About the Book
THE DUKE WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…
He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…
A LEGENDARY LOVE
Lorelei will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?
If Lorelai Weatherstoke hadn’t been appreciating the storm out the carriage window, she’d have missed the naked corpse beneath the ancient ash tree.
“Father, look!” She seized Lord Southbourne’s thin wrist, but a barrage of visual stimuli overwhelmed her, paralyzing her tongue.
In all her fourteen years, she’d never seen a naked man, let alone a deceased one.
He lay facedown, strong arms reached over his head as though he’d been trying to swim through the shallow grass lining the road. Ghastly dark bruises covered what little flesh was visible beneath the blood. He was all mounds and cords, his long body different from hers in every way a person could be.
Her heart squeezed, and she fought to find her voice as the carriage trundled past. The poor man must be cold, she worried, then castigated herself for such an absurd thought.
The dead became one with the cold. She’d learned that by kissing her mother’s forehead before they closed her casket forever.
“What is it, duck?” Her father may have been an earl, but the Weatherstokes were gentry of reduced circumstances and didn’t spend enough time in London to escape the Essex accent.
Lorelai had not missed the dialect while at school in Mayfair, and it had been the first thing she’d rid herself of in favour of a more proper London inflexion. In this case, however, it was Lord Southbourne’s words, more than his accent, that caused her to flinch.
As cruel as the girls could be at Braithwaite’s Boarding School, none of their taunts had made her feel quite so hollow as the one her own family bestowed upon her.
“I-it’s a man,” she stammered. “A corp—” Oh no, had he just moved, or had she imagined it? Squinting through the downpour, she pressed her face to the window in time to see battered knuckles clenching the grass, and straining arms pulling the heavy body forward.
“Stop,” she wheezed, overtaken by tremors. “Stop the carriage!”
“What’s bunched your garters, then?” Sneering across from her, Mortimer, her elder brother, brushed aside the drapes at his window. “Blimey! There’s a bleedin’ corpse by the road.” Three powerful strikes on the roof of the coach prompted the driver to stop.
“He’s alive!” Lorelai exclaimed, pawing at the door handle. “I swear he moved. We have to help him.”
“I thought that fancy, expensive school was supposed to make you less of an idiot, Duck.” Mortimer’s heavy brows barely separated on a good day and met to create one thick line when he adopted the expression of disdainful scorn he reserved solely for her. “What’s a cripple like you going to do in the mud?”
“We should probably drive through to Brentwood,” Lord Southbourne suggested diplomatically. “We can send back an ambulance to fetch him.”
“He’ll need an undertaker by then,” Lorelai pleaded. “We must save him, mustn’t we?”
“I’ve never seen so much blood.” It was morbid fascination rather than pity darkening her brother’s eyes. “I’m going out there.”
“I’m coming with you.”
A cruel hand smacked Lorelai out of the way and shoved her back against the faded brocade velvet of her seat. “You’ll stay with Father. I’ll take the driver.”
As usual, Lord Robert Weatherstoke said and did nothing to contradict his only son as Mortimer leapt from the coach and slammed the door behind him.
Lorelai barely blamed her passive father anymore. Mortimer was so much larger than him these days, and ever so much crueller.
She had to adjust her throbbing leg to see the men making their way through the grey of the early-evening deluge. Just enough remained of daylight to delineate colour variations.
The unfortunate man was a large smudge of gore against the verdant spring ground cover. Upon Mortimer and the driver’s approach, he curled in upon himself, not unlike a salted snail. Only he had no shell to protect his beaten body.
Lorelai swallowed profusely in a vain attempt to keep her heart from escaping through her throat as the man was hoisted aloft, each arm yoked like an ox’s burden behind a proffered neck. Even though Mortimer was the tallest man she knew, the stranger’s feet dragged in the mud. His head lolled below his shoulders, so she couldn’t get a good look at his face to ascertain his level of consciousness.
Other parts of him, though, she couldn’t seem to drag her eyes away from.
