Reviewed by Tori
The daughter of a Northern warlord, Katia is known as the Iron Princess for her mettle in battle. Headstrong and defiant, she instigates sword duels on a whim with little regard for her own safety. Katia would rather die on her feet as a warrior than live as a token wife and child bearer for a husband who keeps her castled as if she were a prisoner.
Lothair is the illegitimate son of the Duke of Saxony, who was granted the title of baron, a castle and lands. Raised in an atmosphere of mistrust and deceit, he rejects the concept of husbandry and wants a life of purpose and sacrifice in the pursuit of security for the Baltic Sea.
And when fate brings the Iron Princess and reluctant baron together, Katia and Lothair discover they are kindred spirits with fiery temperaments—and insatiable desires—to match… (Goodreads)
I enjoyed book one of this series, The Warlord’s Wife. A witty antagonistic based romance that pits a strong-willed heroine against an equally strong-willed and grumpy hero. Their journey to happily ever after is filled with bickering, dithering, drama, a few misunderstandings, some very lovely groveling, and steamy make up sex. I fully expected book two to hold a similar appeal for me. Well written, action packed, and expertly revealed as book one, I had high hopes that this installment would also leave me fully satisfied.
Unfortunately, the heroine, Katia, made it very hard for me to enjoy. I’m all for a character experiencing growing pains as they follow their path to their destiny but this heroine never learns from her mistakes. And these are life threatening mistakes. From the beginning to the very end she leaps from pot to fire over and over and over again.
We first met Katia in book one as a child. She is Lida’s daughter from another marriage and was the key factor in Lida agreeing to marry the Jerl. The Jerl grows to love Katia unconditionally and she becomes his princess. Now years later, Katia is all grown up and looking for some adventure of her own. Strong, willful, and resourceful, Katia is fully trained as a shield maiden and wants the same rights as the warriors under her father. When she is denied this, she takes matters into her own hands. Joining in a show of strength at a local fair, she comes close to losing her head when she pits herself against a much stronger opponent.
Her opponent, Baron Lothair, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Saxony, is not amused by Katia’s deception and proceeds to artfully put her in her place. When Katia begins to make cow eyes at him, Lothair knows he’s in trouble. Raised in a household where his birth but not his mother was held high esteem, Lothair has no use for marriage. All he wants is to sail the Baltic Sea and keep it safe from marauders and enemy forces. Katia is a distraction he has no need for.
In the beginning, I enjoyed Katia’s independence and snarky nature. She was given every opportunity any male would have been given (to an extent) so her strength, skill, and intelligence is to be expected. However, as time went on, I grew to loathe her. While I could understand her desires-who doesn’t want to be in charge of their own destiny and strive to become more than an ornament to decorate some man’s arm and bed-her youth and upbringing is a flaw. She runs roughshod over everyone-never thinking of the danger to herself or those tasked with keeping her safe. Her overly privileged life had her truly believing all she had to do was bat her eyes or smile her “special smile” and all would be forgiven. She rebels against her femininity yet at the same time uses it to get her way. She was selfish, manipulative, impulsive, and never learned from her mistakes. Her need to do what she wanted to prove her worth on the battlefield often placed her directly under the blade of the knife and of course she had to be saved by someone. Every. Single. Time.
For example: Katia lies to her family when she takes a detour from a summer vacation to go spy in enemy territory. She is convinced her father has no idea people are plotting war with him. Only SHE can find the enemy’s plans and save her people. She takes her best friend with her and they pose as serving girls-not thinking that in this era, serving girls were almost always viewed as prostitutes and the victims of multiple rapes in less than stellar households. Only when she almost falls victim to an overzealous soldier who refuses to take no for an answer does it hit her that she and her bff could be raped and murdered and no one will ever know what happened to them. Luckily, Lothair and his friends appear and rescue her and her friend but her overzealous actions continue to place them all in danger. Her moment of clarity finally arrives but only at the very end of the story.
The romance has a strong foothold in the story, blending well with the various subplots as Katia and Lothair bicker and exchange barbed quips on their way to true love. Similar to Katia’s parent’s story-except in here the groom is the reluctant one-this couple has to work hard to find any common ground. Easier said than done when one denies their attraction and one keeps running off to “save the world.” I loved that Lothair sees right through her manipulations and called her on them. He tries to teach her the art of listening and compromise but it never seems to take. Political intrigue and deception back the tension fraught action scenes and bloody battles; helping to take my attention from Katia and her increasingly irritating actions.
A familiar set of faces make up a solid secondary cast of characters; along with some new ones. Jerl Marcus and his wife try to reign Katia in, explaining over and over and over just how dangerous her actions are. Katia’s grandmother spout random quotes at odd times while Lothair’s friends offer humor and advice to try to help him deal with her feelings for Katia.
While I enjoy the historical background of this particular series, intriguing arc, and the vibrant characters and subplots that inhabit it; I found this one took heroine too far down the rabbit hole and wasn’t able to redeem her in my eyes.