Awakening by Scarlett Valentine
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Length: Short (53 pgs)
Other: M/F, anal play
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by Poppy
Ysbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian's war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain's soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it's at Ysbail's expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she's heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.
Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king's side. He's shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He's become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He's afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women's hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.
When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he's to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.
This short, sweet erotic romance isn't short on heart, heat or plot.
We get plunged into the middle of the story, a few days after Ysbail's wedding to the devil, Bedwyr. He had taken her virginity with no emotion and in just a quick moment immediately following the ceremony, confirming all her fears about the marriage bed--and about him.
When Bedwyr later tries to earn his new wife's trust, he goes all out, baring himself, his soul and even his heart. Truly Awakening is a romance, above and beyond the plenitude of sex. Ms. Shortland has penned a lovely story that I wished was longer, as it left me wanting more; more at the beginning and more and the end. That's not to say the story was lacking, just that there was so much depth to the story, this could easily have been twice as long and not been enough.
My absolute favorite part of the story had to be how Ysbail deals with the catty gossips who worked at the keep. Clever and quite fun! She shows her backbone here, proving she's strong enough to govern alongside her husband.
I admit it strained the bonds of credibility a bit to believe how sexually unrestrained the previously virginal Ysbail becomes after very little time with her husband. She goes from fearing the marriage bed to initiating sex and accepting him over and over in only a few hours. Still, without it, this wouldn't have been erotic romance and the sex is both sweet and hot and certainly appropriate.
All in all, I was very glad I had a chance to read this book. Set in a time I'm not familiar with, in a place I've seldom read about with characters who felt real and genuine, Awakening is a touching romance with plenty of sizzle and a truly satisfying ending.