She did her best not to look between his legs and mostly succeeded. At a time like this, modesty hardly mattered, but she figured the poor soul deserved whatever dignity she could allow him.
That is to say, she only peeked twice before wrenching her eyes upward.
The muscles winging from his back beneath where his arms spread were ugly shades of darkness painted by trauma. The ripples of his ribs were purple on his left side, and red on the other. Blunt bruises interrupted the symmetrical ridges of his stomach, as though he’d been kicked or struck repeatedly. As they dragged him closer, what she’d feared had been blood became something infinitely worse.
It was as though his flesh had been chewed away, but by something with no teeth. The plentiful meat of his shoulder and chest, his torso, hips, and down his thigh were grotesquely visible.
“Good God, how is he still alive?” The awe in her father’s voice reminded her of his presence as they scurried to open the carriage door and help drag the man inside. It took the four of them to manage it.
“He won’t be unless we hurry.” The driver tucked the man’s long, long legs inside, resting his knees against the seat. “I fear he won’t last the few miles to Brentwood.”
Ripping her cloak off, Lorelai spread it over the shuddering body on the floor. “We must do what we can,” she insisted. “Is there a doctor in Brentwood?”
“Aye, and a good one.”
“Please take us there without delay.”
“O’course, miss.” He secured the door and leapt into his seat, whipping the team of fresh horses into a gallop.
As they lurched forward, the most pitiful sound she’d ever heard burst from the injured man’s lips, which flaked with white. His big arm flailed from beneath the cloak to protect his face, in a gesture that tore Lorelai’s heart out of her chest.
The burn scored the sinew of his neck and up his jaw to his cheekbone.
Pangs of sympathy slashed at her own skin and drew her muscles taut with strain. Lorelai blinked a sheen of tears away and cleared emotion out of her tight throat with a husky sound she’d made to soothe many a wounded animal on the Black Water Estuary.
His breaths became shallower, his skin paler beneath the bruises.
He was dying.
Without thinking, she slid a hand out of her glove, and gently pressed her palm to his, allowing her fingers to wrap around his hand one by one.
“Don’t go,” she urged. “Stay here. With me.”
His rough, filthy hand gripped her with such strength, that the pain of it stole her breath. His face turned toward her, though his eyes remained closed.
Still, it heartened her, this evidence of awareness. Perhaps, on some level, she could comfort him.
“You’re going to be all right,” she crooned.
“Don’t lie to the poor bastard.” Mortimer’s lip curled in disgust. “He’s no goose with a defective wing, or a three-legged cat, like the strays you’re always harbouring. Like as not he’s too broken to be put back together with a bandage, a meal, and one of your warbling songs. He’s going to die, Lorelai.”
“You don’t know that,” she said more sharply than she’d intended, and received a sharp slap for her lapse in wariness.
“And you don’t know what I’ll do to you if you speak to me in that tone again.”
Most girls would look to their fathers for protection, but Lorelai had learned long ago that protection was something upon which she could never rely.
Her cheek stinging, Lorelai lowered her eyes. Mortimer would take it as a sign of submission, but she only did it to hide her anger. She’d learned by now to take care of him in times of high stress, or excitement. It had been her folly to forget … because she knew exactly what he was capable of. The pinch of her patient’s strong grip was nothing next to what she’d experienced at the hands of her brother on any given month.
Ignoring the aching throb in her foot, Lorelai dismissed Mortimer, leaning down instead to stroke a dripping lock of midnight hair away from an eye so swollen, he’d not have been able to open it were he awake.
Across from her, Mortimer leaned in, as well, ostensibly studying the man on the floor with equal parts intrigue and disgust. “Wonder what happened to the sod. I haven’t seen a beating like this in all my years.”
Lorelai schooled a level expression on her face at the reference to his many perceived years. He was all of twenty, and the only violence he witnessed outside of sport, he perpetrated himself.
“Brigands, you suspect?” Sir Robert fretted from beside her, checking the gathering darkness for villains.
“Entirely possible,” Mortimer said flippantly. “Or maybe he is one. We are disturbingly close to Gallows Corner.”
