If You Dare (The MacCarrick Brothers #1) by Kresley Cole, first published by Pocket Books in 2005.
Can he exact revenge? High in the Pyrenees, a band of mercenaries led by Courtland MacCarrick wages war for General Reynaldo Pascal. When Court turns on the evil general, Pascal orders him killed, but Court narrowly escapes and exacts revenge by kidnapping Pascal’s exquisite Castilian fiancée.
Can she deny her passions? Lady Annalía Tristán Llorente despises her towering, barbaric captor almost as much as she does Pascal. Her inexplicable attraction to the Highlander only fuels her fury. But nothing will stop her from returning to Pascal—for if she doesn’t wed him, she signs her brother’s death warrant, as well as her own.
Can there be love between them? From the moment Court discovers that Anna’s prim façade masks a fiery, brave lass, his heart’s ensnared, and he dares to defy the curse that has shadowed his life—to walk with death or walk alone. But Pascal vows that he’ll hunt the two, never stopping until he’s destroyed them both. (Goodreads)
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My rating: 4/5
I’m a HUGE Kresley Cole fan. I’ve read most of what she’s written, and I’ve even worked on this one as a translator. I have to say that my biggest challenge was translating the hot love scenes, partly because I was doing my translation work at the public library at the time and kept blushing for the fear that someone might see what I was typing, and partly because Slovenian doesn’t really have many expressions for certain parts of human anatomy (lots of them are borrowed from Croatian and Serbian and considered quite vulgar). Translating “light” literature isn’t such an easy job, after all, but it is quite pleasant nevertheless.
I really liked this first part of The MacCarrick Brothers trilogy (I wasn’t too crazy about #2 and #3, this first one is definitely the best), because Annalía is such a fiery, brave heroine. I dislike romances where the lady is first described as a strong, stubborn, independent woman, but actually rolls over the minute the hulking hero growls at her and tells her he’s trying to protect her. Here, Court does kidnap Anna, but she keeps her will to escape and fights him with all she’s got. I appreciate that.
Court and Anna have this inevitable chemistry between them and while the love-hate relationship in romance might sound old and tired, Cole gives it a nice refreshment. There’s a nice bit of self-sacrifice (on the part of the hero, no less!), angry kissing, and leashed sexual tension.
I also find it hard to resist Cole’s humour – I’ve read her entire Immortals after Dark series and I’ve loved it – and If You Dare isn’t any different in this regard. A fun list of supporting characters (who never threaten to take over the story, as I think is right in romance) is what Cole excells at.
I wasn’t too thrilled with her recent attempt at erotica, The Professional, for these same reasons: there, the hero has ZERO sense of humour, the heroine is dependent and makes bad choices and while I certainly appreciate a good, steamy sex scene, I like to have some real story behind it as well, be it historical, paranormal or contemporary. With The Professional, I had the feeling that the story was just a stage prop for the “love” scenes while the point was to have the pair go at each other like crazy. Yes, I know, it’s erotica, but I still think there should be some literary value to it as well.
I’ve read that The Professional is only the first part of the series; I certainly hope for more strong lady characters in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Dark Skye and hoping (against hope) for another historical in the manner of If You Dare.