Army veteran, Jason Sherbrooke, was murdered by his evil brother, Algernon, for the considerable sum of money that Jason held in trust for his ward's dowry. That ward happens to be their niece, Miranda, the illegitimate daughter of their older brother and his mistress, both of whom also died under mysterious circumstances nearly a decade before. When Jason went off to war, he sent Miranda to a boarding school, and knowing that Algernon would treat Miranda poorly if anything happened to him, Jason drew up his will to give guardianship of Miranda to his best friend and army commander, Damien Knight. Damien is a genuine war hero, whose intelligence and skill helped him to quickly rise through the ranks of the army to the level of colonel, but all of his time in the war was spent on the violent, bloody and extremely dangerous front lines, which has left him with a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder. After experiencing frightening black-outs and horrific nightmares, Damien decides to remove himself from society and live as a recluse on his country estate, but when news of Jason's murder reaches him, Damien has no choice but to leave his solitary existence to check on his new ward, who he thinks is still a little girl.
Miranda FitzHubert is a full-grown woman and far from the young miss Damien believes her to be. Her existence at the boarding school has been fraught with heartache, but she takes joy in escaping the confines of the school once a month to perform on stage in the nearby village of Birmingham. Damien arrives there on the same night that Miranda is set to perform, and decides to spend the night in town before going to meet his ward the next morning. Sex has become Damien's vice of choice for keeping his demons at bay, and he finds himself feeling edgy after several weeks of celibacy because of his self-imposed exile. Deciding to seek out female companionship for the night, he ventures to the local theater where he spies the most beguiling creature he has ever seen. Determined that he must have her, Damien waits for Miranda to leave by the back door, where he tries to seduce her. Miranda tells him that she's not that kind of girl, and when his back is turned she slips away. Damien is about to let her go when his warrior's senses tell him that something is wrong. He turns just in time to see Miranda being set upon by footpads. Damien immediately goes to her rescue, but his vicious routing of her attackers, leaves Miranda as scared of him as she was of the other men and running for home.
After his violent display, Damien hopes never to see the young woman again, but of course, the next day, he discovers that the beautiful young lady is his new ward. It takes a bit of sweet-talking on his part to convince Miranda that he is who he says and means her no harm. She eventually believe him and goes with him willingly, but with secret intentions of her own. At their first stop, the headstrong Miranda tries to elude Damien to rescue her young friend from school, but when Damien becomes a savior to them all, Miranda quickly starts to see him and her own future in a different light. As they travel to London alone and then spend the Christmas holidays together in the company of his family, Miranda finds herself falling hopelessly in love, but Damien refuses to allow himself to get close to Miranda for fear that he may harm her during one of his episodes. It will take all of Miranda's powers of persuasion to bring Damien around, while evading all the pitfalls that have been set by her evil uncle who is now hell-bent on killing her as well.
Lord of Ice is another winning story from Gaelen Foley. In my opinion, it was a little light on the romance, with the historical and suspense elements being given almost equal weight, but it was still a wonderful and engaging book. I did not find this to be a predictable read at all. There were several times that the direction of the story surprised me, but none more so than the ending or perhaps I should say endings. The main plot of the story climaxed about forty pages or so from the end of the book and then turned in a completely unexpected direction, actually giving it a second ending of sorts plus an epilogue. I'm not really sure this second ending was necessary, but it did give another slice of life scenario to this appealing couple. I loved the warm family atmosphere surrounding the Knight clan. Even though they are of mixed parentage and each of the siblings has a distinct personality, they are a very close-knit and welcoming family. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Miranda spies the Knight brothers having a late-night snowball fight like a bunch of unruly schoolboys. It was an extremely heartwarming scene that left a huge smile on my face. I also really appreciate Ms. Foley's use of details to enrich the narrative. In some books I have read, such descriptions can be dry and slow the pace, but in Lord of Ice, everything from the account of the Knight family's Christmas celebration to the political climate of the era was woven together seamlessly and in an engaging way that made it seem like I was actually there.
