This tale is the prequel to the Master and Commander series and shows the story of how the Den Asaan Rautu’s parents met. Khantara is the Commander of the Haanta. Upon his travels around Thellis, he comes across an argument between mates. The woman ends up crying after rejection from her mate, which upsets Khantara greatly.
Anelta is one of the marked, which means that she is stopped going from town and has a limited education. She is mated to a man who does not love her and does not treat her well. In fact, her mate is a complete philandering arse, but this is seen to be the accepted because, as one of the marked, she should be grateful that he offers her food and shelter at all. Khantara is disgusted to discover that her mate often leaves her without food whilst he goes away for days, leaving her unable to go out and get any food. He takes her to get food and sparks starts to fly. Knowing that she is a married woman makes his treatment towards her an inappropriate, but he cannot seem to help himself.
After leaving Anelta, he starts to see all the different ways in which Thellisian treat their women and children badly. He is determined to do something about it, but the Emperor of Thellis is suspicious that Khantara wants to invade and conquer Thellis. This makes any actions he wants to make difficult to say the least! He goes back to Anelta, following her round for a day, without her knowledge, growing more and more disgusted with the way she is treated by others. He vows to protect her, and realises that he feels for her more than he should? We all know they will have at least one sexual encounter (hello, they have a son!) But how will this encounter occur? And will it be a one-time only event, leaving her at the mercy of her horrible mate?
I am in awe of this ladies writing, literally in awe! The tale hooks you in from the word go and the compelling characters, alongside the lyrical writing, make sure that every page is a joy to read. Khantara was a noble soul. Caring, honourable and protective, he was everything a good mate should be (although I admit, the yellow and black eye thing creeps me out a little….don’t know why!) I wanted him to whisk her out of there and protect her, showering with gifts that she didn’t need to make her feel special. Anelta had a truly horrible existence. As one of the marked, she had a brand on her neck to make her status clear to others. The brand itself made me feel ill, but other people’s reactions to it made me feel worse. There were points in the story where I’d have quite happily seen him annihilate all the Thellians and to hell with the consequences; horrible bunch of people they were! Anelta had paid more than her dues and so I wanted her to be happy. The fact that she was mated didn’t bother me; he was a tosser and she was forced to marry him, to me this is a marriage that deserves to be dissolved!! I just couldn’t see how they could be together without it effecting his sense of honour. I enjoyed the look we got into the lives and thoughts of his soldiers, but I ended up rushing through them to get back to the romance. I’m thinking this wasn’t the point of them 🙂
Overall, a fabulous read that I would recommend to all. Although the world itself tries to force this little gem into the fantasy genre, it is, at heart, an old fashioned romance that made me smile and gave me a case of the warm and fuzzies. With likeable characters and amazing attention to detail, it’s a read for any classic romance fan.