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Ironfire by David Ball
Ironfire revolves around the Malta in the 16th century, culminating with the last battle of the Crusades, with the armada of the Islamic Ottoman empire bearing down on the island with the Christian Knights of St. John vowing to defend it. The story revolves around Nico and Maria Borg. Nico was kidnapped from the island as a boy and sold into slavery. He now returns, renamed Asha, as commander of one of the sultan's warships. Maria despises the knights who refused to save her brother, and leads a defiant life according to her own rules. Christien de Vries is forced to become a knight, but would rather be a surgeon and he longs for the heart of Maria. Adding a mix of historical characters, David Ball has created a swashbuckling adventure which has received high praise. The Denver Post calls Ironfire "an action-packed, often erotic and always sensual epic-adventure around a handful of well-developed characters."