Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Historical Romance
Hero: Roderick Cherbon
Heroine: Michaela Fortune
Date of Publication: November 01, 2009
Started On: July 29, 2021
Finished On: August 09, 2021
Taming The Beast by Heather Grothaus is a novel that kept popping up in my recommendations list every now and then. Being the fan of anti-heroes that I am, I decided to give this historical romance a go and ended up enjoying this story as predicted.
When the story begins, 29 year old Roderick Cherbon is injured at war, and would like to be left alone in peace to die from his painful injuries. Roderick has always been on the receiving end of his father’s wrath, and it had been his father’s ultimatum that had driven Roderick to travel to the Holy Land to make something of himself or lose his home forever. With no love lost between him and his father, Roderick would rather leave this world than face his father as a failure. Through his slow, painful, and unwanted recovery, he receives the news of the ultimate demise of his father after which the story continues.
It is thus that two years later Roderick returns home to Cherbon as a changed man both on the inside and out. The horrific scars lining his body and face speaks of a war that has left its mark, while on the inside, the wounds of the childhood he endured with no love nor affection makes him an embittered shell of a man. Returning with his friend Hugh and son Leo in tow, it is upon his homecoming Roderick learns that in order to keep his home, he has to get married before his next birthday, and he has just one year to fulfill the condition set by his father.
Michaela Fortune is the woman who harbours the dream of marriage to Lord Alan of Tornfield, Roderick’s cousin who is set to inherit Cherbon if Roderick fails to fulfill the condition of marriage. But when Michaela’s dream is shattered, it is her need for vengeance that at first carries her to Cherbon and offer herself in marriage to Roderick. However, from the moment that she lays eyes on Roderick, all of that starts to change. Where everyone sees nothing beyond the frightful scarring on his face, what Michaela observes is the beauty of his eyes that draws her to him.
Roderick is a distrustful hero as they come, and with good reason. He thwarts and resists Michaela’s efforts at every turn, unable to believe that a woman such as Michaela could be drawn to a “cripple” like himself. With Hugh, Roderick’s best friend in the mix and Roderick’s old nemesis who still haunts Cherbon, it is an interesting cast of secondary characters that adds to making the story a compelling page-turner.
I enjoyed Taming the Beast in many ways. Roderick’s character is one that draws the reader in; you empathize and sympathize with his plight, while at the same time wanting to shake some sense into him so that he could see the fortune that has come to his life in the form of Michaela. But for someone who has known nothing but misery and agony in his life, with little to no love being part of his most formative years, it is only too understandable where he is coming from. If it were contemporary times, Roderick is the kind of character who would undergo therapy his entire lifetime.
Luckily for Roderick, Michaela is the kind of heroine who is as stubborn as they come, and a little bit on the clumsy and “crazy” side enough to want to win the affections of Roderick. Because Michaela sees what the rest cannot – that inside the downtrodden and injured form that is Roderick lies a heart that craves love and a soul that cries for affection and acceptance.
With a little bit of the mystical tossed in, Taming the Beast is the kind of story that has enough substance that makes it for great reading. Recommended for those who love a great historical romance, featuring a hero that is taciturn to boot and a heroine who never ever gives up!
Final Verdict: Taming the Beast is aptly titled; drawing Roderick out of his shell requires all the patience and love that Michaela has to offer – and seeing him give in is the best reward!
Before her bravado could slip away from her, Michaela stood and stepped to stand perpendicular to the Lord of Cherbon. To her surprise—and her fearful excitement—he, too, turned, so that they stood facing each other, little more than a handsbreadth apart. Michaela looked up into his once more darkly shadowed face, and before she could hesitate, she reached up with both hands and pushed the hood back from his head.
He flinched, but Michaela paid him no heed, letting her arms go back slowly to her sides and her gaze rove over his face, his scars, his full lips, his beautiful, dazzling eyes, sating her curiosity as she’d not had chance to since first seeing those green depths. The only sounds in the room were their breaths meeting and swirling together before dashing toward the crackling flames to be washed up the chimney.
“Are you going to kiss me again?” He gave her a dangerous grin, the scar on his cheek going white by his eye like a warning.
But she could not heed it. “I think I shall.” She licked her lips. “Do you mind?”
