cover image The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo

Kerrigan Byrne. St. Martin’s, $7.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-12256-8

Powerhouse Byrne (The Scot Beds His Wife) plays with old-school romance tropes, providing this pirate adventure’s violent, aggressive, and terrifyingly masculine hero with a rich backstory that makes him emotionally comprehensible while giving his gentle, naive partner plenty of agency and maturity in her resistance to being swept away. The amnesiac stranger with whom teenage Lorelei Weatherstoke falls in love while helping him heal from a nearly fatal beating returns years later as infamous rebel called the Rook, murdering Lorelei’s cruel brother in vengeance and sailing away with her as his claimed bride. But she and her sister-in-law hold their own among the pirates, and the Rook begins to view her as neither prize nor inspiring goddess, but as a person. In parallel, he allows the humanity buried deep beneath his self-protective brutality to reemerge, rekindling his social connections in a delightful sort of noble bad-boy network, and becoming more of a charming rogue by the end. Readers who feel guilty about craving the thrill of a Victorian bodice-ripper will appreciate the moral reassurance of Byrne’s sensitive characterizations. Agent: Christine Witthohn, Book Cents. (Sept.)