Annwyl of Garbhán Isle is the bastard daughter of the former king. He and her brother abused her as a child, and now her brother is the new king and has a vendetta against her. She's earned the nickname Annwyl the Bloody for her ability to decapitate dozens of her ruthless brother's soldiers and has been fighting them for years. One day, the battle isn't going her way and she knows she's been mortally wounded. She decides to make her last stand at the mouth of a cave and take as many of her brother's men with her as she can. But then a fearsome dragon emerges, driving away all her foes before she passes out. Annwyl awakens to find that Fearghus, the dragon, has healed her with his magic and that he can actually talk. They spend hours together, discussing deep subjects and she wishes she could have such a connection with a man. When she's recovered enough to fight again, Fearghus arranges for a knight to train her more fully in combat skills so that she can defeat her brother once and for all, but the handsome knight has her all tied up in knots of desire. Annwyl soon finds herself torn between her love of the physical pleasure the knight gives her and the intellectual connection the dragon provides, and confused as to whom she cares for the most.
Fearghus the Destroyer has been content to mostly stay in his lair alone for the past two hundred years. When he hears the sounds of battle outside his cave, he tells himself he shouldn't get involved in human affairs, but bored, he goes to investigate anyway. He finds Annwyl bravely fighting off a hoard of soldiers in spite of being wounded and is impressed with her courage and skill. He decides to assist her by roasting a bunch of them. Then with the help of his sister, who is also a witch, they heal Annwyl. When she awakens, Fearghus is surprised that she has no fear of him and instead befriends him, so when he learns of her fight with her brother, he offers the help of a loyal knight. Of course, she--nor any human--knows that his magic allows him to take on human form, and in that guise, he's finding her impossible to resist. When she discovers his dual identity, will she forgive the deception, and will she finally be able to best her brother in battle to become queen of the land and restore peace?
Chains & Flames (Dragon Kin #1.5) - Bonus novella.
Dragon Actually is the first full-length novel in G. A. Aiken's Dragon Kin series and the first I've read by her under this or her Shelly Laurenston pen name. It's about Fearghus the Destroyer, a fearsome black dragon who's been content to live alone in his lair for centuries, avoiding humans. Then one day, he hears sounds of battle outside his cave. When he goes to investigate, he finds a warrior woman surrounded by enemies, still bravely fighting them off despite being mortally wounded and about to lose. Normally Fearghus doesn't get involved in human affairs, but something about the woman impresses him, so he helps her out, and then with the assistance of his sister who is a witch, they heal her. Annwyl has been at war with her brother for quite some time and has earned the hated nickname Annwyl the Bloody for her penchant for lopping off the heads of her brother's soldiers during battle. When she awakens in Fearghus's lair, she has no fear of the dragon and instead befriends him. Annwyl finds it hard to trust men, but the dragon is easy to talk to. Fearghus knows that in order to best her brother, she's going to have to learn control and rein in her temper, so he "arranges" for a knight to train her. Little does she know, though, that the handsome knight who lights her body on fire is actually Fearghus in his human form. She begins to fall in love with the dragon, while also falling in lust with the man, which confuses the hell out of her. When she finds out the truth about his duel identity, though, she may not be very forgiving. Then there's also her brother whom she still must defeat if they're ever to have peace in the realm.
Fearghus is over two hundred years old, and in all that time, he's generally been content to stay alone in his lair. Of course, he occasionally pillages and eats a few people every now and then, but he avoids getting involved in human affairs. When he hears the battle being waged outside his lair, he knows he should probably just let them sort it out themselves, but since he's bored, he figures what the heck, he'll check it out. That's when he finds Annwyl fighting like a madwoman at the mouth of his cave. Impressed with her skill and bravery, he decides to give her a hand by roasting the army of guys who are after her. Her lack of fear toward him afterward impresses him even more, so he saves her life by healing her wounds. After she's recovered, he also offers his services to train her so that she can more effectively beat her brother. When he's in his dragon form, they share an emotional and intellectual bond, but when he's in his human form their sexual chemistry is off the charts. But no human has yet discovered that dragons can shape-shift, which makes Fearghus a little reluctant to reveal his secret. Overall, Fearghus is a great hero. Some alpha males can really push my buttons, but not Fearghus. Somehow he finds the perfect balance between being protective, dominant, and possessive without going over the top. I love that he respects Annwyl as a strong, independent woman. He never tries to tear her down or make her stop what she's doing. He just gives her a little help and then let's her do it herself, so that her people will respect her, too, and accept her as queen. He's also an incredible lover, and I enjoyed all his little "challenge accepted" power play moves in the bedroom. That he's also a dragon as well as a man is just the icing on the cake.
