April 7, 2011

Review: Laird of Darkness by Nicole North

Laird of Darkness
Author: Nicole North
Publisher: Carina Press
ISBN: 1426891369
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Carina Press

*Novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley

For more information please visit Nicole North's website.

Half-Fae Laird Duncan MacDougall is cursed. His nights are haunted by Otherworld creatures sent to kill him. The only way to stop them is to possess the magic bow currently in the hands of his enemy half brother, Kinnon MacClaren. In desperation, Duncan plans to take MacClaren's bride-to-be hostage and exchange her for the bow.

Lady Alana Forbes has never met her intended, but she hopes he is handsome—and a good lover, for Alana is no innocent virgin. On her way to Castle Claren, Alana and her escorts are intercepted, and she is kidnapped by a man with extraordinary abilities—and every attribute she longs for in a mate.

Duncan didn't expect the woman he thought of as a mere pawn to be so beautiful, and so arousing. Alana is drawn to him as well—but Duncan still needs the bow, and Alana is betrothed to another. How far will Alana go to save the life of the man she's come to love?

Laird of Darkness by Nicole North is a Scottish historical erotic romance with light ties to the paranormal. Nicely written, this novella was fast paced with some great action and some wonderfully steamy romance that proved to be an extremely quick read. If you love brooding, misunderstood heroes of the Highland persuasion full of passion then this is definitely a tale for you! However, while this may have been a good read, I felt that there was a lot missing from the story and not as fully developed as it could have been.

The world development was wonderfully pitched with great settings and atmosphere that brought the world of the story to life. The times of drafty castles and battling clans was perfectly descibed serving to pull you into the time period and the lives of the characters. There was also some great paranormal elements that North perfectly wove into her tale creating a nicely superstitious tone ripe with the potential of fantastic magic. You literally never knew what to expect to show up with the underlying mystery surrounding Duncan's half Fae heritage drawing creatures to him from within his dreams. However, while I loved the potential presented in this aspect, I felt that it was truly wasted as nothing really ever comes of it. The dreams and creatures stalking Duncan are never fully explored, nor is the Gaelic magic that Alana conjures to weaves as healing spells.

But, this aspect also adds an nice element to the characterization as it provides some great opportunities for emotional appeal that was used to some advantage, creating a sort of connection that made it easy for these two seemingly opposing characters bond. Alana, as well as being a powerful healer, is also a remarkably resourceful and intelligent woman. But, like Duncan she is forced to hide her fear of the dark, a scar from her past which plagues her, and her amazing abilities from the world. Duncan, being half Fae, has numerous abilities that have all contributed to his frigthening persona as the Laird of Darkness giving him the instant impression of being the barbaric villain of the story. However, things are not always as they appear and we quickly learn that he has merely been trying to survive the horrors of darkness as well as struggling to protect his clan. While he may be a strong and skilled warrior, he is also both noble and vulnerable, creating an interesting inner dynamic that I truly enjoyed seeing explored. As well as these key players though, there is also Duncan's half brother Kinnon, the man to which Alana is supposed to be wed. Now here's where the characterization sort of failed for me, as we never really learn much about Kinnon, only that we know as little of him as he knows of his brother. There was a lot of room for exploration that would make the story more dimensional if we could have gotten at least a little more of a glimpse at him and the misunderstanding between the two brothers.

And then there's the romance of the novel which is without a doubt deliciously steamy. North does a marvelous job at bringing the passion of her characters to the forefront, creating a strong bond that sucks you in. And truly, the erotic aspects of this tale are sinfully delicious and capturing a tenderness that isn't seen in the characters' interactions. But, at the same time I also felt as if the relationship was only two dimensional and not as truly developed as it could have been. I know this is hard to accomplish in under a hundred pages, but I felt as if their connection came about rather too quickly as the chemistry was good, but not what I would call combustible. However, as the story progresses I came to really like these two together, but only wished there would have been more of a connection rather then mostly sex....not that I have anything against that! I just think with more development this would have gone from merely a good to an amazing one.

My other issue with this story lies within the paranormal aspects as my initial impression of this novella definitely had me believing that the paranormal would have as much of a stock in the tale as the romance. How wrong I was! While North creates an enticing world of Fae and magical possibilities she seemed to back away almost instantly leaving so much potential under developed and unexplored. Instead of being a plot point, it became background noise leaving so many questions to linger about Duncan's heritage and abilities as well as the nightmarish world that plagues his dreams. Also unexplored is the history behind Alana's healing abilities. Obviously a witch to some extent, it was left open as to what exactly where her family's ability came from or the extent of her powers. And how does this all end? With lots of lingering, unanswered questions as the ending ties up rather abruptly leaving no hint of answers to come and me sitting there glaring at my Nook like it was the one responsible.

Overall, this novel delivered big on the romance front while leaving me lacking on the supernatural one. But despite this, this novella still proved to be a good, quick read. I would, however, be interested to know if North plans to do a follow up in which she would hopefully give more development to the anemic plot that held so much potential because honestly this is a world I would love to see more of. But, as it stands, this is a decent enough read, but doesn't quite manage to deliver all that was promised.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Sexual Content

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