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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The House of Baric: A Brother's Defense by Jillian Bald is a European historical fiction novel taking place in the late 1600s and is book two in The House of Baric Trilogy. Book one is Shields Down and book three is Widows and Weddings, and the entire trilogy is available for reading in succession now. The main characters are the Baron of Baric, Mauro Baric, and his Baroness Resi Baric, formerly Resi Kokkinos, born into the Thessalonian merchant class. The newlyweds' home of Baric Castle is situated in a Venetian barony in Croatia, and the castle is where almost all of the story takes place. Mauro greets his brother-in-law Patrik with all the grace he can muster, despite fragile relations, for a sojourn at the castle alongside his compatriots, Bem, Cyro, Soren, and Salar Nassim. Ladies in attendance are quick to engage with the intriguing foreign guests and the eclectic mix is a launchpad for dalliances, some innocent and others not so much so. Mauro's first and foremost responsibility lies with his barony and the safety of his Baroness, and he is prepared to protect both against all threats, whether they come from outside or within.
“You said in the chapel that you loved me from the first day.”
“...Our connection is felt deep in my being, and I yearn to see you each day.”
In the interests of full disclosure, I started this series with The House of Baric: A Brother's Defense and not the first book but did find it was perfectly fine as a read on its own. Having said that, it is far more than engrossing enough to have me want to go back and read author Jillian Bald's first book to get the backstory and foundational plot of the trilogy. The prose is impressive and the tension between lovers and friends clings to the castle walls in all the scenes. It is interesting to get into the mindset of 17th-century life and the reminder that women had little agency but what little they did have was employed and manipulated with gusto. The mercenaries' backstories are unveiled with the more sub-rosa parts given to the reader alone and this affords the reader a greater understanding of motive. The sizzle between Mauro and Resi is a welcome thread of heat and the chemistry has a genuinely organic feeling. A different type of climax happens toward the end of the story and it's the part where furious page-turning kicks in, as it should be. Exceptional storytelling by Jillian Bald and very highly recommended.