I’m a big fan of medieval romances and have enjoyed all of Kris Kennedy’s full-length stories. She has a great grasp of the medieval psyche and behaviors, and she backs it up with meticulous research. Her stories are fast-paced and peopled with alpha heroes in tender romances; and while there is rescuing of heroines, the women are no slouches in the brains department.
As Richard the Lionheart lies feverish and incapacitated during the Crusades, he passes a ruby-hilted dagger on to Tadgh O’Malley, Irish renegade and Richard’s swordarm. The dagger has a terrible secret behind it and could bring down a kingdom and bring riches to the owner. The Baron of Sherwood sees Richard handing it over to Tadgh, and since then Tadgh has been on the run. He has been instructed to take the dagger back to England and hand it over to William Marshall, the man considered the greatest knight in Christendom and Richard’s right hand.
The story opens in the town of Saleté de Mer on the western coast of France, where Tadgh is trying to negotiate passage back to England. Sherwood has tightened the security on all the ports of exit from that coast, and Tadgh is running out of options. He’s outside the port reeve’s office, when he notices an altercation between a woman and the reeve’s assistant, who Tadgh notices is trying to extort money from her in order to release a packet of buttons.
Magdalena, Mistress Thread, is a down on her luck seamstress and desperately needs those buttons so that she can fulfil her commitments to her clients on time. As she is haggling with the assistant, who’s suggesting she pay her fee using something other than money, she is surprised when a giant of a man with a sword that means business, steps in to her defense and ensures with his threatening presence that she gets her buttons. The conversation that follows between Tadgh and Magdalena (or Maggie as Tadgh calls her later) is full of promise: it’s a “hello, you’re wonderful and I’m enjoying talking to you” and “wow, you look amazing and sexy” opening gambit to their romance.
When the assistant returns with the reeve and armed officials from Sherwood’s guard, Tadgh and Magdalena pretend to be a man taking a whore against the wall to ward off suspicion. Unbeknownst to Magdalena, Tadgh slips the ruby-hilted dagger into her basket before they part ways.
When Sherwood hears about the wall love scene, he immediately scents his quarry. His soldiers rush over and proceed to wreck Magdalena’s modest cottage while abusing her in the attempt to force her to reveal the whereabouts of the dagger. She has no clue what they’re talking about, so is unable to protect her few precious heirlooms from wanton destruction. When Tadgh arrives on the scene to retrieve his dagger, the sight of Magdalena and her wrecked cottage fills him with deep remorse; it is because of him that such destruction has been visited upon her. He proceeds to dispatch the remaining soldiers, helped ably by Magdalena, who realizes that she has a zest for adventure and that fighting fires up her blood. She finds herself attracted to the danger which seems to surround Tadgh, even as he discovers how clever and resourceful she is and how much he is attracted to her indomitable spirit.
At the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Magdalena had to finally admit that hope was a lie, that life was made for toil, and she was thankful for it. And now this…this outlaw had entered her life, and for that he conveyed ‘danger’ with every breath, something about him made her burn from the inside out. Something about him made her hope from the inside out.
After having routed Sherwood, Magdalena and Tadgh indulge their momentary respite from danger with a tender, exploratory conversation. This is what romance should be; discovering new things about the other person while internalizing how much you like that other person for their thoughts and actions and feelings. A torrid, emotional love scene follows this conversation – also what good romance is about.
In order to keep her safe and be able to get out of France, Tadgh needs Magdalena’s help. Luckily, she knows someone who forges writs of passage that can get them safely out of France despite the large net Sherwood has cast up and down the coastline. Tadgh regrets dragging her in his wake, but hopes that once he leaves, she will safely be able to resume her life back in her sleepy town. But Magdalena has other plans. Having fallen for Tadgh and seen the goodness in him, she’s determined to join him on his quest to return to his homeland and freedom. She has nothing left for her in France, and Ireland beckons with its lush beauty and Tadgh’s presence. His love for her leaves him helpless to refuse her anything, so he goes against his head’s dictates of not involving her in his politics and takes her along with him.
In the meantime, Richard has been captured by Duke Leopold V of Austria and held to ransom, but Prince John of England and King Phillip II of France believe him dead and are both plotting to take over Richard’s throne. Tadgh’s life is in even more danger now, because of the dagger in his safekeeping. What does he do with the dagger? How does he keep his Maggie safe? And what does Maggie to do save them?
King’s Warrior is full of action and Ms. Kennedy is a superb storyteller. One of the things I enjoyed most is the way in which the author employs a touch of role-reversal; the strong warrior allows the maiden to take the position of strength and thus shows the depth of the bond of trust that the two of them share. Tadgh and Maggie are both strong people, but in spite of this, they do not clash, but work in concert to fulfil Tadgh’s quest and in so doing, find happiness for themselves. If, like me, you’re a fan of medieval romances and you haven’t yet tried a book by Kris Kennedy, then I’d definitely recommend King’s Warrior to you.
*We are rerunning this review with a higher grade. Our original grade–a B–was based on an incorrect ARC Ms. Kennedy had mistakenly sent us. The correct book gets a B+ from our reviewer.