Her Dark Knight's Redemption
Nicole Locke’s Her Dark Knight’s Redemption is a romance that runs on traditional tropes, and whether or not you’ll enjoy the story depends on how much you like the tropes. I hoped for a little novelty but since this is what it is, finally I just focused on seeing it through to the end.
Reynold Warstone is the scion of an extremely wealthy and powerful family, but he lives in a fortress alone except for a group of mercenaries. Then a strange woman offers to take him to a baby he didn’t know he had, as long as he pays her. Throughout this scene, Reynold is always one instant away from murdering the woman, not just for being greedy and manipulative but because he can’t afford to allow his all-but-omniscient enemies to find out he has a child. Finally the woman threatens to tell someone and he slits her throat, after which the baby’s mother passes away too, leaving Reynold with his daughter.
He wants to keep her, but he has to protect her from his enemies. Then, in a market, he sees a young beggar woman nabbed for stealing bread, so he takes the woman into his fortress and tells her to pretend to be the child’s mother. I’m not sure why his enemies would believe he supports the children of random women, but that’s the setup.
The woman, Aliette, turns out to be perfect. She’s brave, kind, and an ace at childcare (though since the child never cries or has difficulty sleeping, perhaps that’s not saying much). Despite not knowing where her next meal is coming from, she cares for a found family consisting of three other homeless people. And of course she didn’t steal the bread. It was taken by her protégé, a plucky orphan, and she got caught trying to replace it. Unsurprisingly, she’s also gorgeous, and when Reynold sees her taking a bath, he’s stunned by her beauty.
But he can’t get involved, because enemies. However, he and Aliette keep butting heads over the issue of the child, and her freedom (she needs to go take care of her family), and what he’s not telling her, and so on. She calls him Darkness, while he thinks of her as the kind of pure, dazzling light that would scorch him like the sun burning Icarus’s wings off.
I normally enjoy enemies-to-lovers romances, but these two are stereotypes, with everyone else being adjuncts to them. During the fortnight that Aliette is penned up in the fortress, her family doesn’t do anything. That way, when she’s allowed to go feed them, they are found where she left them, in the same condition. Like Reynold’s child and his enemies, they’re props on the stage of someone else’s life, not characters in and of themselves.
Speaking of his often-mentioned-but-never-seen enemies, it turns out they’re his family. Which might have been interesting, because Reynold is so rich and powerful that ordinary people pose no challenge to him, but his family is in an aristocratic class of its own there. However, Reynold makes it clear that his parents not only hate each other to a murderous extent, but they torture their children as well. Literal, repeated torture. Fire is involved.
I wondered why his parents stayed married, why they had children, and why they allowed those children to survive, let alone grow to adulthood. They are the kind of villains for whom evil laughter was invented. However, readers hoping for an anti-hero in the Anne Stuart vein will be disappointed. Reynold isn’t at all drawn to the dark side of the Force. Other than the murder he commits at the start, where the narrative bends over backwards to show how much his victim deserved it, there’s nothing in the least disturbing about him, and once he opens up to Aliette, he talks in this florid way:
“The exquisiteness of your breasts, your hardened rose-tipped nipples that have peaked at my slight touch.”
The story isn’t devoid of potential. I like the fact that both Reynold and Aliette are people who were abandoned by their blood relatives and who now surround themselves with found families, plus they’re both take-charge types who feel responsible for everyone they care for. But the plot is so thin that they don’t have much to do. There’s some ongoing search for a famous jewel, but that obviously started in a previous novel and will continue in the next, and given how long it took me to slog through this, I won’t be trying any sequels. Her Dark Knight’s Redemption might be of interest to readers already invested in this series, but I was relieved when the story finally petered out.