The Crimson Outlaw
Title : The Crimson Outlaw
Author : Alex Beecroft
Publisher : Riptide Publishing (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Historical
Length : 131 pages (e-book)
Published : August 12, 2013
Rating : ★★★★1/2
Love is the greatest outlaw of all.
Vali Florescu, heir to a powerful local boyar, flees his father’s cruelty to seek his fortune in the untamed Carpathian forests. There he expects to fight ferocious bandits and woo fair maidens to prove himself worthy of returning to depose his tyrannical father. But when he is ambushed by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw, he discovers that he’s surprisingly happy to be captured and debauched instead.
Mihai, once an honoured knight, has long sought revenge against Vali’s father, Wadim, who killed his lord and forced him into a life of banditry. Expecting his hostage to be a resentful, spoiled brat, Mihai is unprepared for the boy to switch loyalties, saving the lives of villagers and of Mihai himself during one of Wadim’s raids. Mihai is equally unprepared for the attraction between them to deepen into love.
Vali soon learns that life outside the castle is not the fairy tale he thought, and happy endings must be earned. To free themselves and their people from Wadim’s oppression, Vali and Mihai must forge their love into the spear-point of a revolution and fight for a better world for all.
I jumped at the chance to read and review this latest offering by Alex Beecroft. I’m happy to say, I found myself charmed with this historical adventure and wishing there were more pages. The author’s writing flows beautifully; with details so rich they placed me directly into the story. She drew me completely into the emotions of young Vali as he set off on his errant path to discovery.
Vali is the impetuous and naive nineteen year old son of Wadim, a Romanian Boyar. As the story opens, we find Vali’s sister, Stela, is about to proceed with her arranged marriage to the much older Ionescu – much to the chagrin and disgust of Vali. Vali has concocted what he believes to be a glorious plan to thwart the nuptials and bring about Stela’s escape to a life of freedom beyond the castle walls. It seems Vali considers Ionescu to be too old, too ugly, too oppressive and just plain unworthy of Stela. Hmm, Vali, I do believe you should be looking closer to your own flesh and blood for someone who fits that bill….
Let’s just say that Vali’s plan does not go well – in fact it is a complete disaster. Instead, Vali finds himself being publicly humiliated by his father for his antics, which led to total mayhem, and much embarrassment to Wadim’s stature. Once all the guests have gone, Vali’s father proceeds to beat him severely, and has him thrown in the dungeon as further punishment. The beating scene was quite harsh and difficult to read, but it served as Vali’s first true wake- up call as to the extremely violent and ruthless nature of his father. Between his beating and some discoveries he makes while in the dungeon, Vali begins to understand the heinous acts his father is capable of, although he has difficulty wrapping his mind around it.
I started out chuckling to myself as I was reading of Vali’s fanciful scheme to “save” his sister, but my heart quickly landed in my throat and I was shouting at my e-reader when it became evident what kind of hateful man his father was. Vali proved resourceful, and was able to escape the dungeon. I was cheering for him all the way! Vali was determined to return to the castle only after he had devised a way to help some of the others he had met while held captive there. Vali’s emotions are actually in turmoil as he makes his escape. He is still shocked at the severity of his father’s actions, he feels betrayed by Stela’s refusal to follow his plan, and he is uncertain of his future – both immediate and long term.
Vali doesn’t realize it at this point, but his flight from the castle is going to lead him headlong into having his eyes opened; regarding both the truth about his father’s ruthless ways and his own idealistic view of the world. Vali won’t be alone in this however, for he soon meets Mihai, a man who is all too personally familiar with the brutal practices of Wadim, and the harsh realities of life under his rule.
Mihai is also familiar with the feeling of instant attraction and obvious lust that springs up immediately between him and Vali..The deep emotional attraction between Vali and Mihai was also decidedly evident in their initial meeting and beyond. Something neither was familiar with. 😉 Even though Mihai was Vali’s first sexual partner, their intimate scenes were very believable – very hot.
As the story unfolds, I love the genuine manner in which Vali comes to his realizations about the world outside castle walls. He witnesses heinous acts committed by his father’s knights against villagers, he works at menial labor, he tends the sick and wounded. At Mihai’s side, Vali realizes that even Bandits are human, and he becomes sympathetic with many of them once he understands why they have turned to the lawless lives they now lead.
A chance mention by one of the bandits of his lost wife and son prompts Vali to come up with a plan to confront his father. Soon Vali, Mihai and the gang of bandits find themselves as unlikely partners in a bid to depose Wadim, and bring an end to his tyranny. Will they succeed and …. at what cost?
As one can interpret, there is a strong underlying social message (or two) in this story – walking a mile in another person’s shoes, good vs. evil – but by no means did I feel like these were “in my face”. Vali showed great courage and depth of character as he finally realized the atrocities that had been going on around him his whole life, and then setting out to rectify them. At the end of the story, Vali was still coming to terms with everything that had happened. It did leave me wishing for a bit more introspection on his part and insight in to how he was dealing with the ramifications of his actions.
I know we readers so often make the appeal for sequels, and I’m doing it here as well! Please Alex, write more adventures for Vali and Mihai. I need to know what happens next!
Rated 4.5 stars by Dianne