“Mortimer,” their father wheezed. “Tell me you haven’t pulled a criminal into my coach. What would people say?”
The Weatherstone crest bore the motto Fortunam Maris, “fortune from the sea,” but if anyone had asked Lorelai what it was, she’d have replied, Quid dicam homines? “What would people say?”
It had been her father’s favourite invocation—and his greatest fear—for as long as she could remember.
Lorelai opened her mouth to protest, but her brother beat her to it, a speculative glint turning his eyes the colour of royal sapphires. “If I’d hazard a guess, it would be that this assault was personal. A fellow doesn’t go to the trouble to inflict this sort of damage lest his aim is retribution or death. Perhaps he’s a gentleman with gambling debts run afoul of a syndicate. Or, maybe a few locals caught him deflowering their sister … though they left those parts intact, didn’t they, Duck?” His sly expression told Lorelai that he’d caught her looking where she ought not to.
Blushing painfully, she could no longer bring herself to meet Mortimer’s cruel eyes. They were the only trait Lorelai shared with her brother. Her father called them the Weatherstoke jewels. She actively hated looking in the mirror and seeing Mortimer’s eyes staring back at her.
Instead, she inspected the filthy nails of the hand engulfing her own. The poor man’s entire palm was one big callus against hers. The skin on his knuckles, tough as an old shoe, had broken open with devastating impact.
Whatever had happened to him, he’d fought back.
“He’s no gentleman,” she observed. “Too many calluses. A local farmhand, perhaps, or a stable master?” It didn’t strain the imagination to envision these hands gripping the rope of an erstwhile stallion. Large, magnificent beasts pitting their strength one against the other.
“More like stable boy,” Mortimer snorted. “I’d wager my inheritance he’s younger than me.”
“How can you tell?” With his features beyond recognition, Lorelai was at a loss as to the man’s age. No grey streaked his midnight hair, nor did lines bracket his swollen lips, so she knew he couldn’t be old, but beyond that …
“He’s not possessed of enough body hair for a man long grown.”
“But he’s so big,” she reasoned. “And his chest appears to have been badly burned, the hair might have sung right off.”
“I’m not referring to his chest, you dull-wit, but to his coc—”
Lorelai winced. It was as close to a reprimand as her father ever ventured. Mortimer must have been very wicked, indeed. It was just her luck that he did so on perhaps the first occasion Lorelai had actually wanted her brother to finish a sentence.
A rut in the road jostled them with such force at their frantic pace, that Lorelai nearly landed on the injured man. His chest heaved a scream into his throat, but it only escaped as a piteous, gurgling groan.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she whimpered. Dropping to her knees, she hovered above him, the fingers of her free hand fluttering over his quaking form, looking for a place to land that wouldn’t cause him pain.
She could find none. He was one massive wound.
A tear splashed from her eye and disappeared into the crease between his fingers.
“Duck, perhaps it’s best you take your seat.” Her father’s jowly voice reminded her of steam wheezing from a teakettle before it’s gathered enough strength to whistle. “It isn’t seemly for a girl of your standing to be thus prostrated on the floor.”
With a sigh, she did her best to get her good foot beneath her, reaching for the plush golden velvet of the seat to push herself back into it.
An insistent tug on her arm tested the limits of her shoulder socket, forcing her to catch herself once more.
“Lorelai, I said sit,” Lord Southbourne blustered.
“I can’t,” she gasped incredulously. “He won’t let me go.”
“What’s this, then?” Mortimer wiped some of the mud away from the straining cords of the man’s forearm, uncovering an even darker smudge beneath. As he cleared it, a picture began to take shape, the artful angles and curves both intriguing and sinister until mottled, injured skin ruptured the rendering. “Was it a bird of some kind? A serpent?”
“No.” Lorelai shook her head, studying the confusion of shapes intently. “It’s a dragon.”
