In How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days, Kerrelyn Sparks builds a fantasy world that is so entertaining and swoony, you won’t want to come back to reality!
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
Compared to other genres, I think that solid world-building is even more essential in paranormal stories. In a situation where the rules governing supernatural creatures/phenomena are up in the air, it’s really important that an author define these boundaries for the readers. This is one of my favorite parts of How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days! Kerrelyn Sparks is really mindful of walking us through the world of Aerthlan, defining the sources of supernatural ability. This is particularly relevant to understanding the conflicts that undergird a lot of the action and romance in the book.
I really enjoy this novel and find it to be very entertaining. And even better, now that Sparks has established this world, she sets up opportunities to explore other stories for characters we’ve become invested in.
Aerthlan is a world made up of five kingdoms, Eberon, Woodwyn, Noveshka, Tourin (these four sharing a continent), and one kingdom of the Islands of Moon and Mist. For years, the four mainland kingdoms have been at war with one another, battling for land, resources, and power. For the most part, the people of the Islands are left alone, free to worship the goddesses of the two moons (on the mainland, they worship a male god, Light). Two times a year, the two moons in the sky align with one another, and any children born on that night are born with a supernatural power. While these people (the Embraced) are actively protected on the Islands, the Embraced are persecuted and killed on the mainland.
We begin How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days at the Convent of the Two Moons on the Isle of Moon. Five girls have been abandoned to the convent and raised by the nuns there. The girls are not related–in fact, the only thing they have in common is that they are all Embraced. But since they grow up together, Luciana, Brigitta, Gwennore, Sorcha, and Maeve consider themselves sisters. Truth be told, they have no plans to leave the convent, and would rather live their lives with one another. However, their lives are shaken up in a major way when a storm brings a stranger to the convent.
As far as Luciana knows, she’s an orphan. This is why, when the Duke of Vindalyn arrives from Eberon claiming to be her father, Luciana is mistrustful and upset. Where has this man been for the last 19 years? Why is she left at the convent in the first place? And what does the Duke want now? Ultimately, the Duke claims that Luciana is brought to the Isle of the Moon in order to protect her from the edict that Embraced be killed. However, she can’t stay at the convent any longer. Eberon’s King has demanded that the Duke wed his daughter to the King’s nephew, Leofric of Benwick, Lord Protector of the Realm. This seems innocent enough, right? In actuality, King Frederic wants the wealthy Vindalyn duchy for himself. In addition to sending assassins to kill the Duke and his daughter, King Frederic has the idea to marry her to his nephew. You see, Leo is also Embraced, and his ability is absorbing power from lightning. This happens involuntarily, whenever there’s a storm, and turns Leo’s touch into a deadly one. Luciana knows that, in marrying Leo, the Beast of Benwick, her life would literally be in danger from her husband’s hands. Yet, for the sake of her father’s life, Luciana agrees to go to Eberon, adopt Eberoni ways, and marry the Lord Protector.
What we learn very quickly is that Leo is not a supporter of his Uncle and will do anything to thwart him. Leo won’t allow Luciana and the Duke to become pawns in a game. But when he arrives at Vindalyn, Leo finds that he has a very deep attraction to Luciana, one that she shares. Yet, given this deadly touch, how can they ever have a real marriage? After a series of attempts on Luciana’s life, new information emerges about the circumstances of Luciana’s birth which suggest that she and Leo might be more compatible than we think.
As I mention, one of the things I enjoy most is learning about Aerthlan and why Embraced would fear for their life. While Luciana must live in secret, Leo is only afforded latitude because his power prevents someone from touching him long enough to do harm. As you can imagine, Leo would be starved or human interaction. So the fact that Luciana rejects the “Beast” moniker and insists on getting to know Leo, is something that he finds very attractive. This is indicative of Luciana’s character as a whole, she’s kind, considerate, humble, and forgiving. And actually, Leo has complementary qualities. He’s a protector in every sense of the word, so willing to sacrifice his desires to make sure those he cares about will be alright. When it comes to Luciana, this means putting her wellbeing ahead of his intense physical desire for her. That doesn’t mean Leo doesn’t want her… the UST blazes:
She looked away, and a breeze swept her hair across her face. With a graceful gesture, she brushed her hair back, then she stilled. She’d spotted him. She was looking straight at him with an intensity that took his breath away. Time seemed to stop, and he no longer heard the sounds of his army or the call of seagulls. He no longer felt the heat of the sun or the breeze from the sea. How long he stared at her, how long she stared back, he didn’t know. Didn’t care. For in those few seconds that stretched into an eternity, he felt like an essential truth was being imprinted on his soul, a truth that would remain as eternal as the sea and sky. She was meant for him. She was the one he wanted. A second truth struck him hard, like a hammer shattering his soul into the jagged fragments of a broken mirror. And in those fragments, he saw his own reflection. Multiple images of himself. The Beast. No matter how much he wanted this woman, no matter how much he felt she was destined for him, he could never touch her. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest. How cruel of fate to reveal her to him only to keep her beyond his reach.
