The year is 1464. King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the family. It is love at first sight, but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

Eager to become his trusted confidant, Ilona enters a treacherous world where revenge, betrayal, ambition, and passion transcend all that is sacred. And love demands the ultimate sacrifice.

Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.

MY RATING: *****

MY REVIEW:  This book is a must-read for those who love a well-written, well-researched, highly-engaging historical novel. I love stories of Vlad Dracula, and I have read quite a few. Most deal with Dracula the vampire. This story is about Vlad Dracula, the man and he is fascinating. It is also an often untold story of his wife, Illona, and the passionate volatile relationship they had. The story is told by Illona who is a perfect mate for the formidable Prince of Wallachia.

The story begins with Vlad and his brother Radu being taken as hostage by the Turkish Sultan in order to keep their father in line. Vlad at a young age knows the responsibility he carries as heir to the Wallachian throne. His father is a great warrior and of course he is brought up in the rigid and disciplined way of the warrior. While with the Sultan he has the best education, but much brutality is shown to him. Eventually his father reneges on his deal with the Sultan which will begin one of many betrayals of Vlad. The murder of his father, mother and older brother coupled with his brothers friendship with the Sultan’s son pushes him with thoughts of
revenge and the retaking of his rightful throne. Vlad learned to be ruthless, shrewd, and cruel in order to survive the harsh and brutal treatment of his Islamic captors.
Ilona lives at the kings – her cousin’s – court. Just as her sister and aunts. She’s a strong heroine and knows what she wants. And what she wants is the kings prisoner, Prince of Wallachia and Romania, Vladislav Dracul. I also loved that the POV was from Illona, the woman who was destined to become Dracula’s wife. I loved that their story began in a royal court where Illona was a cousin to the new King, and the attraction she felt to Vlad was so fierce that it was palpable to the reader – I could feel how she was feeling. This story had me counting the seconds until I could read more. It’s full of intrigue, barbaric acts of war and passionate, erotic love scenes. It will satisfy any Dracula lover. It did me. Wonderful job Autumn Bardot!