Luke de Perigueux is known as the "Black Dragon" for his brutality and ferocity in battle, but it is not who he truly is inside. One of the most infamous and most feared of all the invading Norman soldiers, Luke keeps his bloodlust alive through the use of a special blend of herbs. He is distressed by his life and always afraid of the 'beast' that he believes lives inside of him. Finally, one night, when Luke believes he has committed a heinous crime, he retreats to a monastery to cleanse his soul and stave off his addiction to the herbs. After several months of solitude, Luke's overlord, Lord Alberic, grants him a farmstead called Haukleah... and the Lady of Haukleah, a Saxon widow, as a wife.
Faithe of Haukeleah is a widow - her Saxon husband having been killed off by illness after leaving to fight the Norman Invasion. She finds out that her ancestral home and farmstead will be handed to the "Black Dragon" - one of the most feared of the Norman soldiers. She can stay at Haukleah only if she agrees to marry its new Norman Lord, Luke de Perigueux. Although Faithe is loathe to marry a man who has killed so many of her people, her only alternative would be to leave her beloved home - which is an option she refuses to consider. Reluctantly, she agrees to the marriage. Her previous marriage had been pleasant, but it was not a love match. Faithe certainly does not expect her second marriage to be much different... but there is something about Luke that draws her to him. Now if only she could convince some of her most trusted staff of Luke's true nature...
This is a story of how love can heal. It's very much a 'beauty and the beast' tale. It was well told and very, very passionate. Faithe was an interesting heroine because - although she had not been in love with her first husband - she had a pleasant and enjoyable sex life before the hero. In fact, the heroine is quite lusty. This was a refreshing change from the usual fare. Luke is so warm and kind and compassionate, but he hides this 'true self' behind his brutal soldier facade. He longs to have a normal life and a loving marriage but does not believe he is capable. Luke lives in fear of 'the beast' that he believes dwells within him. As he begins to fall in love with Faithe, he longs to protect her from this 'beast.' Faithe helps him to see his true self, and loves him despite all of his faults and his past wrongs.
The main conflict in this book does not become apparent right away. The hero and heroine fall in love early on in the book, and for a while in the middle, the story dragged a bit. However, once the primary conflict comes into play, the book really took off again and the pace picked up. As always, Ms. Ryan is awesome with her characterizations. The secondary characters in this book really stood out. A major secondary character in this story is Luke's younger brother, Alex, who is the hero in the next book of this duet - Wild Wind. I adored Alex, and am really looking forward to reading his story!
Although this book was not as excellent as Ms. Ryan's other Medieval Romances that I've read, it was still a great read, and well worth my time!