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Before I begin, you will see that this review is a lot longer than the ones I usually write and I wish I could say it was because there was so much good to talk about, but there wasn't. It was an exercise in frustration. Frustration with him. Frustration with her. This relationship was an example of how the lack of communication and selfishness can lead to heartache.
I enjoy Deborah Cooke's Dragonfire series and her Prometheus Project, but I found this book very hard to get into. This is the first historical book I have read by this author and I guess the change in writing style/syntax threw me off. It is like two very different authors wrote this series the other two. The characters themselves were a bit flat, Merlyn especially. Ysabella on the other hand was flip-flopping in her views, one minute she despises him for selling fake holy relics and being a liar, then the next she says she was happy with the thought that while she was burdened with the responsibility (when she left her husband) she was happy knowing that he could be free to roam and live his life even though they were still married. She hated him, then cared for him.
The first time they come together, she is asleep and thinks she dreams of her dead husband and their wedding night. When she wakes she realizes that he isn't dead and it wasn't a dream, that they in fact had had sex while she was asleep. Now nothing was mentioned of a possible drug used, so how the hell did she have sex while asleep and not "remember" the actual deed? She talks of smelling the sex. I don't get it. Though after this weird night I have to admit that her character is stronger as she goes on an angry hunt for her "dead" husband.
When they are in the cave and he accuses her of lying is where I see the writing style I enjoyed in the Prometheus project and dragon series-impassioned moments and character development that leaves me turning the page (though I have to say at that point he was looking more like a villain). Once she gets out of the cave she justifies his actions like it was no big deal. He was livid and left her in a cave alone and in the dark (which is her greatest fear-he doesn't know this). She is hysterical for a time and then when she calms down, she sees that there is a faint light that leads her out of the dark and back to her husband. She finds her own way out to find her husband no longer livid (it is like night and day with this guy) and so she justifies that her fear isn't that big of a deal and that it isn't his fault. This scene in the cave could have had such intense emotional turmoil between the two characters, it could have been a knot-in-the-throat kind of moment, but instead it was like high emotion, then nothing actually happened kind of feeling.
Merlyn remains a bit of a flat character, though he does have moments where he shows potential. Overall, 133 pages in (chapter 8), I really don't like him. Not only does he use her fear against her, but when he comes to realize how much the fear debilitates her and she confesses another fear in hopes of changing his mind against his course of action (not going to spoil it), he then uses that new fear to his benefit. It is like he doesn't love her at all. Yeah, he wasn't taught how to love growing up, but seriously! Oh, I really don't like him. And Ysabella was a bit weak too. She could have been so much stronger. She lets him manipulate her and then says she isn't doing it for him, but for her own goals.
Chapter 9 and on to the end, the story does get better. The pieces start to fall into place, the reasons behind his actions come to light, secrets and stories are shared and when he rides into the great hall to confront the two visiting noblemen the story becomes a page turner. With all that said, I will read the next book in the series. I think I would have liked this better if I had known going in how different the style of writing would be. It's like she is two different people. It took me awhile to figure out that the story was being told in a first person narrative, like a journal or diary. The ending was sweet and he becomes more likable. The villain who had tried to kill Merlyn is a mystery until the author reveals it (which is a huge plus), I didn't see who the antagonist was going to be until it was revealed on the page.
**This book was gifted by the author in exchange for an honest review.