REVIEW of Merciless (Age of Conquest #1) by Tamara Leigh

MercilessThe Battle of Hastings is over. Norman lord Cyr d’Argent is out to gather his dead when he meets a Saxon woman on the same errand. He extends protection to Aelfled of Wulfen, keeping her from any harm at the hands of pillagers, but his kindness does little to assuage her guilt, for it is Aelfled’s fault that has led to the death of her mistress’ beloved son. Cyr himself has just as little satisfaction–the enigmatic Saxon beauty disappears into the mists and he can find no trace of the body of his missing elder brother.

Fast forward a year or two. Cyr d’Argent has returned to England on King William’s command, tasked with putting down a rebellion led by Saxon rebels. His brother, marked with the d’Argents’ distinctive silver hair, is rumored to have been sighted on the lands near Wulfen, but is it possible that Guarin could still be alive after so long an absence? Cyr’s new position reintroduces him to the fiercely loyal Aelfled, and as he searches for the rebel leader, each new clue seems to connect Aelfled more convincingly to the inconvenient uprising. Romantic interest simmers between the two, and when a kind warning from the blond Saxoness allows Cyr to forestall a rebel raid, he must now find a way to protect Aelfled not only from the Normans but also from the Saxons who think she has betrayed them.

This book, the first in Tamara Leigh’s Age of Conquest series, provides the origin story for the famed Wulfrith siblings who inhabit the Age of Faith series. Set some seventy years earlier, this book is not only a tale of the Norman Conquest, but a tale of how a family was forged that would, in turn, forge the mightiest knights in England.

Cyr is a supremely likeable hero–honorable, chivalrous, shrewd, and ardent. Aelfled is a heroine broken by guilt, living in the shadow of her mistress Isa’s displeasure. Although she is bound up in the intrigues of her people, her heart questions whether the rebellion is really for the best or whether the Saxons should accept the Conquest as a fait accompli and try to rebuild their lives as best they can. The lengths that Cyr will go to protect her are impressive, as are the sacrifices Aelfled herself will make so that his heart will not be saddened. This was an enjoyable romance, and I look forward to finding out more about the d’Argent family in the next book in the series.

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