Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms #2) by Christine Pope

Book cover of Dragon Rose

True Love versus Sorcerer’s Curse

As a re–interpretation of the fable Beauty and the Beast, this was a must read for me as it was one of my favourite fairytales as a child! I enjoyed Christine Pope’s, “Welcome to Skullcrusher Mountain” (see my review earlier this month) and Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms #2) is a compelling read which has you rooting for a seemingly elusive HEA for the cursed Dragon and his Bride!

Dragon Rose is set in Lirinsholme, a town that forms part of “the Latter Kingdoms,” lands which have prospered since the end of the mage wars and the decline of magic. Rhianne, a potter’s daughter, is expected to marry well to secure the financial stability of her family and fund dowries for her younger sisters. In ages past, when sorcerers ruled, Theran Blackmoor’s form was cursed by a mage and he become known as the “Dragon of Black Keep.” The town of Lirinsholme, over which the Dragon presides, is bound to provide him with a Bride when he demands one to avoid the destruction of its property and its citizens. All know that marriage to the Dragon means certain death for the unfortunate Brides as none are ever heard of once they enter the Dragon’s keep.

Rhianne’s actions inadvertently cause a scandal, which threatens her family’s livelihood and reduces her chances of making a good match. The town also learns that the Dragon is demanding a Bride. Rhianne and all unmarried women between the ages of 16 and 20 are summoned to the selection, where Rhianne’s best friend Lilianth, who is affianced to her sweetheart, is selected, by virtue of her name being drawn. Rhianne volunteers in her stead, leaving Lilianth is free to marry her fiancé and ensuring that her own family is compensated generously for their loss.

Rhianne is immediately whisked away to the Dragon’s keep and married to Theran Blackmoor, the Dragon, who has the appearance of a tall, slender man, hidden beneath a cloak and a cowl. Although there is a wedding banquet of sorts, there is no wedding night and Rhianne is given sumptuous chambers, clothes and jewels to wear and is treated kindly by the servants. Theran even indulges her love of painting. Theran initially remains aloof from Rhianne, however, they slowly develop a friendship and Rhianne finds herself falling in love with him. Secrets abound in the castle and Rhianne embarks on a quest to get to the truth of the fate of the Brides and the curse. Rhianne is plagued by vivid dreams, the content of which she becomes obsessed with. She also hears strange voices and grows increasingly melancholic as she becomes terrified of what will be her eventual fate. All seems hopeless but the author manages to secure a HEA with an unexpected twist.

Rhianne is a wholly likeable heroine. Although self-sacrificing and modest, she is also unconventional and has a strong determination to find out the truth. Once she is convinced that the Dragon is not going to eat her, she becomes to regard the castle as home. Her attraction to Theran grows over time and she becomes drawn to him more and more as the tale unfolds, although she feels her love is unrequited as whilst she craves his touch he draws away. Theran remains a mysterious figure throughout the early part of the tale, although his kindness towards Rhianne is shown early on. We also witness him in his Dragon form on a number of occasions, which are terrifying to behold. We see that he grows to admire and care for Rhianne through his speech and  actions, but like Rhianne are left wondering at his reticence to invite further intimacies and to not reveal fully the details of the curse and what it means for his Brides.

The story is told from Rhianne’s POV, which enables us to experience her changing emotions, encompassing feelings of fear, pity, love and increasing desperation first hand as the story progresses. The descriptions the author gives of the castle and the town of Lirinsholme and the rest of the kingdom are vivid. Roses and the rose garden at the castle feature prominently, paying homage to the fairytale we know and love. I particularly liked the way the author’s descriptions of the castle and its environs were used to reflect Rhianne’s increasing melancholy towards the conclusion to the book.

