Title: The Crimson Outlaw
Author: Alex Beecroft
Publisher: Riptide, 2013
It’s 1720 in Harghita County, Transylvania. and no, don’t expect vampires. Vali is the son of a nobleman, the cruel boyar Wadim Florescu. Amazingly, the lad has grown up untainted by his father’s generally nasty attitude – and his abuse. Vali is sweet-natured, an incurable romantic and tends to act before thinking things through.
Which is why he tries to derail his sister’s wedding to another lord old enough to be their father – a move which backfires horribly, and proves to be the final straw which drives Vali out into the world.
Well meaning but completely unprepared for the world beyond the castle’s walls, Vali quickly runs into trouble when a bandit in the forest tries to take him hostage. This bandit is none other than Mihai, who has a bit of an axe to grind with Wadim, and he reckons Vali’s going to make the perfect hostage.
The last thing Vali and Mihai expect is that they’d end up in a state of mutual fascination that runs deeper than mere lust. Of course there’s still the problem of a tyrannical lord to overthrow and a village to save, which adds an extra dimension to this blooming romance.
The Crimson Outlaw has it all: authentic world-building (you really do feel like you’re in Transylvania); plenty of well-realised action sequences, swords and all; and of course the sparks that fly between Vali and Mihai. If I can level any criticism against the story it’s that it’s over so quickly, which is a measure of how well Alex Beecroft drew me in that I regretted reaching the ending so soon. I wanted a lot more.
Vali really is adorable. You want to groan quietly at his naïveté but there’s something quite refreshing about encountering a character who has such a big heart and cheery outlook. GrimDark this is not, but The Crimson Outlaw is a highly entertaining read nonetheless that will leave you smiling. Beecroft has a light, lyrical touch with her words and her story is an absolute pleasure if you’re looking for a feel-good, historical diversion from your daily grind.