During times of war, separate lands and races, an arrogant dragon finds love and passion in a tiny female her countryman call...The Beast. Gwenvael the Gold, also known as Gwenvael the Handsome to most females, is a dragon in the prime of his life. As the third-born son of the Dragon Queen, Gwenvael has earned himself quite the reputation in both the human and dragon world as a purveyor of all things beautiful…especially women. Most of his friends and family see him as a slag, taking the place of his grandfather Aileen the Wicked, but what most don't see is the plotting, manipulative politician and spy that Gwenvael has been for the last hundred years or more of his life. To his family…he is known as the sibling most likely to accidentally start a war by sleeping with the wrong female. So when Annwyl the Bloody, reigning human queen of Gharban Isle and mate of Gwenvael's eldest sibling Fearghus, sends Gwenvael on a mission to meet with a man from the Northlands known only as “The Beast,” Gwenvael is determined not to fail her.
Dagmar Reinholdt, only daughter of the ruler of the Northlands – The Reinholdt – and famous Northland battle-dog trainer, is nothing like she appears. A small demure woman with spectacles and a drab gray dress for her daily ensemble, no one other than her twelve brothers or father sees Dagmar as anything other than a Northland woman that is long overdue for a husband. The north and south lands are far different in their approaches to life…and gender. Unlike their southern counterparts, females are scarce in the Northlands, and are usually married off as soon as possible. While Dagmar may have suffered the same fate – three times – her marriages usually ended quicker than they began thanks to her family, and it was no skin off Dagmar's nose. She prefers life with books, knowledge and quiet political manipulations, as opposed to sleeping around or worrying what dress will make her butt look fat. No, Dagmar's hope is that one day after her father realizes she is too old to marry off he will give her a nice little cottage on the edge of his lands for her to live out her days in peace.
Dagmar has a few things to do though before she begins her spinster life. This includes sending a letter to Annwyl the Bloody offering information on those who would do harm to Annwyl's half-dragon, half-human unborn twins. Fearing for their safety, especially after being warned by gods that many would strive to destroy Annwyl's children, she sends Gwenvael in her place to meet the mysterious “Beast” that sent the letter and gain information – whatever the cost. After Dagmar's father finds out she sent the letter without his permission – as usual – he rails at his daughter for possibly enlisting the help of one known only to them as “The Mad Bitch of Gharban Isle,” but realizing his impending war with his own brother Jokull will be all but lost without more troops, The Reinholdt relents and agrees to meet with whomever comes to their land.
After days of flying the country to make the Northlands and hearing infamous tales of The Beast, Gwenvael is expecting a large, imposing Northland male upon his arrival. When he lands and The Reinholdt calls for The Beast, Gwenvael is stupefied to see a tiny woman answer the call and handles it poorly, rolling around on the ground guffawing in dragon form. Not one to be slighted by someone not even from her own land, Dagmar rebuffs Gwenvael at the gates and wishes him luck saving his human queen's children from those who would destroy them. Realizing the gravity of the situation Gwenvael leaves and hatches a new plan to gain Dagmar's information, figuring a seduction would be perfect. Unfortunately for Gwenvael, Dagmar is not swayed by pretty hair and a handsome face, so when he returns in human form to begin his attempts, she quickly figures out who and what he is and says “no” once again to his desire for her knowledge.
Gwenvael is not deterred. He grabs tradition of the Northlands to gain footing and pushes for an overnight stay as is custom should a traveler enter Reinholdt lands. After some back and forth, Dagmar relents and he is garnered shelter for the night. He uses that time to learn more about Dagmar, not just for his own mission, but because he is now fascinated by her. He can see how intelligent and manipulative she is when it comes to helping those she cares about or destroying those she doesn't and he feels as though he's found a kindred spirit. After a night out on a nearby rooftop where the two of them watched one of Dagmar's sister-in-laws fornicating with the stablemaster, they begin negotiations for how many legions Annwyl will send in return for the information Dagmar has. Once the night is over, they return to their rooms and wait until they can exact their plan the following day.
The two combine their acting and manipulation skills to get her father to agree to let Dagmar leave with Gwenvael to head to the nearby city of Spikenhammer to gain the knowledge Annwyl needs in return for her troops. Gwenvael perfects the art of playing a homosexual by constantly flirting with one of The Reinholdt's eldest sons and crying on cue in order to seem non-threatening to the barbarian men of the north, and they ultimately succeed, with her family labeling him “The Weeper.” Gwenvael and Dagmar set off for the city, finding a few hiccups along the way from Dagmar's abused traveling feet to encounters with the Northland lightning dragons, but ultimately reach their destination – the great library of Spikenhammer. Dagmar is under the impression that the monk Ragnar that has been tutoring her for as long as she can remember is part of the Order of the Warhammer in Spikenhammer. Since he is how she gained her information on Annwyl's babes, she seeks him out to get answers to her many questions on how to help Annwyl now.
