Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29842-6
Historical Romance, 2015
Lady Taryn loves her father so, so, so, so, so much that, when the man was accused of being a traitor and subsequently tossed into prison of the Irish High King, she immediately insists that her mother order all their men to go rescue him. No, dear, many men have already died, Taryn’s mother tells her, and besides, the father is a hateful asshole anyway, so good riddance. Taryn goes into “My mother hates my daddy so I have always hated her!” mode and runs off – alone – to wander the roads.
Her plan is to request aid from neighbor Brian Faoilin, although why Brian would go against the High King, Taryn would say it is because Daddy is, like, the best dude ever. Hmm, but she doesn’t exactly know where to go… Oh, and I should point out that Taryn has scars on her face, so she believes herself hideous enough that no man would ever love her. Except Daddy, of course. She happens to come across a scene between our hero Killian MacDubh and the men who show up to escort his sister to her designated hubby, and is mistaken for this sister. Killian makes the most of this turn of luck and continues the pretense.
You see, his sister, actually more of a sister of the heart than a biological sister, is dying. She knows and accepts it. The only thing troubling her is her upcoming marriage to the High King himself. She wants Killian, one of the High King’s illegitimate sons, to help her get away from the whole thing so that she can die in peace. Killian wants to help her – she’s the only one who treats him like family in his entire life – but he has no idea how to do this until Taryn stumbles into the scene.
Taryn, despite knowing that the High King doesn’t care for his kids, immediately insists that Killian can help her save her father. Maybe the sister Carice can help too! Or perhaps the dog can help, or how about the unicorn, the pixies… whatever? Seriously, Taryn in this story is like that desperate child standing in the corner begging people to buy her matches – I don’t blame her for being desperate, but after a while, I wonder whether she’s better off taking a deep breath and trying to listen to reason instead of just insisting, “No, no, no, you disagree with me SO YOU ARE A HATER HOW DARE YOU please help me anyway please, please, please, I’m begging I HATE YOU!” And after a while longer, her constant neediness starts to grate on my nerves. Someone put her down already.
Warrior of Ice actually has some pretty interesting plot elements. I especially like how the father is not a clear-cut misunderstood fellow or a villain, or that the mother is not a one-dimensional foil for the heroine. However, given that Taryn has been running on without a decent plan and she’s wrong almost every time, the author could have given the darling some consolation prize and let her be right about her father for once. The poor darling has been so… dumb to a horrific degree, even a moment where she is absolutely right would have gone some way to make her less grating on the nerves.
I don’t want to dislike Taryn, because, as I’ve said, she’s desperate. However, at the same time, she’s pretty painful to follow. She has the contemporary-era spoiled thirteen-year old brat act down pat: she only cares about what she wants, and any dissenting opinion is a sign of haters always hating. She doesn’t comprehend even basic concepts, such as how Killian, being a bastard, would have very little standing to influence his father. She’s just “Do it! Do it! Because I want you to!” and then pouts and cries angrily when he tries to explain why her constant needling won’t work. Killian tries to tell her also that Brian, who hates Killian, will not listen to Killian if he tells Brian to do what Taryn wants, but she also doesn’t get it. He tries to point out that he, being a bastard with no power or influence, can’t go out and hire some muscles to help rescue her father. No one would follow him. But does Taryn get even that? Of course not. She’s such a brat here for way too long.
Worse, Taryn is such a chore when it comes to her finer feelings. First, Killian can’t want her because she’s ugly. Then, when he tells her that he wants her, she knows it’s because he just wants to use her. And on and on she’d go – she’s such a tedious bore. Worse, soon Killian starts to play the moping “I’m not good enough for her!” song too, and these two end up constantly embroiled in wrong assumptions and jumping to wrong conclusions when it comes to their romantic interactions. This is a familiar, even tedious song and dance, but it’s a pretty agonizing one to follow thanks to Taryn being what she is here.
But the final nail in the coffin is the author’s abrupt elevation of Killian’s status in a way that is clichéd and yet, in the context of this story, doesn’t make much sense. If he’s that important to his father, why haven’t they spoken or got together earlier? The whole thing is contrived, and it feels like just a carelessly tossed-in development to guarantee that Killian will have a castle to lock Taryn in and save the rest of the world from her obnoxious presence.
Anyway, there are some refreshingly different twists and turns in this story, but the main characters behave like tedious children and much of the plot breaks down into borderline nonsensical shenanigans after a while. Warrior of Ice is nowhere as cool as it could have been.