The cover art is by Natasha Snow.
I would rate this 4 stars.
The book starts out with Kel marrying Princes Darian’s proxy, Duke Savoy, dressed as his sister who has run off. But this was Kel’s solution to the crisis, and it might have been an unwise one. I’m sure you see the problem right away–if Kel falls in love with the Prince, the Prince is still actually married to Isabel. This has a touch of Shakespeare to it that is quite fun, but the idea that his sister would be able to sneak up on a royal guarded caravan and switch places with him en route to the other kingdom seems ridiculous.
What I didn’t like was Kel’s justification that it was a better situation for Isabel having an arranged marriage since she might at least have the chance of falling in love with her husband (since she is heterosexual) whereas in his arranged marriage he had no chance (since he is gay and not bisexual). She could also be married to a violent man would would abuse and control her so, that is a crappy thought to write for Kel to have–especially since he is about to become the lord and master of his own estate. I’m unclear here whether the author means to make a statement on how some cis, gay, rich, white men think about women, or if this is entirely thoughtless. It’s a few sentences, but I didn’t like it and it took me totally out of the book. Gratefully, much of the book focuses on Kel realizing how much his sister was constrained by societal expectations and he experiences his own sexual assault, which hopefully makes him more sympathetic.
Over the journey to the city of Seagate in Pervayne, Kel as Isabel, becomes close with Dare, the Prince’s esquire. But Dare is not who he seems either. While I was happy with the way everything happens when it is discovered that Kel is a man, it was also strange that they act like they are actually married rather than acknowledging the prince is actually married to Isabel. This is eventually brought up upon the arrival of the real Isabel, but quickly dismissed.
There is no getting around that Kel is in the traditional female role of giving up his name, property, title, and his job, for this marriage. That’s why when everything doesn’t go as planned, I liked getting to see Kel as himself. Even though there is a place for the non-binary in this society, known as Kindred, that is not really who Kel is.
There is so much to like here that I find myself being critical because it could have been even better with just a little tweaking. Still, I enjoyed what was here and could see myself reading it again. There is a charm about it. If you like romance books set in a medieval type fantasy setting such as those by Megan Derr, I would recommend trying this.
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