We learn through many of Gwenvael and Dagmar's conversations – and fights – that the current threat to Annwyl's unborn babes are a race known as Minotaurs that are incredibly strong fighters and zealots, sworn to follow their missions to their gods no matter the consequences. Their current mission? Destroy Annwyl's “evil spawn” in the name of their now dead goddess, Arzhela. Gwenvael, believing Minotaurs to be a myth as they had not been heard from in centuries, learns that they originate in the Icelands, a land even farther north than the Northlands and covered in snow and ice. The new information he gains, that Minotaurs travel underground through tunnels that run from the Icelands all the way down into the southern territories of Dark Plains, has Gwenvael nervous and pushing to find Ragnar as much as Dagmar.
After arriving at the great library Dagmar asks where to find the Warhammer Order, but quickly learns that is has not existed in many decades. Understanding dawns and Dagmar realizes that Ragnar has hidden his face and hair with a cloak all these years because he is actually a lightning dragon and was incognito, playing a monk from a long-dead Order that he knew Dagmar would never be able to double-check as she never left the Reinholdt fortress. She leaves the library furious and confused to look for Gwenvael, who had been kicked out of the library earlier for kissing Dagmar – not that she was complaining at the time – and feels her worry ramp up even more when she cannot find him.
When Gwenvael had exited the library he had been so distracted by Dagmar and her passionate kisses that he didn't notice the lightning dragons sneaking up on him until it was too late. When he woke, he found himself in the possession of the lightning's, being tortured and forced awake with buckets of water whenever he passed out from the pain. They employed an old form of horrible torture where they forced Gwenvael to shift back to dragon form and then began removing his scales one-by-one, putting a sharp piece of metal under each missing scale, then replacing the scales to heal over the metal fragments. It is one of the oldest and most painful forms of dragon torture that was made worse by adding poison to the metal they stuck in Gwenvael, making it harder for him to heal and quickening his impending demise.
When she cannot find Gwenvael, Dagmar is finally approached by Ragnar himself. He explains that his kin has kidnapped the golden dragon and he is willing to help Dagmar retrieve him. Her rage at his betrayal makes it hard to trust Ragnar right away – if ever again – but he explains that he did not trick her to hurt her, but because he was unsure how she would handle his being a dragon. Realizing by her interactions with Gwevael and others that Dagmar is unfazed by such things Ragnar apologizes and offers to help get her dragon back. Ragnar, along with his cousin and one other brother, retrieve Gwenvael and he escapes with Dagmar, but the poison and torture make it hard for him to focus or fight, which he ultimately has to do when his captors begin their pursuit.
He wins the fight but crash lands on the ground with Dagmar and is unable to do anything else. Luckily, the voice in Gwenvael's head telling him where to go when he escaped was none other than his estranged aunt Esyld, and using her dragon strength and magicks she takes Gwenvael back to her cottage and heals him. While Dagmar waits outside, unable to take Gwenvael's painful cries as the metal pieces are removed from his human flesh, a giant wolf and a battle-hardened woman walk up on her and sit down to chat. As Dagmar misses her own pups back home, she bonds with the giant wolf as she talks to the woman known only as Eir. Seeing the woman is without socks under her shoes, Dagmar offers up her own spare pair, and the warrior woman gladly accepts. As they part ways Eir tells Dagmar that she “owes her one…for the socks,” and the wolf gives Dagmar a huge lick on her collarbone as a goodbye, which starts to itch almost immediately.
Once Gwenvael is healed and they are once again ready, Dagmar heads to the Dark Plains with him to ensure the right information is received and help them shore their defenses now that they have the knowledge of their enemy. After arriving Dagmar meets a myriad of Gwenvael's kin from his immediate royal siblings and their mates, to the extended family from his father's side – the Cadwaladrs. Dagmar's personality fits in well in the south and she quickly makes fast friends out of Annwyl, Talaith and Morfyd (Gwenvael's sister). Unfortunately, her first encounter with the Blood Queen shows just how frail Annwyl has become in her pregnancy, the magickal beings inside of her draining her body and soul dry as they grow too quickly for her non-magickal body.