Annwyl was the bastard daughter of the king. She came to live at the castle when she was ten, and her life after that was filled with abuse from both her father and her brother. Now that her brother is king, he's a sadistic monster who lives to defeat Annwyl in battle. But she's gained the support of neighboring kingdoms who want to see him deposed, so she leads a formidable army of her own. However, one day the battle isn't going her way. Knowing she's been mortally wounded, she decides to take as many of her brother's men with her as she can. Then a huge dragon intervenes, saving her life. Even when she awakens in his lair, she has no fear of him, and as they get to know one another, she finds someone she can trust in a way that she hasn't been able to trust the men in her life. Then Fearghus arranges for the "knight" to train her, and although most of the time he irritates her, she discovers a connection with him, too, although one of a more primal sort. She spends her days training to control her anger issues so she can defeat her brother, but their sessions nearly always end in the most sensual pleasures she could imagine. Meanwhile she spends her nights having deeper discussions with the dragon. Her feelings for both man and beast confuse her and she fears the day she'll have to choose between them. But when she finds out the huge secret Fearghus has been hiding, she might not be so forgiving. I usually relate better to softer, gentler romance heroines, so alpha warrior females like Annwyl can be a dicey proposition for me. But I ended really liking her. Maybe it's because she's a brave, fearless woman who still manages to embrace the feelings in her heart. She never comes off as irritating or abrasive, and although she can get her back up and can certainly give Fearghus plenty of sass, she eventually melts into his capable and loving arms. So even though she's anything but a traditional romance heroine, I did still manage to relate to her pretty well.
Dragon Kin is a fairly lengthy series, and in Dragon Actually we meet several of Feargus's wild and crazy family members, most of whom go on to get their own stories in the series. His oldest brother, Briec, seems more steady like Fearghus. He becomes the hero of the next book, About a Dragon. Their middle brother, Gwenvael, is the handsome, golden boy, and he knows it. His story is told in Book #3, What a Dragon Should Know. The youngest, blue-haired Eibhear, is the eager pup of the family, who acts a little more like a teenager. His book is #6, How to Drive a Dragon Crazy. Then their sister, Keita, who's an interesting mixture of naughty and (maybe) nice becomes the heroine of Book #4, Last Dragon Standing. Fearghus's parents, Rhiannon and Bercelak, very nearly kill Annwyl, but we learn that they have an interesting relationship. Their story is told in the novella, Chains & Flames, which is found in the back of my edition of Dragon Actually. Lastly, I think honorable mentions definitely go to Fearghus's sister, Morfyd, who's both a dragon and a witch, and Annwyl's top general, Brastias. Each of them were instrumental to both the story and winning the war. There's fairly strong sexual tension between them, so I thought they'd surely be the hero and heroine of the next book. However, after checking the entire series, it doesn't look like they get their own story, which is a little disappointing as I greatly liked them both. By the end, Morfyd and Brastias are helping Annwyl run her kingdom, so they're in close proximity to one another. But if the author wasn't going to write a story for them, I would have at least liked to get some mention of them getting together by the end of this book. Then again, who knows, maybe they'll be in one or more of the other books of the series, so I look forward to finding out.
Overall, Dragon Actually was a pretty entertaining read. It's a more lighthearted paranormal/fantasy romance with plenty of humor interspersed with the romance/sexy times and brutal battles. One particularly amusing bit was Fearghus getting a little jealous of himself when Annwyl talks of the man to the dragon or vice-versa. Fearghus and Annwyl were both likable characters who fit together perfectly. Both respected each other and there weren't really any silly misunderstandings. I understood where they were both coming from and thought they made a great couple. The love scenes are blazingly hot--a little erotic even--and very well-written, which was a major plus. However, as much as I enjoyed the book, it wasn't quite a perfect read. At 217 pages, it's definitely on the shorter side, so I couldn't help feeling that a little bit more story and a little deeper characterizations certainly wouldn't have gone amiss. The thing that really dropped the half-star, though, is all the places where the writing was a bit rough around the edges. There are lots of little errors, the most glaring of which was the author's tendency to not properly conjugate her verbs. She frequently leaves out the "had" before action verbs that denote events that took place in the past, which was incredibly annoying. Otherwise, though, I found the book to be fun and enjoyable with lots of amusing moments and sexy times to spice things up. Happily, in spite of a few minor flaws, it's left me very much looking forward to continuing the series.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, including a little light bondage and a bit of spanking. It also has quite a few graphic battle sequences involving blood and gore. Both of these things could be objectionable to sensitive readers.
Chains & Flames (Dragon Kin #1.5) - Bonus novella that's found in the back of some editions of Dragon Actually.
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