The writing is gorgeous, the settings exotic, the adventures gripping, the fight scenes scary, the tragedies/loss/betrayal heart-wrenching and the love affair sublime.
A hint to other writers: this is how to depict a memorable romance. Without even a hint of the explicit sex scenes that have become the cliché of historical romances, Thomas delivers sexual tension, pure passion and desperate devotion.
Thomas also keenly understands something else - all the pledges made to Catherine by Leighton, with their sincerity, intensity and poetic delivery, ensnare more than his beloved's heart. They beguile Thomas' readers, as well. Yes, Leighton stumbles at the first test, lacks trust and betrays his new love, but Thomas encourages us to forgive him, to remember that he is young, he is human and to realise that that he soon regrets his betrayal. Moreover, despite almost dying, he is not filled with a lust for revenge. Instead, his atonement is genuine, as is his underlying constancy.
Catherine is also a great character. She is multi-faceted. She is the disguised lad, who captures Leighton's heart with her cheeky vulgarity. She is a fierce and disciplined warrior, who lives a lonely life until she meets him, the first person ever to see her strengths and tell her they are worth admiring. This acceptance astounds the driven, finely honed and solitary fighter who has sought approval all her young life.
While angry, she is generous in her forgiveness of Leighton and unremittingly loyal to her step-father, even in the face of his apparent disregard.
It is that capacity to give love and loyalty that makes Catherine vulnerable and therefore more believable as a character to admire as worthy of her own HEA.
A deserved five stars.