The Hunter by Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin’s: February 2, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Free From Publisher
The Hunter is the follow-up to the much-hyped The Highwayman. I think I was in the minority camp with the previous book: I didn’t love The Highwayman (gasp!). And, initially when I started The Hunter I didn’t think that I would like it either. Morally ambiguous characters in the romance genre don’t really do it for me. But, The Hunter took me by surprise as the author transformed a cold-blooded assassin into a romance hero, and it…worked. Only in romancelandia does an assassin get a happily ever after. But, what really won me over was the author’s sensual style of writing and the author’s unique turns of phrase. I’ll be the first to admit that I read A LOT of historical romance, and they all start to blend together after awhile. With The Hunter I realized that I was reading something refreshingly different, and for that, I found The Hunter to be a really good read. Christopher Argent is an assassin of some renown and his latest mission appears to be no different than any other: kill famed actress Millie LeCour. But, when Christopher meets Millie he finds that he inexplicitly cannot kill her and instead makes a deal with her. If Millie will spend one night (and I do mean “spend the night” in the Biblical sense) with Christopher he will protect her and her son from the mysterious person that hired Christopher in the first place. Considering the safety of her son, and her attraction to the assassin, Millie agrees.
Now, let’s be honest here, the fact that the hero coerces the heroine into sleeping with him is a bit, well, problematic. Whether Millie was attracted to Christopher or not before he forces her to make a choice doesn’t negate the fact that this is not heroic behaviour and I did find this kind of uncomfortable. That said, the author managed not to make Christopher a creep and he absolutely did realize that he was in the wrong. I’m not sure that repenting after the fact really redeemed Christopher, it’s clear that Christopher’s childhood plays a huge role in why he is the way he is. While this kind of hero that toes the morality line will never be my favourite, I liked how Byrne turned around Christopher’s character, making him more human in the second half of the book. Who knew an assassin could blush?
While the initial coercion aspect of Christopher and Millie’s relationship makes me cringe a bit if I think about it too hard, I still really liked the romance. Christopher was taciturn and remote, Millie vivacious and outgoing; not exactly two people that you would think would work, but they did. Millie refused to back down against Christopher’s barriers, and Christopher revealed himself to be less cold and more traumatized by what happened to his mother when he was a boy. The contrast between these two characters created some lovely and funny moments, like when Christopher tries to wake Millie before 9 a.m. and is completely befuddled by her refusal to get out of bed and her threats to kill him. The contrast between these two characters was great and I think it was the differences that really appealed to me in the romance.
The writing in The Hunter was also really, really good. There were so many unique turns of phrase that jumped out at me while reading, like Christopher being “unstitched” by Millie. The sensual quality to the writing was also really well done. Generally, I like my romances more matter-of-fact with a side of hilarity (Tessa Dare, I’m talking to you), but there was something really melodic about The Hunter. The more evocative style of writing created a great atmosphere that went well with the suspenseful tone and the emotional romance. I’m officially on this author’s bandwagon.
If you like your historical romance with a dose of suspense, featuring a morally questionable hero, and great writing, pick up The Hunter right now. And, buyer beware, the teaser at the end of the book will have you chomping at the bit for the author’s next book.
If you liked the more sensual style of writing, try anything by Charlotte Featherstone. Like Byrne’s Christopher Argent, Featherstone’s heroes venture into questionable territory when it comes to morality, but they are compelling reads. My suggestion would be to read The Brethren Guardian series; start with book one, Seduction & Scandal.
If you liked the contrast between Christopher and Millie, Anne Stuart’s Reckless might also be a good fit. Stuart also has a similar tone to Byrne and ventures into a melodrama just as The Hunter does.
Lastly, if you enjoyed the character of Christopher Argent, especially in the second half of the book, check out Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. There was something in Christopher’s mannerism that immediately put me in mind of Ashley’s hero.