Warprize is the first book in the series. It introduces us to Xylara (or Lara as she likes to be called) the Daughter of the Warrior King and a Healer. Her country is under siege by a band of warlords called the Firelanders. As a Healer, Lara believes she should heal not only her own people, but the wounded prisoners of her enemy. This is in direct defiance of her half-brother, the King Xymund.
It is while she is in the area where the prisoners are being held that she's asked to treat a man who the others are acting protective of. After she's healed the man, she finds an emblem that she stuffs down her boot. She doesn't want any further bloodshed and she realizes that this emblem shows him to be high on the Warlord ladder.
As she is going back to the castle, she stops in the actual town to do some shopping. She needs to fill her medical supplies and make sure she's got enough things to help heal both her own people and the Warlords.
While she is in town she comes face-to-face with a man that she's instantly intrigued by. His coloring is different than anyone she's ever met and he's also very handsome. They speak for a moment and then he disappears. She's goes about her business and goes back to the castle.
Once back at the castle, she is called to her brother's rooms to find that she has been demanded for by the head Warlord as a Warprize (hence the title). If she submits to this, then there will be peace between the two peoples. She's surprised, but surprisingly levelheaded about it all. She finds out she has until the next evening to ready herself. Her brother follows her to her room and tells her that being a Warprize basically means that she's now the Warlord's slave and that she must submit to him. He gives her poison to take so that she can kill herself instead of submitting.
Lara is a very smart, usually level-headed heroine. She thinks most things thru and doesn't ever do anything that I would term TOO STUPID TO LIVE (TSTL), my absolute least favorite type of heroine. She realizes that if she kills herself instead of submitting to this Warlord, she will jeopardize the peace treaty & her people will die.
When it is time to be given to the Warlord, she gets herself ready. She follows the directions she was given by her half brother and follows them exactly. It is once she's given over that she looks up and realizes she's been given to the very man she'd been intrigued by in town; the Warlord Keir.
What I found interesting about this world Ms. Vaughan has created is how rich the writing was. It's in first person, which I'm usually not very fond of. It's a sign of a great writer when I'm reading the story & don't even realize it's in first person.
There are moments of conflict, but throughout the story Lara grows as a person. Though she'd been a Healer amongst her people, she'd still been the pampered lady of the lands. She'd never really known hardship or struggles.
Once she is with Keir's people, she begins to realize how much things have changed. Throughout most of the book, she's under the impression that she is Keir's slave. Amongst her people, sex is done usually between a bonded pair. Women go to their mate as virgins and sex is almost a taboo. Lara believes that sex is expected of her, but is also terrified since she has no idea what is going to actually happen.
What I loved most about this story is Keir. He is a strong, determined man who has had to work very hard to get where he is in the standings of his people. He also has a very sweet tender side to him that he lets Lara see. You can see how much he desires her, but he is patient, especially once he realizes she's a virgin.
Their relationship builds throughout the whole story. There is no automatic jumping into bed, boinking their brains out, weirdness that you see in so many romances nowadays. Instead you see a beautiful buildup of emotions until the major climax (no pun intended) in the story.
Was the story completely flawless? No, but there were definitely more good things than bad when it comes to Lara and her Warlord Keir. My biggest complaint was the villain. I will not go into details in case you haven't read the story, but to me it was quite obvious who the villain is almost right away. The other thing was all of the Xy names. I realize it's the House of Xy, but talk about annoying! It was more and more difficult to think about pronunciations. I want to know how to pronounce characters names! I don't want to ponder it throughout the whole book.
But, even with these complaints, my rating for this book is going to be quite high. Excellent world building, beautiful writing, interesting characters and a heroine to root for.
You can view the first chapter here