Copyright © 2018 by Kerrigan Byrne
I have only no words adequate enough to convey how much I loved this book, this is by far one of the best books I have read. It really is astoundingly good! This has everything that I personally look for in a historical romance; the complex and flawed character needs love, an intricate and intriguing storyline, and secondary characters that are as brilliant as the lead all sprinkled with history and romance. I have only recently discovered Kerrigan Byrne’s work, and this is only the second book of hers I have read, but I know that I have found an author whose work I will be reading and re-reading for years to come.
While on her way home with her abusive and manipulative brother and father, fourteen-year-old Lorelei (I absolutely love that name, it’s beautiful) spots a man laying beside the road, forcing her father and brother to do the right thing and stop to check on him. Finding that he is still alive Lorelei takes it upon herself to nurse the intriguing young man back to health. To her he is like a breath of fresh air in her dark oppressive life with her bullying family, she takes pleasure in nursing her broken angel back from the underworld. Even once he regained consciousness she took pleasure in trying to help him regain his memory, without much luck. She was inexplicably drawn to the damaged and devilishly attractive young man she named Ash, she had fallen in love with him. She senses deep down there is a dark and somewhat dangerous being that she yearns to help. Even at such a tender age, she knew that there was something very special between them, then one day he was gone with a promise that he would he would come back for her, always.
I love those tender and careful moments between them as she helps him heal, he can’t remember anything about himself yet he feels like he has darkness in him but that seems to ebb away whenever she is around. His annoyance and confusion are heart-breaking, I love the way how she tries to bring him out of himself and that first kiss….so sweet!
Fast forward twenty years, Lorelei on the morning of her forced marriage with a man old enough to be her grandfather is kidnapped by the deadliest, most ruthless Pirate that has ever sailed the seas. But it isn’t the kidnapping that has shaken her, it is who has taken her. The tall formidable, tattooed man before her telling her that she is now to marry him, the man who calls himself; The Rook is none other than the young man she gave her heart to and who left her all those years before.
Rook after a lifetime of hardship since he was forced to leave her has been through torture and torment to become the ruthless, dark and deadly man he is now. Yet the one thing that has always kept him alive was the thought of Lorelei and knowing that he would find a way to return to her and claim her as his own. He has set out to avenge her; his golden angel, his saviour from those that wish to or have harmed her. But his well-laid plan takes a bit of an unexpected turn as when he finally gets the woman he has loved for all those years in his grasp, she appears to hate him. Which a well-placed knee in his family jewels seems to confirm. Can he bring her round to his way of thinking or will her golden touch and kindness make the phantom of the seas soften?
Well, what can I say about Rook? What an amazing man, I will admit that while reading it I had this image of Tom Hardy in my head as Rook. Tattooed, huge, rough a bit deadly and yet with a kind heart, he has a lot of love in his cold black heart, especially for Lorelei. She is the reason why he is standing breathing, his love for her is absolute and I think that if any man looks at a woman the way Rook looks at Lorelei is a good man and so swoon-worthy! I love this guy! He is charming in a brutal, in-your-face kind of way but what drew me to him from the start was his vulnerable side, Rook has secrets and darkness that envelopes him, and yet he may be a blood-thirsty pirate, but he is a good principled man.
This is book six in the Victorian Rebel series, now I haven’t read them all or the first in the series, but that doesn’t matter as I saw this as a stand-alone. These books are sexy, smart and so engrossing. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat highly sensual romance that will keep you glued from the very first page. You are gripped by the stylish writing and the sizzling chemistry between Rook and Lorelei. I do have a real soft spot for Victorian-era romances and this one is amazing, it is fresh and atmospheric, yet at the same time, it is dark and dangerous.
Absolutely fabulous, I cannot wait to read more from the Rebels.
This was an ARC copy via the publisher as part of this blog tour in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Whether she’s writing about Celtic Druids, Victorian bad boys, or brash Irish FBI Agents, Kerrigan Byrne uses her borderline-obsessive passion for history, her extensive Celtic ancestry, and her love of Shakespeare in every book. She lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with her handsome husband and three lovely teenage girls, but dreams of settling on the Pacific Coast. Her Victorian Rebels novels include The Highwayman and The Highlander.