Ariane of Claredon has been anxiously waiting for five years for her betrothed, Ranulf de Vernay, to come and claim her as his wife. When Ranulf, the Black Dragon, finally arrives, it is not to claim Ariane as his bride, but rather to claim all of her father’s holdings, Claredon, as his own and to declare Ariane and her father traitors to the king.
Ariane is not about to fail her father by willingly submitting to the Black Dragon’s demands even if it is an act of treason to disobey him. She won’t admit, even to herself, that her insolence in meeting his stipulations has anything to do with his reluctance to wed her. She swears she will never surrender to him under any circumstances! The Black Dragon swears that Ariane will yield all to him – her land, her allegiance and most of all, her body. However, Ranulf cannot “technically” bed Ariane without cementing their betrothal agreement, which he fully intends on reneging upon so he is forced to enjoy her charms in other imaginative ways – in the beginning at any rate. (As you can imagine, this situation creates enough sparks and sexual tension to burn your fingers when turning the pages!)
Ranulf has had experience in the past with noble women, and none of them have been good. Because of his mother’s affairs, his own father questioned his paternity and whether or not Ranulf was his legitimate heir. Forced from an early age to live a life of abuse, Ranulf grew into a man who trusted few and gave his heart to none. Aside from the obvious political reasons, he feels as though he cannot let down his guard around Ariane or believe her avowals of innocence, no matter what his heart tells him.
Ariane was fully prepared to resist Ranulf to the death if need be, but he showed mercy and tenderness when she least expected it and infiltrated his way into her heart just as easily as he claimed Claredon as his own. She is determined to win his love and his trust but penetrating the armor Ranulf wears around his heart just may prove harder than she can imagine. Additionally, Ariane is desperate to keep a secret she has sworn to uphold with her life if necessary. She is unsure if she can trust Ranulf when he himself is so mistrustful of her but keeping her secret from him may cost her his love.
A word of warning to those who may find graphic sex scenes offensive, as in most of Nicole Jordan’s novels, THE WARRIOR is extremely hot and leaves nothing to the imagination. There is also a plentiful supply of bedroom scenes scattered throughout.
Many may see Ranulf’s actions throughout much of the novel as unnecessarily cruel and brutal, but once you understand his background and consider the era in which THE WARRIOR takes place, it is realistic if not completely understandable. Nicole Jordan did an excellent job of showing Ranulf’s gentle side in the dealings with the people of Claredon and when meting out his “punishment” to Ariane that was in contrast to the warrior image he must uphold.
Ariane was a very likable heroine. She was proud but also knew when to give in gracefully, was hard-working with a generous heart. She had characteristics common to women of her time period but had timeless qualities of loyalty and strength as well. In many ways Ariane is the perfect match for Ranulf, which the reader is left in no doubt of by the end.
Although medieval romances have never been my partiality, THE WARRIOR was such an exceptional novel I must happily question any preconception I may have regarding the genre.