Damien and Miranda were a memorable hero and heroine. Damien is an intense, tortured alpha with the call of the warrior in his blood and an extreme case of PTSD from the time he spent in the Peninsular War fighting on the front lines. After an incident in Lord of Fire, where he lost track of where he was and came back to himself with weapons in his hands, he decided to live a solitary life for the safety of his loved ones. The psychological pain Damien experiences is so intense that he has thought of killing himself more than once, and he has a few flashbacks that were violent enough to make me a tad squeamish, one involving a horse, which as an animal lover, was particularly disturbing. Miranda is a strong, independent-minded young lady, who is a spitfire without being shrewish and is gentle and sensitive without being a push-over, which is an amazing balance for an author to be able to strike. At first, I found myself thinking of Miranda in a childish way, but perhaps that was a stroke of genius on Ms. Foley's part, since that is what Damien had initially thought as well. It didn't take long for Miranda to "grow up", and although she did lie to Damien a few times, I am happy to say that she never had any TSTL moments. She was a very smart girl, who always seemed to know when to cut her losses and simply tell the truth. Miranda had been through tremendous pain in her own life. She was a bastard child, lost her parents at a young age, was sent to live in a terrible boarding school where she was abused, and now her own uncle is trying to kill her, yet she somehow still maintains a spirited, "glass half-full" approach to life. My other favorite scene is when Miranda tried to get a rise out of the buttoned-up Damien by saying some rather scandalous things, which made me laugh. Miranda is not afraid to go after what she wants, and that, she discovers pretty quickly, is Damien. She is almost the exact opposite of Damien, but is deftly able to handle him, even in his darkest moments. I loved her fearlessness, determination and loyalty to her man, and how she never gave up on him, even when he tried his best to drive her away. The personalities of this couple reminded me a great deal of the hero and heroine from Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, so anyone who has enjoyed that book, should like this one and vice versa.
The cast of secondary characters was superb with all the Knight siblings playing fairly significant roles except for black sheep, Jack, who has yet to make an appearance. It was so nice to catch up with Robert and Bel from The Duke, as well as Lucien and Alice from Lord of Fire, and see the changes in their lives. I like that these books seem to take place almost consecutively, with no time lost in between stories. Also present were Jacinda, Lizzie and Alec who get their own books later in the series. There were also brief appearances by Bel's father from The Duke and two of Lucien's young secret agents from Lord of Fire. Readers are given an introduction to the scandalous but charming thief, Billy Blade, who becomes the hero and object of Jacinda's affection in the next book, Lady of Desire, as well as, the dashing Ian "Griff" Prescott, who becomes the hero of Her Only Desire, the first book in the Spice Trilogy spin-off series. I have to say that both of these men have definitely piqued my interest. With Mr. Reed and Miss Brocklehurst, the headmaster and headmistress of the girl's school; the evil Algernon Sherbrooke, Miranda's murderous uncle; and all of his cronies from the Raptors street gang, there were bad guys aplenty. There was also Algernon's son, Crispin, who is a dissolute rake with a gambling problem, but who doesn't quite seem to have his father's penchant for villainy. All in all, this was a very full and well-rounded cast that made the narrative even more robust.
There was very little I didn't like about the book, but if there was one thing I could change it would be that Damien and Miranda would have had more scenes together. When Damien let his guard down, and they were in each other's presence, they lit up the pages, but most of the time Damien kept Miranda at arms length, thinking it best for her safety. I sometimes wished that he would lighten up a little and not be so stubborn, as I sometimes felt like there was an arctic chill emanating from the pages. Then again, he was very alpha, making those characteristics consistent with his personality. Also, it was pretty overtly implied that Miranda was molested by the headmaster of her school, but other than the mere acknowledgment of the abuse and justice being served, this aspect of her life was never really explored. I found this to be a little disappointing, but I suppose understandable considering the sheer volume of events that were already on the canvas, as well as the darkness of Damien's PTSD. The inclusion of too many unhappy incidents would have made the story depressing, when a large part of it was pretty intense already. Overall though, these were fairly minor detractors from an otherwise extremely well-written novel. I don't think that any author to date has given me three keepers right in a row, but Gaelen Foley did just that with the first three books of her Knight Miscellany series which I greatly look forward to continuing soon. Lord of Ice is preceded by The Duke and Lord of Fire and is followed by Lady of Desire, Devil Takes a Bride, One Night of Sin and His Wicked Kiss. While Lord of Ice was not to my knowledge ever billed as a Christmas story, the bulk of it does take place around that time of year, making it a timely read for the upcoming holiday season.
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