From the summary alone, this novel checked all of the right boxes for me: a strong female main character in a position of power; struggles between responsibility and desire; incredibly hot sex between two incredibly hot ladies; and a fantastic, supportive best friend who isn’t afraid to tell the main character the truth.
Aeley Dahe has been elected Steward after her father passes away, but she’s not content with the role. People expect her to be just like her father, and the shame brought on her family after her brother’s unforgivable actions means she has to work twice as hard to keep everyone satisfied.
But from the moment she lays eyes on Lira, a scribe hired to assist her legal advisor, she starts to see a light in the darkness. Lira helps to banish the nightmares, and her forthright way of speaking is a breath of fresh air to Aeley, who’s used to people watching what they say around her.
Aeley was a difficult character for me to like at first. She’s suffering under the weight of her title and the nightmares left by her brother, so she turns to drinking every night. It’s not an ideal trait for a political figure, and it’s only Mayr, Aeley’s best friend, who saves her from falling into the trap of using alcohol to forget.
There was also the characterization of the Derossa brothers, the two men vying for Aeley’s hand in marriage. They’re too over-the-top; too stupid, too full of themselves, too rude, and too cruel. I wish they’d been a bit less stereotypical.
Great, just what I needed. Men who think they’re a gift to the rest of us. Did they rehearse this or is this just natural? (ePub pg. 46)
But it’s Lira who’s the prize of this novel. Lira is a scribe, and we quickly learn that her family has all but disowned her, shamed that she would choose such a low profession to enter. She’s quiet at first, having been taught by her family to keep silent, but she’s not willing to back down from what she truly wants.
Lira bit her lip and looked away. “I’m used to doing what I have to do right then, no waiting. Whenever I wait, I lose. I’ve never been good at competing, not against my brothers.” (ePub pg. 62)
This novel is lovely. The fantasy setting is a bit confusing to navigate at first, but soon becomes a fascinating world to explore. Lira’s seduction of Aeley, and Aeley’s enthusiastic returning of her affections, slowly simmers until it explodes into passion.
I look forward to reading more in this universe, especially Mayr’s story (which is apparently the next book in the series)! Also see Rule Breaker, part of the “Won’t Back Down“ anthology, which serves as a prequel-of-sorts to this novel.
Author’s website: https://archerkayleah.wordpress.com/