her life as a Lady, while Gunnar satisfies his need for revenge.  But now that Gunnar has his goal within his reach, he wonders if he can really give up the woman he’s come to love.

For an early work, Lord of Vengeance is nicely done.  Yes, it’s a bit formulaic but the passion is there, the setting is interesting, and the plot rolls along well with good pacing.  There are a few anachronistic moments, and the bad-guy conflict stalls a bit as the characters deal with their romantic feelings and doubts.  One chuckle I did get was early in the book where Gunnar muses that he’s only had one sexual experience since he’s afraid that getting involved with a woman will distract him from his purpose.  Either that one experience was with the world’s greatest courtesan, or Gunnar was born with the coveted porn-star gene, because he certainly knew all the moves.  It always cracks me up in a romance when a sexually inexperienced character instinctively is the Greatest Lover Ever.  Usually it’s the woman, who is a virgin one moment, then suddenly can deep throat and work the kegels like a pro.  In this book it was the guy, and it made me giggle.

All my nitpicking aside, this was an enjoyable book, a light historical romance for a chilly November evening.  Four stars

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