I was invited to another blog tour by St. Martin’s Press. This time I’m reading The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne, which will be released in a few days on August 28th. It’s part of a series of Victorian Rebels, but I haven’t read any of the other books in the series. It’s a very good romance about a big, bad man meeting the love of his live, with a few twists and turns.
Normally, I describe the plot, the twists and turns and everything that I like and dislike about the book, but since this book isn’t out yet, I’ll reframe from that! Instead, I’ll share with you an excerpt from the book to tease you:
If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.
“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.
In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.
He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.
Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.
“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.
“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”
“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.
“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to help him.”
“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”
“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”
“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”
“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”
“I’m coming with you.”
A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way, and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”
As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leaped from the coach and slammed the door behind him.
Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueler.
“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.
“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”
Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”
“Aye, and a good one.”
“Please take us there without delay.”
“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leaped into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.
His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.
He was dying.
Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.
“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”
His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.
Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.
“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”
With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.
An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.
“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.
“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”
“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”
“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”
It’s not your typical big, bad man meets naive young girl. Ash is a victim of circumstance who becomes who he needs to be in order to survive, and later in order to be able to get back to the love of his life. Lorelai is always at the back of his mind, he does everything that he does for her, in order to protect her and get back to her.
I liked that she brings out the sweetness in him, his caring and protective nature. She softens him up and she doesn’t stand for his bullshit. And he in turn takes care of her, he gives her what she never had: a loving and supporting family. They are opposites, but they complement each other beautifully. If you’re in for a rough, gruff man to fall head over heels for a sometimes shy, caring, and mentally strong woman, than this is the book for you!