Kerrigan Byrne’s latest novel, The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo, is the historical romance, pirate adventure you need in your life! This is definitely one of our faves of 2018. Plus, enter our giveaway to win a paperback copy of your own!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
With a title like this, you just know The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo will be a juicy one! This is the sixth book in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series (my first from this author), and I ended up I bingeing the novel in about 10 hours. But, perhaps more importantly, even after I finished reading, I couldn’t let go of this book. I reread The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo over and over and over again for days. I have such a book hangover that I really haven’t been able to pick up another romance since this one. That’s how compelling this book is. I highly recommend The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo, which is definitely one of my favorite books of the year!
One day, 14-year old Lorelai Weatherspoke is on her way home from school with her father, the Earl of Southbourne, and her brother Mortimer. As she’s watching the scene pass by outside the carriage, she sees a horrific scene: a young man, naked, horribly beaten, and seemingly dead beneath an Ash tree. Lorelai begs them to stop, and with reluctant help from Mortimer, she’s able to ascertain that he’s still alive, though barely. Over the next several weeks, Lorelai learns that this young man has amnesia and no knowledge of who he is. As she helps him recover over the better part of a year, Lorelai and Ash (which she has named in) develop a friendship. Lorelai gives him a birthday and, after conversation with her father, the Earl decides to present Ash as a distant relation who will learn a trade and help run the estate. As for Ash, if the nightmares that plague him are any reflection of his previous life, he has no desire to return. Besides, it was Lorelai’s voice that lured him back to life and her kindness that healed him. Ash has fallen for her completely. Ash knows he doesn’t have much to offer Lorelai, something that Mortimer reminds him of, daily. But Ash promises that he’ll always protect her, and as sure as the sun sets in the West, he will always be there for her:
“Lorelai. Have you ever been kissed?”
Her expression slid from pensive to perplexed. “No. Have you?”
“. . . I don’t know.” He didn’t care to know.
She winced. “Of course. Of course, you don’t know. What a stupid question. I’m incessantly ridiculous—He banished her tirade with the pressure of his lips against hers. His mouth lingered rather than demanded. Brushed and tasted. Savored. He dared not use his tongue, or his teeth, or any other part of him that hungered for her. He held in his arms the girl he loved. And thus was the cause for his caution. Lorelai was just that. A girl. He was no longer a boy. The feelings he had, the desires. The hunger. The heat. They belonged to a man, a man who would slake them with a woman. Not a girl. She clutched at him, her artless sigh giving him breath. Her response both shy and lush. The promise of something more. This could not be that. This was only a kiss of creation. A promise of something blooming between them. The overture to a symphony of longing he’d compose over time. I love you. The confession danced behind his lips, and so they remained pressed to hers…
Truth be told, all Lorelai wants is to be with Ash. So when he takes a brief business trip with Mortimer and doesn’t return, Lorelai is devastated. Mortimer tells her that Ash has remembered his old life and, wanting to hurting Lorelain, has returned home.
For 20 years, Lorelai mourns her love for Ash. In the meantime, Mortimer becomes increasingly cruel, violent, and capricious. When he gambles the family estate and Lorelai away, she truly believes there’s nothing positive left for her in this life. And then, on her wedding day, Ash returns. He’s now the notorious pirate, The Rook, and he has no intention of letting Lorelai marry another. The Rook kidnaps Lorelai to his ship and intends to take her in every way. She quickly realizes that this man may look like Ash, but he’s not at all the same person. The Rook is a murderer and thief… but with Lorelai, he may be willing to rediscover his humanity.
I adore Lorelai. Whereas she was surrounded by brutality and indifference from her youth, Lorelai is deeply empathetic and defensive of those who are injured or weak. She has always had an affinity for elderly people and injured animals. This makes her brave in their defense.
This is likely what makes the Rook so possessive of Lorelai. She calms him, and after decades of suffering, Lorelai is the Rook’s peace. The passion between them sizzles right off the page:
“Are you saying won’t require me to… we won’t consummate…”
Lord, the heat of her blush could have immolated her right where she stood.
“Oh, we will,” he vowed as the dawning of an idea swirled behind those dark, wicked eyes. “But what if I offer you a reprieve of sorts? A pirate’s promise.”
“Are pirates any good at keeping promises?” she breathed.
“I suppose we’ll find out.”
Why the change of heart, she wondered? “What are your terms?” What was his objective? Her question seemed to encourage him.
“I will not take you. Not by force. Not until you ask me to.”
What? Considering the stance he’d taken since he returned for her, this didn’t make any sense. “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t you?” he challenged. “You were always a curious girl. I don’t imagine that’s changed. What if, instead of making you my offering, I offer my body for your use?”
Mouth suddenly dry, Lorelai stood.