I would recommend this novel to all those who enjoy a sweet romance, especially those who enjoy fantasy romances. I was intrigued by Christine Pope’s references to other parts of the world she has created and will be reading the prior novel, “All Fall Down (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms #1)” and the next instalment,  “Binding Spell,” the release of which is planned in late Spring this year, details of which are given on the author’s website. At the time of writing this post I noticed that the author also has details of some easy to enter book giveaways on her site, so it might be worth checking these out. if you think you may like her work

Copyright 2012 by Christine Pope www.christinepope.com

Published by Dark Valentine Press www.darkvalentinepress.com

Cover art by Nadica Boskovska www.theswanmaiden.deviantart.com

Cover design and ebook formatting by Indie Author Services  www.indieauthorservices.com

Reviewed by Tina Williams

 

 

Welcome to Skullcrusher Mountain by Christine Pope

skullcrusher_cover-u2001[1]

 

A Whimsical Captor-Captive Romance

The wonderful title of this novella immediately attracted me. When I learned that it features a mad scientist, abduction, a weird laboratory inside a mountain and a plot exploring true love versus Stockholm Syndrome, I just had to read it! I obtained the book some months ago via Smashwords. It is no longer available there, but it is still free in pdf format on the author, Christine Pope’s website www.christinepope.com. The work is based on the song “Skullcrusher Mountain,” by Jonathan Coulton, www.jonathancoulton.com , which is written under a Creative Commons license that permits the creation of derivative work as long as no profit is made from it.

In “Welcome to Skullcrusher Mounatin” Jenna Masterson,  a newly employed  newspaper reporter, is curious to discover what people are wary of on Black’s Peak, a mountain  known locally as Skullcrusher Mountain. Whilst she is exploring the mountain she is abducted by a monstrous hairy man and delivered to Dr Theophilus Black, an eccentric scientist who lives deep within the mountain. When Jenna accuses Theo of kidnapping her, he denies it and says that he is simply “collecting” her.

Jenna recognises that Theo is not of sane mind, naturally fearing him and to what end he has kidnapped her. This fear is compounded when she learns that women previously abducted by him have disappeared. However, Theo does not pose an immediate threat and she decides to play along with him, doing what it takes to save her own skin. She therefore accepts his invitation to dinner and thus begins a bizarre relationship and courtship. Theo is surprised by Jenna’s apparent lack of fear and is determined to make a good impression on her, serving her fine wines and food and is quick to have her moved into a spacious apartment within his home. He hopes that she will be different from the other women, who tended to turn hysterical when introduced to him, and tries to impress her with his scientific endeavours within his laboratory.

Theo is the archetypal ‘mad’ scientist, a recluse, caring little for his appearance. He is attracted to Jenna from the off, viewing her as “exquisite” and “the best yet.” He is also a hero who does not know how to relate to others, especially women, due to his isolation and his upbringing, being more comfortable with quantifiable facts and data. When Jenna is upset at one of his creations he is not only angry but confused and hurt, which was endearing. Although I found him a little threatening and strange to begin with, I soon came to sympathise with him in the same way that Jenna does. He appears to be very vulnerable and suspects Jenna’s motives when she reciprocates his advances and they become lovers. We also learn of the past goings on in the Black household, and we are left wondering if it will all end happily or not. Much rests on what will happen when Jenna asks Theo about the fate of the other women abducted and to what extent he had a hand in their disappearances.

The humorous repartee between Jenna and Theo is very entertaining, as are Jenna and Theo’s respective conversations with Scarface, Theo’s loyal servant who has been “collecting” girls for him all his life. The scene where Scarface offers Theo advice on how to court women is particularly humorous.   I very easily found myself transported into the heart of Skullcrusher Mountain, due to the vivid manner in which the author describes Theo’s home, with its mixture of ‘faux gothic’ and up- to- date modern conveniences and strange inventions.

I would recommend this book to those who like to read romances which are a little bit different, especially if you enjoy captor-captive tales with a bit of weird science and skulking henchman thrown in! Readers of paranormal and fantasy romances are urged to check it out. I have since read Christine Pope’s novel “ Dragon Rose ( Tales of the Latter Kingdoms)”, which I will review  later this month.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Permission to use book cover art for “Welcome to Skullcrusher Mountain” kindly given by Indie Author Services, www.indieauthorservices.com