The Dark Lord by Karen Keegan was recently offered for free on Kindle and since it was advertised as a "clean" sort of romance, I downloaded it. I was intrigued by the back cover and the first few chapters really drew me in. Catherine has been more or less an indentured servant in her aunt and uncle's home in America. Her father, a Duke, is back in England dying, and he wishes to see her before he dies. He sends a representative, his ward, Viscount Jonathan Thornley, to retrieve her. Thornley has a reputation for being the "the Dark Lord," and is none too happy to perform the service for the Duke because he believes Catherine be a spoiled child who has rejected her father.
Of course, he finds that is not the truth, as Catherine's aunt and uncle have been using her money for themselves and their spoiled daughter, and reducing Catherine to waiting on them and being beaten or banished to her attic room. When Thornley finds her, with some machinations, he is able to tell her she is a beloved daughter of the Duke and he wants her to come home.
They start to make the journey back to England and Thornley does everything he can to keep her safe and keep himself at arm's length. There is a mystery brewing about who wants to hurt the Duke and Catherine, which is where the rest of the book takes us. I had a hard time with the last half because the hero came across as so unlikeable and the heroine just seemed to act more and more like a bratty kid. There was such a potential here for mutual bonding since both of them had lost parents and such, and Thornley knew and loved her father, but Thornley was mostly rude to her with only flashes of gallantry and concern, and Catherine pretty much did everything he told her not to and made him mad a lot with all the dumb things she did. The author also switches back and forth between present and past tense which was a bit jarring, and it needed a good edit.
That said, I liked the premise, and it was a good ending. It was clean, with only a few kisses sprinkled throughout and there was a slight paranormal angle that I liked. I've been reading a lot of historical lately and I did like that little surprise added to the story.
Here is the back copy:
Lady Catherine Greystow
For her entire life, Catherine Greystow has lived as a servant in her Aunt and Uncle's home. With her mother having died and her father having abandoned her, she has been left at their mercy for the last sixteen years. Then, on her twentieth birthday, a dark and dangerous stranger shows up at her door. It is none other than the rakish Jonathan Thornley, an English Viscount who announces that he was sent by her father, The Duke of Lancaster, to collect her. With no choice but to trust him, Catherine agrees to leave her Aunt's home, to accept her place as one of the wealthiest heiresses in England.
But Catherine's joyful reunion with her father is short-lived. The Duke is soon murdered and it becomes clear that the person who killed him now wants Catherine dead. Catherine must be careful who she trusts—so much so that when Count Thornley insists it was her father's deathbed wish that she and Thornley marry immediately, Catherine must decide whether the Count lusts for her or her fortune.
Count Jonathan Thornley
For as long as he can remember, Jonathan Thornley has resented the daughter of Duke Greystow—the cousin who raised him. He thinks Catherine a silly girl, content with receiving his cousin's fortune but refusing to see the man himself. When asked by his dying cousin to retrieve the girl, he crosses the Atlantic to collect the selfish, spoiled brat. But when he arrives in the States he is surprised to find not a bratty child but an unspoiled woman, as unaware of her fortune as she is of her beauty.
He resists his attraction to her and brings her home, only to recognize that his cousin's illness is no accident. With the knowledge that someone wanted the Duke dead comes the realization that they now want Catherine dead as well. To remove her from their reach, Jonathan must marry her. But to do so, he must make her believe that he loves her and not her fortune—before it is too late.