After several days of plans, defenses and feasts, Gwenvael finally seduces his Dagmar, and Morfyd reveals that the rash Dagmar has been complaining about on her collarbone is actually a mark given to her that will extend her life another 500 or 600 years. Her slight joy – and confusion – about this new development is cut short when Annwyl goes into labor two months early. Everyone has been holding their breath in the kingdom with worry that Annwyl would not survive childbirth and the time had come. After hours of labor and magickal attempts to see Annwyl through the delivery it is revealed that it is too late, that the babes and their mother will die if Morfyd does not do an emergency c-section, which Annwyl will not survive. When the Dragon Queen arrives and tells them of Annwyl's request to Dagmar that her babies are to be saved at all costs, Morfyd agrees to do the procedure and the kingdom waits for the death of its Queen. After the babies are delivered, the Dragon Queen keeps Annwyl's body alive for as long as she can to give the people and her mate a chance to say goodbye, but when Dagmar sees an unknown man head into the babies' room she charges after him. Realizing no one else can see him, Dagmar figures out that the man is the dragon god Rhydderch Hael, the god that made it possible for Fearghus and Annwyl to have cross-species children, and that he is kidnapping them.
She approaches him in Annwyl's room and using her intelligence, stalls him by telling the true story that no one else has figured out about the dragon god and his own mate. She accuses him of not truly giving the power to shift to human to his dragons, that the power actually came from his mate – Eir – and that maybe she was the only one powerful enough to save Annwyl when Rhydderch Hael refused. Angered, the god kills Annwyl by stealing her life force with a kiss and transports Dagmar and the twins to an underground cavern…right at the feet of the Minotaurs. Thinking quickly Dagmar stalls the talking bovines for a few precious minutes until the only female, their priestess, corrals them back to business. She takes the babies from Dagmar and orders the men to do what they will with her. As the males begin to assault Dagmar she sees Eir standing off to the side and begins talking with her, begging for her help. Realizing that the goddess had said she “owed her one” Dagmar quickly makes a request to save the babies from the priestess who is about to sacrifice them. Eir obliges by breathing life back into Annwyl. Annwyl begins to fight the Minotaurs, and Dagmar is able to save the twins.
When the rest of the southern dragons realize that Annwyl is dead and the babies have been sent away with Dagmar they begin searching for them, only to be led by Annwyl's warhorse to their location. Surprised and elated to find Annwyl, Dagmar and the twins alive the dragons begin to approach the now blood-drenched monarch, but her memories are hidden and she sees them as a threat, forcing Dagmar to get on the horse with the twins and riding with them to the safety of Dark Glen – the cave she and Fearghus live in when not at the palace. The dragon kin catch up to them eventually and Fearghus fights Annwyl, ultimately throwing her in the lake where her memories come flooding back. Relieved beyond measure that Dagmar is alive and well, Gwenvael Claims her as his own mate by branding her ass with the dragon mark.
Feeling the worst is over they are surprised when Ragnar's father, Olgeir the Wastrel, arrives in Dark Plains to find his defecting son and the dragon prisoner he helped to escape earlier on in the book. Popping up from the underground tunnels, Olgeir captures Talaith's daughter Izzy, and attacks Gwenvael and Dagmar. Ultimately, Talaith shows up when she senses her daughter is in trouble and together they take down the great dragon, killing him. Now that the new threat is over and Talaith has seen her only daughter of 17 winters in battle action, she is forced to agree that Izzy is ready for combat with Annwyl's army and gives her permission for Izzy to head out at their next march.
Meanwhile, Annwyl and Fearghus' twins are growing at a rapid rate, looking months old instead of days, and already showing traits of their dragon kin. It's only after everything has settled down that we learn that Briec and Talaith are also now expecting a half-breed child of their own, but as she is a Nolwenn Witch, Talaith's power will have no problem growing and birthing their daughter. And with those mix of worries and happy thoughts for the future, the dragons prepare for whatever the gods may throw at them next.
As the book comes to a close we are taken back to The Reinholdt and his war that is about to begin with his brother. Feeling outnumbered and relieved that Dagmar is not around to die with them, the Reinholdt men are shocked when Annwyl shows up, beheads Jokull, gives a message to the men from The Beast and then charges in with five legions of her own men to destroy the enemy of The Reinholdt, with the Northland men not far behind chanting the name of their savior…The Beast!
Best part of story, including ending:
I absolutely love this story as there is so much to follow, twists and turns with not only the two main characters of each book in the series, but also the side and past characters.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was actually at the very end of the book, the last couple of pages when Annwyl and her army shows up to help the Reinholdt with his war, as promised by his daughter. Their shock and awe of Annwyl, the ease with which she quickly beheads Jokull and then announces that she will be coming shortly to collect her sword from his dead body. It all raises your love for her and the other characters involved.
Opinion about the main character:
Gwenvael is a little hard to take sometimes as he is EXTREMELY arrogant about his looks, sex appeal and whatever plethora of other things he feels makes him so great, but he has a great sense of humor and a seriousness to him that makes you love and respect his character anyway.