Monday, December 14, 2009

Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty

Turning his back on his old life as a rogue, Gavriel de Marqueda has joined a monastic order in Spain and taken a vow of chastity. Before he becomes a monk, he must pass one final test: help a woman who has lost her way. But when he lays eyes on Ada of Keyworth, he is tempted beyond measure by her sultry beauty and dangerous curves. Far from her home in England, Ada has been battling inner demons for more than a year. When she discovers that her only friend has abandoned her, she has no choice but to grudgingly accept Gavriel's help. But Ada is not fooled. Though Gavriel wears the robes of a monk, Ada sees that he is a virile man who looks at her with a hunger that matches her own - one that begs to be satisfied again and again.

Castile, Iberian Peninsula, 13th century. The fights between Moors and Christians have been going on for centuries. The Convivencia is in place, having Moors, Christians and Jews living together despite their religious beliefs causing deep social differences.

Ada of Keyworth is an English woman with a talent for languages who found a place in the court of a known aristocrat in Toledo. Her troubled past led her to a opium dependance to calm her dreams. While trying to end her thirst for more drugs she finds herself under the power of a merchant. The young woman ends up in a brothel to be sold as slave to pay her debts.

Gavriel of Marquaeda is a mysterious young man about to become a monk of the Order of Santiago. While on a mission in a local brothel with his master and another novice, he notices a dazzling woman being rescued by a young warrior, Jacob. Seeing him outnumbered, he decides to help and both get to save Ada from a life of servitude. The English woman will then become his final test before joining the Order: help her with the drug addiction and keep her safe.

The main characters in this story are a little different from what we normally expect in an historical romance. Ada is independent, tough and haunted by dreams and even guilt that never let her sleep. She's not the innocent and typical damsel in distress, this woman is determined to have a career and fend for herself when needs be.

Gavriel is training to join the Order of Santiago. His warrior past weights on his shoulders and he desperately seeks redemption. When he meets Ada, his world is completely shaken. While sometimes a little overbearing, he is also resigned about his future. His past and family would never let him find his peace and built a life with Ada.
These two are a perfect match, both determined to get through the worst ordeals while fighting for what they want. But they are far from being the flawless heroes who always save the day. It's one of the reasons why they win me over.

The secondary characters are also very endearing and I truly hope to see Bridget and Jacob in Carrie Lofty's future books.

I really enjoyed the fact that the author ends up with a note discussing the historical context and explaining the changes she made to suit her story. Writing a romance during the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula is probably not an easy task. The era and location are not usual among historical romance or even historical fiction, and from the first pages, I was immediately swept away.

Some details like the character's names who are so often misspelled, anglicized or even stereotyped (no Juanitas here!) feel familiar to anyone who is close to this culture. My grandmother's family is originally from the region of Castile and Leon and one of the characters has her family name which is common in the area but it was nonetheless funny to find here.

The language used by the characters might seem sometimes a tad too modern, especially Ada's, but nothing that spoils the story.

Scoundrel's Kiss is the sequel of What a Scoundrel Wants which I still didn't read but I planned to do as quickly as my TBR pile will allow me. I heartily recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good romance and history as well.

Grade: 4/5


  1. I had every intention of reading Carrie Lofty's first book but never actually managed to do so! I have now added this one to my list as well!

    Thanks for the review Alex.