On the run across America from a vengeful shape-shifter, Bannerman “Bann” Boru has only one thing on his mind: keeping himself and his young son, Cor, alive. At any cost.
Until he meets Shay Doyle, healer and member of a secret group of immortal Celtic warriors, the Tuatha De Danaan, living in modern-day Colorado. When Cor is injured, Bannerman is forced to accept her help. He quickly realizes that the golden-haired healer is shield-maiden tough and can hold her own on the field of battle with the big boys. And Shay soon discovers that there is more to Bann than meets the eye. Now, with the shape-shifter Cernunnos teaming up with the local pack of Fir Bolgs (Bronze Age creatures with a nasty taste for children), Bannerman, Shay, her wolf-dog, Max, and the rest of the Doyle clan must figure out how to battle one insane god.
Welcome to the world of adult reads Darby Kaye aka the incomparable Darby Karchut! The Stag Lord is the first adult read by Kaye and is a welcome addition to the genre.
There is no slow burn with this read and almost instantly Kaye drops her characters into the middle of a crap-load of trouble. Bann and his young son Cor are on the run from danger and no matter how far or how fast they run, danger always seems to find them. Bann is a Tuatha De Danaan warrior, a descendant of the High King of Ireland and, a father hell-bent on protecting his own. In general, the Tuatha do protect their own but Bann and his line have been cursed by the god Cernunnos and nearly every Tuatha warrior Bann has known has refused to help him. Though the warriors are fierce and scared of very little, Cernunnos is a whole new level of crazy and no one, not even the generally fearless Tuatha want to draw neither his attention nor his ire. Angry, fearful and, dangerous, Bann has taken his son and runs in an effort to outrun Cernunnos, his wrath and, destiny. Thank goodness for Shay Doyle and common sense.
Though she certainly didn’t go looking for trouble, Shay Doyle finds it in the form of a young boy who has taken a nasty spill along her jogging trail. Instantly, Shay’s healer instincts kick in and she sets to work helping the young man. That is, until his father, Bann shows up and asks Shay to deny her heritage as a Tuatha and heal his son without revealing her true identity. Confused by Bann’s request but also unwilling to let the boy hurt, Shay takes the father and son back to her home and sets to work. Shay is no one’s fool and she knows who and what Bann is but she doesn’t understand his need to deny who and what he is. Moreover, she is completely confused by his need to deny his son access to the world of the Tuatha and knowledge about their shared history. Not willing to come between a father and his son, Shay heals them both and bides her time hoping the full story of Bannerman Boru will come out.
It doesn’t take long for the full story to come out nor does it take Shay long to call in the rest of her family. Though Bann is absolutely resistant to the idea of endangering Shay and her family and he also understands that there is strength in numbers and will do anything to protect his son. To be completely fair, Shay and her entire family are very hard to resist and they always make a very good case and have good liquor. Most among Shay’s clan know the legend of Bann and his line and those who don’t are quickly enlightened. All are willing to stand with Bann and Cor and fight against even the most feared of the gods, Cernunnos. With a battle looming staying with Shay is the most logical housing arrangement but neither he nor Shay are prepared for how intensely they will be drawn to one another.
To say the stakes are high doesn’t even get one into the realm of understatement. Cernunnos is a god and to defeat him it will take everything everyone has to give yet all involved are willing to make the sacrifice. As the moment of battle draws ever nearer, both Bann and Shay admit to their feelings for one another and succumb to their desires. While the sex is certainly good and there is no lack of adrenaline –filled days, both Shay and Bann know in an instant everything they have can and likely will be ripped from them. While this knowledge only serves to heighten their pleasure and desire it also keeps each from submitting fully to the other and accepting that fate may just have a wholly unexpected plan for them both.
The Bottom Line: The Stag Lord is solidly constructed read that is steeped in Celtic lore and legend. Any reader – familiar with Celtic lore and legend or not – will have no trouble with this read as Kaye takes, what is a very complicated mythology and makes it accessible to all. Bann and Cor’s story is filled with danger and intrigue and a lot of characters they never expected to be a part of their lives. The strength of the read is the characters though not those that you would expect. While I certainly like Bann and Cor it is Shay and her family that really bring the story to life. Shay proves that the Tuatha are more than just male warriors and I am hopeful that women like Shay will play a more prominent role in future installments of this series. Additionally, though this read certainly falls into the realm of adult, I would like to see the naughty bits become a bit more naughty and/or frequent though certainly not at the expense of the overall plot. Kaye has done a fine job of creating sexual tension and desire in her characters that is ultimately grounded in friendship and true affection. With that being said, there is no reason those two can’t have some seriously naughty moments. 🙂
At the end of the day, this book is a going to be a resounding success. Kaye is a conscientious writer who does her research well and has an eye for detail that enhances each and every book she writes. Her editing and revisions are always top notch which creates a very smooth and easy read for readers of all age levels.