For one who was so deliberate in his movements, Roderick had taken her into his arms within the span of a blink, and this time, it was he who kissed her. Roughly, wetly, his mouth open and his tongue invading her. Michaela could only cling to the front of his tunic, her head spinning, her heart racing, her breath flown somewhere beyond the keep. The feel of him was intoxicating to the point that she felt she’d been drugged.
Michaela felt her smile to the tips of her ears and she leaned down, placing her mouth near Roderick’s ear. “It will please me very, very much, my lord. Thank you.” She pressed her lips to the high, rough ledge of his cheek. She pulled away, but only slightly, and Roderick turned his face toward her.
He leaned forward and kissed her mouth, softly, his lips barely touching hers, and so Michaela flicked her tongue out to taste him.
In the fraction of a breath, Roderick had released Michaela’s right hand to turn her and pull her over the arm of the chair onto his lap. Her arms snaked around his neck like the wild vines that had once claimed Cherbon, and Roderick kissed her as if he would consume her. His arms cradled her, his hands cupped her shoulder and buttock, and Michaela buried her hands in his hair, holding him to her, claiming him as her own, at last.
“I want you,” she said against his mouth, smashing her lips against his, mumbling her words, nibbling at him, licking him. “Roderick, please…”
His hand left her breast and traveled down to the L of her trunk and legs, where her gown had caught between her thighs. He slid a flat palm into the seam, and when he touched her there, even through the thick wool, Michaela’s whole abdomen clenched.
“Yes,” she sighed. “Roderick, take me to your bed.”
He said nothing, only claimed her mouth again as his fingers snagged a fold of her gown and slid the heavy skirt up, slowly, until it bunched around her hips. His fingers found her, wet and aching, and he touched her again, invaded her, until she was arching her hips and moaning words she could not understand into his mouth. He was answering her, but she could not understand him either.
“I’m here for you,” she whispered in his ear. “For all of you.”
“You’re making a mistake,” he growled back, an animal so weary from his ensnarement that the worst he could do was a frightening sound.
She shook her head. “No. I have made many mistakes before—some I admit were with you. But not this night.”
“I can’t love you. Not like you want me to. I don’t even think I can love Leo.” His voice caught, as if he would weep.
“I want you to love me—and Leo—however you can. That is enough.” Then she kissed him again, more deeply. He still did not respond. She raised her head only slightly, whispering the words into his mouth as the thunder crashed around them. “And until you can, I will love you both enough for all of us.”
This time when she kissed him, he kissed her back.’
In the murky darkness, she could see him shake his head. “This is a mistake, Michaela.”
“No, it isn’t.” She was tired of waiting for him. Reaching behind her toward his right boot, she felt for the cold hilt of his hidden dagger.
Roderick became instantly alarmed as she moved to his feet. “No—stop—”
But she had the blade in hand before he could rise, and with one swift flick of her wrist, she drew the dagger’s sharp edge up the center of the ladder his laces created. Aided by his erection, his breeches pulled apart soundlessly, save for the whoosh of breath that came from the Lord of Cherbon, himself.
Michaela tossed the blade over the edge of the bed and it disappeared into the darkness with a clang.
“I can never be the man you want me to be,” Roderick warned her, each word wracked with pain and shame.
“You already are.” Pulling apart his breeches fully, his manhood sprung free, Michaela threw her leg over Roderick’s hips. She took him in her hand, despite his strangled, “Michaela, wait,” and without giving herself time to be afraid, Michaela sank onto him.
Her cry mingled with Roderick’s—pain and wonder and fear. She settled onto his length with difficulty, but did not relent until she had taken him all. She paused for a moment as the throbbing pain receded and then slowly, she began to ride him, the link around her neck swinging in time to her movements, out over Roderick’s face, making a warped ring of shadow when the lightning flashed.
She felt him grow inside her, heard his groans drawing out, longer and longer, his panting taking his words and tying them into unintelligible knots, and she knew that his time was very near. She was close, too, so close, and so she rode faster, deeper, letting loose her own throaty cries as she felt him in her very core, it seemed.
And then it started for her, an expanding around his length, slowly, infinitely, as if time had stopped, and then in a wink, her whole body, her whole world collapsed in with a crash and she cried out, froze.
Roderick gave a guttural yell and strained his hips upward, driving into her one time on his own, deeply, and his passion, too, erupted.
The link fell dim once more.