Monday, March 6, 2017

ARC Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Series:     The Embraced #1
Pub. Date:March 7, 2017
Publisher:St. Martin's Press
Length:416 pages

I am always happy to have an author enter the genre of fantasy romance... you have heard me say time and again that there are not enough books out there in this genre! Kerrelyn Sparks really knocked it out of the park with this first installment of the The Embraced series. Her world-building was done well, and she gave us a nice prologue detailing the history of the kingdoms and the Embraced race.

In short, in the fantastical realm of  Aerthlan, the Embraced are born on the night of the two moons eclipse. This special birth gives them special powers, which is seen as dangerous by the kings of the land. The Embraced are executed if found, so they must live in secret, and are sometimes sent to the Isle of Moon as infants to be raised in hiding. This is where we meet five teenage girls who have been raised in a convent on the Isle of Moon - Luciana, Brigitta, Gwennore, Sorcha, and Maeve. Having grown up together, these girls share a special bond and consider themselves sisters who will be together forever.

Our first heroine of the series is Luciana, a nineteen year old young woman who believes she was abandoned at the convent as a babe. She is taken aback when a man proclaiming to be her father appears at the convent with a coffin, and the ghost of her deceased twin sister. Luciana learns the truth of why she was hidden away at the convent, and shows her altruistic nature when she chooses to help her father to prevent his execution by a tyrannical and greedy king. Thus begins Luciana's adventure to an unknown land where she is to marry a man known as the Beast of Benwick. Luciana was a lovely heroine, she was kind to everyone no matter their station in life. This was quite different than her twin, Tatiana, who was spoiled and snobbish and petulant. I admired Luciana's bravery in taking on this task for a father she just met, and she was quite mature for a youngish heroine. She took each obstacle in stride and didn't break down in hysterics when faced with adversity.

Leofric of Benwick, Lord Protector of the Realm, is the nephew of the tyrannical king of Eberon. Leo is also one of the Embraced, but his lightning power is so great that no one has been able to kill him. This same power makes Leo a tragic and sympathetic hero, as he cannot touch or be touched without harming or killing the other person. So Leo is lonely and touch-starved, and despairs that he will kill his future bride that the king has demanded he wed. Leo's power also earned him the nickname the Beast of Benwick, and he is feared and reviled by all the people of the realm. I felt very bad for Leo - the whispers and fright did a number on his self-esteem, and it was especially hurtful given that Leo was a good man and used his power to protect the people.

The relationship between Leo and Luciana was sweet and sometimes humorous. Being convent-raised, Luciana was fairly naive and didn't know what to expect between a man and his wife... this lead to some entertaining scenes. I loved the flirtatious side of Leo, and was drawn into his longing for Luciana and the torment of not being able to touch her. These two were paired perfectly, with complementing personalities and abilities. I am super appreciative that both characters were mature to the extent that you really didn't focus on Luciana's young age as the story progressed.

One of the reasons I love fantasy romance is for the adventure and political intrigue. Sparks did well in this regard and gave us a rich plot to offset the romance. The danger and political machinations were well-integrated and helped advance the plot at a steady pace. The secondary characters were also endearing and humorous... not only Luciana's sisters, but also Brody and Nevis (Leo's men), Luciana's father, and the various ghosts that Luciana could see with her special abilities. 

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, St. Martin's Press.