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This was a book that really surprised me with its dark undertones and real talk about what happens to women who are left vulnerable at the hands of men. Many books gloss over it, and I would liken Kerrigan's writing to that of Christi Caldwell in how they both handled the sensitive subject of sexual assault in their books - frank but keeping in mind the delicate nature of what has occurred. It's a much talked about topic these days, but it's still a very difficult subject to discuss let alone read about. I am very careful about the books I read, because it is a trigger for me. And fair warning - this book did reach my limit with the subject. I really appreciate Kerrigan Byrne writing such a well-researched book about the life of someone who has experienced it, how they handle relationships in the aftermath, and that finding love is not impossible even if you feel like you are "broken."
Lady Alexandra Lane has been paying a blackmailer for ten years to keep her secrets buried, not only for her sake but that of her friends. But the time has come where she can't afford to do so anymore, and she needs to find protection for those she loves. She finds that protection in the form of a scarred duke known as the Terror of Torcliff, who may appear the monster but has the heart of a gentle warrior. Piers Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is entranced by the quiet beauty of Alexandra. Unafraid to stand up to him but appearing to fear him, he doesn't know whether to stay away or coax her closer. He has his own troubles, wanting revenge on the cousin who stole his former fiance, and he needs a bride who can bear him heirs to keep the title far, far away from his title-hungry relative. When Alexandra proposes marriage, he is elated, but as they grow closer, he realizes she has a lot she is hiding. Their love may not be enough to battle her past and his present.
I loved Alexandra and Piers - they were a couple that truly seemed meant for each other from the very beginning. You could tell that Piers was insecure about his looks from the start, and Alexandra's history with men made it seem like she was repulsed by him. Over time, however, Piers realized that it was fear he saw in her eyes, not repulsion, and their love for each other grew stronger. Of course, they didn't realize it at first, and their relationship had its ups and downs like any other couple. But I felt like they really worked through everything, and Alexandra never gave up on her dream of a life with Piers filled with love and laughter. He was the first man to make her feel safe and wanting more closeness, and she desperately needed that in her healing process. Seeing her grow from her past experiences and learning to find love in the wake of tragedy, it was inspiring. Very emotional too, and I loved every bit of it.
I can't wait to read about Alexandra's friends, who are sure to get their books soon in this new series. Get to reading, folks! You don't want to miss these books.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**