“What if I don’t want it?” Wings flexed as he stood and turned to her, revealing all of himself. His skin like molten gold shaped over cold, tempered steel of his chest decorated with brilliant color. The flare of his shoulders molded into the fascinating mounds of his biceps before tapering down to sinewy forearms laced with thick veins. Lorelai did her level best not to follow the obdurate ripple of muscles down his torso, arrowing right to the lean hips and his—. Eek. She slammed her eyes shut. That had definitively grown along with the rest of him in twenty years.
“Tell me you do not, and I’ll tell you you’re a liar.”
Her lips parted to deny it, but not a word escaped.
“You may do what any other has died a torturous and painful death for even attempting.”
“What is that?” She blinked up at him, resolutely watching his eyes and never drifting lower.
“Use me.” He held his arms out, hands up like a pagan sacrificial offering. “Wield me, Lorelai. I am at your discretion. I am at your disposal. Whip me, bind me, torture me, degrade me. Any need you have, I will fulfill. Any curiosity you can conceive of, I will provide the answer.” The first smile she’d ever witnessed spread over his fiendishly sensual lips. It was the smile of a shark, all teeth and temptation. “Out there, I am Captain and I am King. In this chamber, you rule me. You command me.” His eyes captured hers, and where she’d seen voids before she now saw nothing but opportunity. And something else. Something… she might have once called yearning.
“You own me.”
Without thinking, he bent down, grasped her arms, dragged her to her feet, and pressed his lips to hers. He wouldn’t force her. He’d keep his word. But their first kiss had been enough to span the memory of two decades, and damned if he could live without tasting her again. She made a sound, though whether shock, protest, or surrender he couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter. He had, indeed, fancied that he’d tasted her lips on the rain, had savored the memory of her innocent kiss on the darkest nights of his life, and it had still been like trying to catch the warmth of the sun from its reflection on the cold moon. A lovely, but pale comparison.
With a throaty growl, he locked her body against him with one arm. His other hand slipped past the collar of the shirt she wore until his fingers found the delicate nape of her neck. He spread his fingers up her scalp, threading them in the flaxen tangles of her unbound hair until her head rested in his palm. How long had he waited? How many nights had he imagined this? Burned for it?… He drove his hips against the silk of her skirts, sex against sex, frustrated by the barrier, but aroused by her soft hiss of breath and the tremble he felt roll through her limbs. The first of many, he vowed.
“Can you feel a whisper of what I can give you?” he asked, rolling against her again, knowing he abraded the sweet little nub with each flex of his hips.
“Y-Yes . . . but I . . .” Her fingers became claws on his shoulders, as though she feared falling. I’ll not let you go. He kissed the corners of her mouth, her chin, and dragged his lips over the downy skin of her throat, stopping to nibble at the pulse he found leaping there. I’ll never let you go.
“Are you wet for me?” he demanded in a harsh whisper. It took her three tries to swallow.
“I-I’m . . .” She lost her words when he bit at her earlobe.
“Let me make you slick and slippery,” he urged.
“Make . . . what?”
“Let me make you writhe. And beg. And scream. I will exhaust you with ecstasy. You will come apart in my hands, beneath my mouth.”
“Please, just . . .” she gasped on a shuddering breath. The word, combined with her slight squirming against his nude, aroused body threatened to drive him beyond all control…
YAS. PLEASE. The UST between Lorelai and the Rook is incredible and so sexy. I couldn’t handle it! (Katie can tell you about my flails as I texted her the juiciest, most delicious excerpts!) At the same time, it’s heartbreaking to see how much Lorelai and the Rook have repeatedly suffered. The story can get dark at times. But seeing these two together makes it so worth it.
The Rook plans to make a life with Lorelai, he just needs to finish one last mission… finding a treasure that’s connected to a tattoo of a dragon on his arm, one of the things from his previous life that he still carries with him. In the process of the hunt, The Rook learns more about his true identity.
In addition to the romance, which I adore, this story gives us an awesome pirate adventure on the high seas, especially as we get to hear about all the Rook has done and seen across the world.
There are also great secondary characters: Veronica, Lorelai’s sister-in-law; Moncliffe, The Rook’s first mate; plus Dorrian and Farrah Blackwell are among several characters that make an appearance from books earlier in the series.
The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is MUSTREAD for fans of historical romance, second-chance romance, and adventure stories. I think it can be read as a standalone, but it would help if you have read the previous books in the series. I’ll be going back and doing that, myself… especially given the way the book ends. You just know we’ll be seeing Lorelai, the Rook, and their friends again!
Add The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo to your Goodreads TBR list and get your copy today!
Thanks to our friends at St. Martin’s Paperbacks, we have ONE finished paperback copy of The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo to give away! In order to enter:
(1) Follow We So Nerdy on Twitter.
(2) Follow Kerrigan Byrne on Twitter.
The giveaway ends on Friday, September 7 at 12:00pm EST. U.S. residents only. The prize will be fulfilled directly by St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
*Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press Romance for an advanced review copy.