I waited years for this book and so I wanted to stretch it out and savor it, I'm happy to report it was very much worth the wait.
Katarina's parents were killed because of treasonous acts against the crown. Queen Elizabeth grew fond of her however, and seeing a little bit of herself in Katarina sent her to be chatelaine of Rardove, a castle in the wilds of Ireland. Aodh is originally a son of Ireland but after his father was killed in an uprising, he presented himself to the Queen and has traveled the world in her service. When Katarina's father's legacy brings about treason rumors against her, the Queen decides to gift the castle and Katarina to one of her supporters. Being passed over for what Aodh thought was promised him and what he considers his birthright, he decides to take what was denied him. Ireland is not for the weak and when Katarina and Aodh meet, the spark and burn will be hot enough to be felt by a monarch.
Then, soft and menacing, he whispered by her ear, "You want to fight, Katarina?"
I don't know Kris Kennedy and she doesn't know me but her stories always make me feel like she writes them exclusively for me. They are typically centered on Ireland or its people, set in the middle ages, and rich with history. I found this one to be slightly different from her others in that it focused more on the emotional aspects between our leads rather than the heavily intricate story plot and threads that make up the others. This book is set a couple generations after her others, specifically The Irish Warrior, but still ties into their story. It can definitely be read as a standalone but I loved how The Irish Warrior was almost a set-up with its complex building of plot and relationships that created a storyline and characters interwoven in a way that was all leading up to this moment.
"You said you were mine, Katy. When I was in you, as deep as a man can be, you looked in my eyes and said you were mine."
She peered at him. "You are not the sole possessor of me, Aodh."
He forced himself to breathe slowly. "What does that mean?"
"I too possess me."
She was the most infuriating woman alive."And so you do. But you said you were mine. I thought that meant…"
She straightened a little more. "I am not responsible for your thoughts. I am, indeed yours in…in that way." Her face flushed a delicate color. "That does not mean I am not also my own. And I am not marrying you."
I often bemoan missing the feeling of the time period in historicals, Ms. Kennedy nails it. The visions of sets and scenes transport me to her time and place. It goes beyond describing a gleaming sword or smelling of horse, there is a scene where Aodh sets up a series of maps for Katarina to look at. During this time where America is newly discovered and the world as a whole is a vastly mysterious place, this scene helps the reader to feel middle ages Europe through Katarina's wonderment and curiosity about a world she can barely comprehend. It also brings our leads together with Aodh providing knowledge to Katarina, which she finds sexy. This scene sets the time period and enhances our lead's chemistry in a natural flowing and feeling way (it also was extremely hot :).
"Leave us," he ordered quietly.
"You are always clearing the room," she complained as everyone left.
"You keep saying and doing such room-clearing things," he replied, drawing her toward the fire.
Along with bemoaning the feel of time period, I too often find myself in complaint with the modern bent of character's views and actions. Katarina is chatelaine of a castle and used to commanding and leading but there are limits to her freedom, which are addressed. Her actions and attitude are strong, smart, and brave, which any women, any time and place can demonstrate but she also operates within the feeling of her time period and space. She doesn't strap on a sword and demand to ride out into battle; she spends years training the women of the castle to help defend the walls. Aodh was the same amazing way of earning the title of hero without feeling anachronistic. After witnessing Katarina's abilities and knowledge he listens to her, invites her to his council to contribute but also doesn't like Katarina to contradict him in public. He values Katarina's knowledge and abilities but also knows how he must be seen. They have amazing push and pull moments of Aodh being impressed and turned on by Katarina's thoughts and actions and also being frustrated with them.
She sighed back. "I will try to be docile, but I fear it will fail."
"I know the sentiment," he admitted grimly.
As I mentioned earlier, this story is very character driven with the focus being solidly on Katarina and Aodh's relationship. If you want sizzling chemistry, push and pull, and desire spilling off the pages, you'll get it in spades here. What I loved was the inclusion of a lighter side to our characters that are living and going through a fairly dark time. The two immediate quotes showcased the humor and playfulness that existed between our leads that helped round out their relationship and made it feel more real. This is not what I would call erotic but there is an abundance of sensual scenes in this story. I would also say though, that it is the emotion between Katarina and Aodh that make the scenes hot and not the actual description of what is taking place.
As they said their vows, they could hear the sounds of the army coming down over the hills outside.
Even with the focus being more on our couple's relationship you still get the side addition of world politics and action. Elizabeth I is a significant secondary character and she brings along the sense of danger for our couple. All this helps to keep the story moving along as there is a definite time limit for our leads to debate their actions. There could have been a few intimate scenes that might have been cut out to help the middle part move along as it sagged a tiny bit but I wouldn't want to be the one to have to make that decision.
Brilliantly historical, emotional, hot, and engaging Claiming Her is one of the best books I've read all year. I thought Aodh was a little too lusty at times, there was a spanking scene that felt slightly out of place, and having read the author's other books, I missed more of her incredible complex storylines that seemed shunted here in favor of a more emotional feel. The epilogue left my heart feeling full and craving the next book. One of Aodh's friends speaks this line:
"Mayhap I will be the one to make it to the New World after all, Aodh, aye?"
Aodh began to grin. "You will be."
This might not be a tease as to what is next but how I want it to be. If you're craving a quality middle ages historical, Kris Kennedy needs to be your go to.