“Did you wonder why I’m praying for a drought?”
She halted. He’d come back with a counterattack of his own. An excellent one. For she had wondered. His booted feet crunched on the stone wall walk as he approached her from behind. “No rain means no lightning. That means my power would slowly disappear.”
The back of her neck tingled. “Why would you want to lose your power?”
“So I can touch you. Kiss you.” His voice lowered to a whisper. “Bed you.”
The tingle on her neck skittered down her spine. Then he might be able to touch her someday? And she hadn’t imagined the hunger in his eyes. It was real. “
You …want me?”
Her heart thudded as she turned to face him.
“You hardly know me.”
“I know you’re clever, brave, bold, and beautiful. I know you’re kind to servants. Kind to animals. You’re not above working in the garden. You stand up to me. You intrigue me. I feel more …alive when I’m with you.” He stepped closer. “Yes. I want you.”
He placed a gloved hand on the coverlet where her foot was.
“I have fought armies of elfin warriors.” His hand slid to her ankle, then her calf.
“I have faced fire-breathing dragons.”
“That must have been terrifying.” Her heart raced as his hand skimmed up her thigh and over her hip.
“Do you know what terrifies me even more? ”His hand moved past her waist, then paused just below her breasts. She clenched the top edge of the coverlet in her fists.
“It was a dragon that killed your father. What could terrify you more than that?”
“The possibility that I might hurt you.”
Her eyes burned. “I know you don’t mean to hurt me.”
“Do you?” His hand curved around her breast, and she gasped. Gently, he squeezed. A tingling sensation stole over her, making her breasts feel heavy and her whole body ache to be touched.
“Leo…” A whimper escaped as his gloved fingers teased at her nipple, causing it to harden into a tight bud.
“You have no idea how much I want you.” He leaned close enough that she could see the determined glint in his eyes.
“At first, I thought it was only your body I wanted. But something about you has made me greedy as hell. I want everything. Your love. Your mind. Your secrets. Your soul.”
I really don’t want to give too many spoilers because I think How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is best enjoyed first hand. But what I will say is that the threats to Luciana’s life emerge from right within her household. Being back at Vindalyn also gives Luciana the ability to learn about the origins of her supernatural abilities and the reasons her parents send her to the Isle of Moon. Learning these truths actually brings Luciana and Leo closer together and leads to a very sweet HEA.
I have to be honest though, this is very slow burn, as in we don’t get actual sexy times until maybe 80% through the book. This is actually my biggest critique of the book; however, I’m willing to look past it because I know the author has a lot of groundwork to lay for Luciana, Leo, and their world to make their eventual intimacy plausible. And when the sexy times happen, they are fan-your-face, panty-melting HOT. But I do wish the romance would have been a little more central.
At the same time, Kerrelyn Sparks never lets us forget that Eberon is at war and, in exploring these conflicts, we get to meet secondary characters who are pretty fantastic too.
It shouldn’t surprise us that each of the original five girls at the Convent of the Two Moons is from a different kingdom in Aerthlan. I’m so excited to learn more about the other four girls, their abilities, and, presumably, the other kingdoms. Is it possible that these young women, essentially abandoned, could be the key to bring peace to their world? I can’t wait to find out!
How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is MUSTREAD for all fans of paranormal romance and high fantasy. And actually, I would recommend this to those who even enjoy historical romance. There are kings, dukes, pirates, elves, and dragons, so basically, something for everyone!
Add How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days on Goodreads and get your copy today! Also, go HERE to read an excerpt from the prologue and first chapter.
Many thanks to the publisher for an advanced review copy.