Series: The Gifted Ones
Author: Dianne Duvall
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Dianne Duvall
Since the day Lord Dillon earned his spurs, rumors of his savagery on the battlefield have preceded him into every room, stilling tongues and sparking fear. Weary of battle, he wishes only to find a woman he can wed who will approach him not with fear, but with the tenderness that has been absent from his life for so long. Yet only the wisewoman seems invariably at ease in his presence. Perhaps because she garners the same fear in others that he does himself.
For seven years, Alyssa has been by Lord Dillon's side, counseling him from the shadows, healing him with her hands, and staving off the worst of his loneliness while his fearsome reputation keeps others at bay. Blessed—or cursed—with gifts that label her a sorceress, she is forced to conceal her youth and the love she harbors for him beneath umbral robes that lead Dillon and his people to believe she is the same aged wisewoman who served his father.
All is revealed, however, and passions flare when an enemy threatens Dillon's life and Alyssa sacrifices everything to save him. When Dillon discovers that the wisewoman is far from elderly, he is instantly entranced. And, as he and Alyssa work together to defeat an enemy bent on destroying them both, Dillon will risk anything—even the wrath of his king—to be with her.
For the past seven years, since she was but sixteen, Alyssa has served Lord Dillon, the Earl of Westcott, as his wisewoman and healer without the man being aware that 'tis not the wisewoman that had served his father and his father before him that hides under the umbral robes...Then, acting out of love for the man, Alyssa makes the ultimate sacrifice, healing his mortal wounds, ending at Death's door herself. In order for him to save her, Dillon removes her robes and discovers her deception...
But instead of taking offense, he gains much, much more.
Ms Duvall was a new-to-me author, and I must say my first foray into her "world" didn't disappoint. That's not to say the story was perfect—far from it, but the flaws didn't completely overshadow the strengths. The premise, despite this particular plot device being rehashed over and over throughout the history of literature, was solid, and the initial few chapters (before the big reveal) offered some great character development, and good, steady pacing.
Unfortunately the pacing slowed down drastically after Alyssa's robes came off, and the story started suffering from "overstuffing". A redundant scene here and there, a dialogue or inner monologue (mostly about how to overcome the many obstacles on the road to happiness) too many and you quickly end up with a bogged down story that reads like you're trying to waddle through thick mud...
And there was definitely too much angst in the second half of the book. Legitimate angst (to a degree) about a problem that ended up being solved too easily. I felt a little cheated when everything ended up nicely tied in a bow. After all the angst and drama, it felt too sweet and rather sugary the way it ended.
But still, the story was solid, the writing and narrative style was good, the use of "Old English" wasn't much of an issue once I passed chapter one, and the characters were well-developed, incorporated nicely into the story and working very well together as an ensemble.
It could've done with a little more editing to weed out the unnecessary stuff, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read.