The Pirate Prince

The Princess

Lord of Fire

Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8041-1973-2
Lord of Ice, the follow-up to Lord of Fire, is Damien Knightís story. Damien, twin of Lucien, is a Peninsular war hero who is now the owner of a dilapidated estate. He is tormented by flashback dreams of battle scenes that make him somewhat violent and unaware of his surroundings. Terrified that he might injure a woman during one of these episodes, Damien has held himself apart from love. No sooner has Damien sequestered himself away in the country than he receives notice that a close friend has died and left him the guardianship of a young girl. Damien decides to pay a visit to his new ward before deciding what to do with her.

Miranda FitzHubert is an illegitimate orphan, residing in a bleak girlsí school run by a minister who likes fondling - and flogging - young girls. She sneaks out at night to join a local acting troupe on the stage, where she enthralls the audience with her singing. While stealing back to the school, she is approached by a handsome man who apparently thinks sheís a lightskirt. Miranda evades him but is set upon by thugs, whereupon the stranger comes to her rescue. Miranda runs, but looks back in time to see her rescuer kill several men with his bare hands.

Miranda, of course, is Damienís new ward, much older than he anticipated. Damien decides to take Miranda to London and install her with his family, but she attempts to escape him and return to the school to save one of the younger girls. The truth comes out, and Damien dispatches the minister and headmistress with quick efficiency, earning himself Mirandaís undying devotion. She falls headlong in love with him and decides sheíll help him overcome his dark side. Damien, of course, is having none of it, no matter how attracted he is to the woman he first mistook for a whore.

The sexual tension ratchets up between them as Damien fights against his feelings, terrified heíll injure Miranda, and Miranda refuses to back down. The authorís use of what weíd now call post-traumatic stress disorder is interesting, and treated just the way one might imagine it would be in the early nineteenth century. That is to say, Damien is sure heís going insane. Miranda doesnít believe it, but canít get Damien to open up about his experiences in the war. In the meantime, Mirandaís life is in jeopardy from a villain who wants her now-considerable fortune.

This is a story that kept me reading, but contained too many scenes that felt implausible at best. Damien is a sort of war superhero, and the climax reads more like a comic book than a romance. I wonít go into detail, but it just didnít work. And the first love scene between Miranda and Damien involves her performing an act more suited to a professional courtesan than a virginal nineteen-year-old, yet she does it with ease and complete competence. Where did she learn that, I wondered, while assigning an R rating to the book. The scene felt awkward, thought Miranda certainly wasnít. If this was a legacy from minister with the wandering hands, it was never alluded to.

On the other hand, the romance was kind of sweet, in a teenage-crush sort of way. Miranda falls hard for the first man who is decent to her, which didnít leave me with all that much confidence in the two of them in the long run, especially given the 13-year age difference between them. Yet her dogged determination to win Damienís heart was, well, poignant, and he certainly tries hard to push her away. One canít help but root for her.

Various characters from Lord of Fire and The Duke show up here, and one has to assume Ms. Foley has a contract to write three more books and wrap up the rest of the siblings. Damienís younger half-brother Alec is a likely candidate, and his half-sister Jacinda has a quick encounter with an intriguing London gangster who is apparently much more than he appears.

Lord of Ice is an entertaining romance that will keep you reading, though parts of it may have you rolling your eyes as well. Damienís wounded spirit and Mirandaís vivacious determination are a lovely match. Iíll be watching for the next installment.

--Cathy Sova

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