Desert Isle Keeper
To Love a Dark Lord
Anne Stuart’s To Love a Dark Lord is aptly named, for the hero is about as dark and tortured as a reader is likely to find. He’s well matched, however, as Stuart is wont to do, both by an equally tormented heroine, as well as a set of secondary characters whose romance is nearly as tantalizing as that between the black Irish Lord, James Killoran and the fierce and lovely Emma Langolet.
After the death of Emma’s wealthy father some years ago, she was sent to live with her uncle and cousin, the former of whom had designs on her body and the latter, the pious and evil Miriam, had designs on her fortune. After her uncle attacks her in an inn, Emma skewers him with a sword. This wrecks Miriam’s plans, but does provide for Emma’s introduction to Killoran, also staying at the inn, who then rescues Emma before she can be arrested.
Killoran sends Emma to a friend for employment. While Emma assumes the friend is a madam, she is, in actuality, in the business of finding jobs for nannies and governesses, and provides Emma with a position. Unfortunately, a member of the new household in which Emma is sent to live decides to attack Emma, who, in turn, nearly kills the young man. Once again, Killoran happens to come to the rescue, and decides to use Emma as the instrument of his revenge against a nemesis.
The enigmatic Killoran is not a kindly benefactor. An accomplished rake and scoundrel, he hasn’t kissed a woman in years – that would imply emotions and Killoran said goodbye to those long ago. Though Killoran finds himself mightily attracted to the virginal Emma, he believes he can use her to achieve his revenge, enjoy her carnally, than cast her aside without a second thought. Killoran believes himself without a soul, and even his country cousin Nathaniel, come to live with him in the city for a time, believes there is no good in him. And while one might expect Nathaniel to be a possible competitor for Emma’s love, author Stuart has a mighty twist in mind – Nathaniel is in love with Lady Barbara Fitzhugh, whom everyone believes is Killoran’s mistress. He, however, has never laid a hand on this young and beautiful woman reputed to have had at least a dozen lovers. For Killoran knows that though she feigns a thorough enjoyment of carnal pursuits, she fears intimacy and is frigid.
The characterizations in To Love a Dark Lord are exquisite, particularly those of Killoran and Barbara, both of whom have very dark sides. Even readers who find themselves overwhelmed when confronted with such tortured souls should come to love Killoran, as Emma does, and Barbara, as Nathaniel does. Emma and Nathaniel are no slouches either; while Nathaniel initially comes across as a namby-pamby goodie-two-shoes, his inner strength and perseverance will win the reader over. As for Emma, I silently applauded when Killoran finally realized he could never let her go.
A couple of other secondary characters are worth mentioning – Lady Seldane, who acts as grandmother to Killoran and then Emma, and Lord Darnley, the puce-wearing villain who becomes obsessed with Emma. I always enjoy a Lady Seldane-ish character, especially in a darker romance, because they help illuminate the dark and provide some comic relief. Lord Darnley was much the typical romance villain (and his crimes are rather melodramatic), but the author had enough talent to keep him from being a cardboard cut-out. How many villains have you read who are drinking themselves to death? Perhaps some, but where most are concerned, the reader is not privy to their gustatory ailments. Where Lord Darnley was concerned, this look into his imminent demise made him somewhat more realistic.
To Love a Dark Lord is an excellent romance – dark, darkly sexual, and sometimes as difficult to read as James Killoran was to love. It is as good, if not better, than A Rose at Midnight, another of my all-time favorites. This book is long out-of-print, but I recommend searching for it. You’ll be glad you did.