Last year I reviewed Kris Kennedy's debut medieval romance, The Conqueror. What I said back then holds true for her second novel, The Irish Warrior. If you're a medieval fan and miss that big, sweeping quality of the old-school historical romances? Seriously, you need to drop everything and start reading this woman's books. Call in sick to work, tell your husband to make his own damn dinner, and threaten the kids that they should leave Mommy alone unless someone is on fire. Trust me, you've been waiting for these books.
Finian O'Melaghin was sent on a mission by his king to uncover just how much the treacherous Lord Rardove knows about the mythical Wishme dyes. Oh, like the fact that not only is the legendary dye capable of creating the most astonishing shade of indigo, but that it's also explosive. Needless to say, given the unsettling times of late 13th century Ireland, a lot of people want that recipe - including the evil Rardove, who immediately takes Finian prisoner, and goes about torturing him for answers.
Enter, stage left, Senna de Valery, an English wool merchant. She's come to Ireland to conduct business with Rardove, not realizing that she's walking straight into a trap. She's there to secure what could be a very lucrative deal (thereby saving her father's gambling butt...again). What she doesn't realize is that Rardove thinks she can reproduce the Wishme dyes for him, which means she's in a whole lot of danger. She learns quickly enough though, and immediately goes about trying to save her bacon. And to do that? She has to free a certain Irish warrior from the dungeons.
What follows is your classic textbook example of a road romance. Finian and Senna escape Rardove's clutches and then are on the run for pretty much the rest of the book. The sticking point, besides the bad guys, is that now Finian and Senna are at cross purposes. She wants to go in one direction, him another. But, no matter. They get it sorted out, and adventure ensues.
Finian is probably what is going to sell this book to a lot of romance readers. He's everything good about the old-school romance heroes. He's noble, he's loyal, he's fierce, and he finds himself falling hard for the heroine. Naturally, when he does fall, he will do anything to protect her. There's a moment towards the end of the book, during the climax, where he says something that actually made my heart melt. This is a man who, while having lived a hard life and been betrayed in the past, will not meekly toss aside the woman he not only has fallen in love with, but the woman who, literally, saved his life. Like I said, loyal.
Senna was a bit more problematic, mostly because I found her character a wee bit inconsistent. Make no mistake, she's breathtakingly awesome during the early chapters. She's a perfect romance heroine in every way. She's smart, she's fierce, and she's feisty (in a good way, not a braindead way). She connives, schemes and plans. She takes a stand. I wanted to run away with this woman and have babies with her, that's how much I loved her.
But then it all starts to slide a bit after she and Finian make their escape. She comes off, at times, as petulant and innocent. One moment she's worldly and wise, the next she pouts. She's a bit all over the map for me. What carried me through was her sheer awesomeness in the early chapters, and that some of that initial fierceness does peak through during the middle section. Also, her character finishes quite strong during the final chapters. I sort of felt like she ended up coming back full circle.
At the end of the day, there really is scads to love about this story. It has that sweeping saga-like feel to it. There's danger, intrigue and a hunky hero. There's a solid heroine who is a good match for him, and plenty of history, with some creative tweaking, to keep it all humming along. I mean, when was the last time you read about exploding dyes in a historical romance? It's unique enough, and plausible enough, to make for a dang intriguing read.
I've never professed to be a huge lover of the medieval time period, but I do love solid historicals, and Kris Kennedy has now written two of them. Run out and buy both, if for no other reason than I said so. Oh, and for the principle of the thing. Otherwise when (or if) you start whining about how all "historical romances are reading the same," I'm likely to throw something heavy at you. And I will aim for your head. Just sayin'.
Final Grade = B