Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
It was hard for me to characterize this book – it’s a little bit fantasy, but definitely had some fairy tale vibes about it as well, probably because the setting made me think of 17th – 18th century France. It turned out to be not quite what I expected…
Prince Paurick is the second son of the king of Alland. He had no responsibilities and a large allowance, and his life was all about hedonism. Dressing in the latest fashions, getting drunk on the best liquor, sleeping with the most beautiful men, and planning his new pleasure palace took up all of his thoughts and energy. Nominally he was the ruler of Tuatha, but could never be bothered to even visit the backward, downtrodden country. He avoided his father and his older brother, both of whom took their roles as rulers of Alland very seriously, as much as possible.
Paurick was therefore very surprised to receive a royal summons the morning after a typical night of debauchery. When he arrived at his father’s castle, he was shocked to find that the high priestess of the Goddess had an important task for him – to save Tuatha from the famine that was causing mass starvation. (There were a few pages of explanation about how the ruling family descended from the Goddess, and had special powers, blah, blah, but it felt like an afterthought the way it was thrown in just before the high priestess assigned her task). Paurick’s first thought was that he would have to abandon plans for his pleasure palace, when the priestess told him that all he had to do to save the country was to copulate with one of her acolytes. And just for a few months, until fertility was restored to the land, and he could even do it from the comfort of his regular palace instead of going to Tuatha. Suddenly, this sacred task was starting to sound like a great idea to Paurick, especially when she stipulated that the chosen acolyte was male instead of female!
Until Brother Laurel stepped forward, and he was just plain ugly.
Brother Laurel was committed to the Goddess, and felt truly blessed by being allowed to serve Her in Her temple. He was born Tuathan, but was brought to Alland basically as a slave when he was a child, and to him, being chosen as an acolyte was a miracle that saved him from what was likely to be a very short life of extreme misery. Acolytes took vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, although in this instance the chastity vow was temporarily lifted for the good of the country of Tuatha. Laurel did not ask how copulating with Paurick was supposed to restore fertility to the land – he just did what his high priestess ordered him to do. And if that meant several months of forced receptive anal intercourse from an arrogant, spoiled, obnoxious prince, well, it was for the good of the people, and it wasn’t like he hadn’t suffered before. (BTW, although Laurel might have expected it, there is thankfully no rape or non-con/dub-con in this story)
The first half of the book follows the two men as they negotiate their way through this task – and although Paurick doesn’t treat it as sacred at all, he is at least not the monster than Laurel initially thought he was, and the men come to care for each other. The temporary nature of the assignment seemed like a saving grace when they entered into it, but as the season progressed, they fell in love. And in doing so, both men saw the best in each other, and wanted to emulate that in themselves.
For probably the first 30-40% of the book, I have to say I was not involved, not convinced of the friendship between Paurick and Laurel, much less that they really fell in love. The Goddess magic seemed like an afterthought rather than essential to the storyline. And it felt like Laurel’s character should have been a woman, and the author’s decision to make this about two men made no sense. Fortunately, about two thirds of the way through of the book, things changed and it felt like this was a story for adults who had real conflicts – love vs duty, secular vs sacred – and both men grew up enough to see there was real evil and manipulation in the world, and they had to stand up and make sacrifices to improve it. But then I got the impression that the author wrote herself into a corner, and so the resolution was rapid, deus ex machina, and left me mostly dissatisfied despite the HEA.
I could not find the artist for the cover, but I have to say that if I saw the cover and title without reading the blurb, I would have pegged it for regency erotica – probably hetero – and passed right over it.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 164 pages
Expected publication: November 7th 2018
Edition Language English