This book was a pleasant surprise for me, as I wasn't sure what to expect and went into it thinking it might feel like a story I had read before. However, although the story started off slow, I loved how it picked up in the second half, and I was thoroughly invested in the characters. There is a lot of drama, but there's not so much that the story is overwhelmed by it. It has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel to it, without the tragic ending (because romances have HEAs, of course). The cover is insanely attractive, and I was expecting a bit more "hunky gladiator" in the hero, but as the story progressed, I realized that there was a lot more to this hero than his ability to wield a sword and fight in gladiatorial combat.
Lor Careston and Isabail Keith are not supposed to know each other, let alone be meeting in secret. After meeting as children and then reconnecting years later, their passion sparks quickly, and soon they are beginning to plan a future together. However, Isabail hasn't told Lor who she really is. When tragedy strikes while Lor is away from the village, Isabail fears he is dead. Lor returns to his village devastated, realizing that his grandfather has most likely been killed, and is told that the perpetrators are the rebel Keiths, who live outside the village. He tries to go to Isabail, not realizing that she is a Keith herself, and unable to find her, travels to the Ludus Caledonia, a fighting guild that will allow him to build the skills necessary to destroy his grandfather's murderers. Soon the two lovers reunite, but as secrets are revealed and true love is tested, their futures may not be as bright as they once hoped for.
This story was insta-love, which isn't usually my cup of tea. However, the way the author wrote it still drew me in, and although initially it felt like a teenage romance doomed to fail, I soon realized that there was much more to this story than meets the eye. The secret that lay between Lor and Isabail was devastating, and as the reader, you know about it long before either of them realize it. So the reading is a big agonizing while you're waiting for the shoe to drop and wondering how they're going to take it. Once Lor finds out the truth about Isabail's identity, things begin to speed up considerably. His internal struggle was painful, but it was good to see how he reacted and then how Isabail reacted once she caught up to speed.
Kathryn Le Veque is an engaging writer, who clearly has done her homework on the historical components of the story. I look forward to reading more by her.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**