Book Review: Kings Rising, by C.S. Pacat (NO SPOILERS)

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It’s finally here! The stunning conclusion to C.S. Pacat’s flawless Captive Prince trilogy has arrived! If you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy, you can check out my series spotlight here.

Kings Rising, by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Genres: Gay, M/M, Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
5-of-5

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‘He lives. The King’s son lives. Damianos.’

pacat-kings-risingDamianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity – can it stand against the Regent’s final, deadly play for the throne?

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Series Spotlight: Captive Prince, by C.S. Pacat

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I always assumed that the Captive Prince trilogy was just one of those things that everyone knew about. It’s been around for years, first as a free online serial, and then published a few years ago. The fans of the series are devout, creating art and writing long theory posts and fan fiction.

But recently I’ve realized that a lot of people aren’t aware of this incredible series. With the third and final book finally coming out in a couple of days (after literally years of waiting!), I wanted to spotlight the series and tell you more about it.

This review will only cover the first two books of the series, and will contain no spoilers. My review of Book 3, Kings Rising, will post tomorrow evening (also no spoilers).

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Series Name: The Captive Prince Trilogy
Author: C.S. Pacat
Publisher: Berkley/NAL
Genres: Gay, Bisexual, M/M, Fantasy,
Mature/Erotic Content, War Story

Books:

1: Captive Prince
2: Prince’s Gambit
3: Kings Rising (out February 2, 2016)

What It’s About:

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the truthful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Okay, wait. I don’t like this summary much.

This story is about so many things that a simple blurb doesn’t cover them all. It’s a story about politics and manipulation and cunning and trust. When Damen is betrayed and sent to the rival nation of Vere as a pleasure slave, it’s a fate worse than death; to reveal his identity would lead to torture, but being a pleasure slave– submissive and at a master’s whim– goes against everything Damen knows. But his new owner, Prince Laurent of Vere, has his own enemies to fight against, and the two men soon find themselves unwilling allies.

War is looming, intrigue and mystery hides around every corner, and Laurent and Damen find themselves battling dangerous enemies on multiple fronts.

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Why should you check it out?

C.S. Pacat writes what is without a doubt among the best prose I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. She has a way with words that provokes this deep emotional response, using language like a weapon that cuts deep in your soul. You care about the characters and their fates, and even secondary characters have a place of importance. And the story itself is gripping; adventure and action, brilliant turns and revelations that literally have you gasping out loud.

I personally dislike slave tropes, for the most part. But this is not slave fiction as you know it, and C.S. slowly builds up a relationship between Damen and Laurent that is more beautiful than any conventional romance you’ve ever read. I think many people would hesitate to call this a romance, but I don’t know of any better word to describe the relationship that forms between these two men.

Check out this interview with C.S. Pacat, which features some incredible fan art of the series!

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An excerpt from Captive Prince:

Damen opened his mouth to reply, and found his words stopped by the startling touch of Laurent’s fingers against his lips, a thumb brushing his jawline. It was the sort of absent touch that any master at the table might give to a pet. But from the shocked reaction that rolled over the courtiers at the table, it was clear that Laurent did not do this sort of thing often. Or ever.

“My pet was feeling neglected,” Laurent apologised to Torveld.

“He’s the captive Kastor sent you to train?” said Torveld, curiously. “He’s—safe?”

“He looks combative, but he’s really very docile and adoring,” said Laurent, “like a puppy.”

“A puppy,” said Torveld.

To demonstrate, Laurent picked up a confection of crushed nuts and honey and held it out to Damen as he had at the ring, between thumb and forefinger.

“Sweetmeat?” said Laurent.

In the stretched-out moment that followed, Damen thought explicitly about killing him.

Damen leaned in. It was sickly sweet. He didn’t let his lips touch Laurent’s fingers. A great many people were looking at them. Laurent washed his fingers fastidiously in the gold washing bowl when he was done, and dried them on a little square cloth of silk.

— Captive Prince (print edition, Berkley Publishing Group, 2013), page 148

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In conclusion…

This is an incredible trilogy. Everyone I know who has picked it up has ended up addicted to C.S. Pacat’s brilliant world, and fans have remained faithful even after years of waiting for the conclusion.

Also, I’ve never had a crush on a fictional character quite like the one I have on Laurent. *blushes*

Links:

Author’s Website
Official Map of the Captive Prince World

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“A complex and beautiful romance.” — Book Review: Focus on Me, by Megan Erickson (Rating: 4/5)

Focus on Me is currently only $0.99 on Amazon.com!

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Focus on Me, by Megan Erickson
Publisher: InterMix/Penguin Random House (July 21, 2015)
Page Count: 204 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5

Warning: Mental illness; suicidal thoughts.

Curious to find out more about Colin and Riley? You can check out an excerpt from this novel here!

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* I was given an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

Summary: Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

My Thoughts: Focus on Me was a brilliant novel about two opposite characters who manage to perfectly complement one another. Erickson deftly handled two very complex characters– Riley, a former model suffering from depression and anorexia, and Colin, a man who can’t seem to succeed at anything he attempts– and creates a complex and beautiful romance.

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Review: Just Business, by Anna Zabo (Rating: 5/5)

Just Business, by Anna Zabo
Publisher: Random House/InterMix (June 16, 2015)
Page Count: 266 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

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Cover Artist: Unknown

Cover Artist: Unknown

Short & Sweet: Justin White doesn’t fit the corporate stereotype; his dyed-black hair, heavy eyeliner, and preference for jeans over suits makes him stand out among his piers. Eli Ovadia, the CFO for Justin’s new company, dislikes Justin’s mess and attitude, and he’s not one to hide his contempt. As Justin works to prove himself to Eli, he realizes that he can’t seem to keep his cool around the domineering Eli— and soon he finds himself taking their heat from the boardroom into the bedroom…

Warnings: Mentions of dubious consent and past abusive relationships.

* I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

My Thoughts: This book was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Bam, done, end of review. (But seriously, I could ramble for hours about how much I loved this novel, so I’m going to do my best to rein it in!)

After reading Zabo’s Takeover last year, I was ecstatic to see another book in the same universe announced for this summer. Just Business is, like Takeover, about two corporate businessmen who enter into an intense BDSM relationship, but that’s where the similarities end. Justin is a brilliant MBA student who’s taken a step back professionally after fleeing from an abusive relationship, while Eli is a successful, cold, and often terrifying CFO who has his own past demons to battle with.

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Review: Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (Rating: 5/5)

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Cover Art by Goodwives and Warriors

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Random House Children’s/Delacorte (Sept. 1, 2015)
Page Count: 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5

* I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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My Thoughts: This is a novel about the love, plain and simple. Love for family, love for friends, romantic love, and loving yourself. Madeline has a rare disease that prevents her from leaving her house, and she’s been content so far in life with only her mother, nurse, and books as company.

Told through a series of instant messages, book reviews, and Madeline’s narration, Everything, Everything explores what happens when she finds a reason to live outside her safe home. Olly is the opposite of everything she’s ever known, and she’s drawn to him even though she risks her own health to do so. Being alive isn’t enough; she wants to live.

One of the things that I liked most about this novel was that everything was Madeline’s decision. At no time does Olly pressure her to step outside her comfort (or safe) zone. In fact, when Maddie does so, he worries and tries to keep her safe. It’s up to Maddie to take each step towards freedom, love, and life.

yoon-everything-quoteloveYoon did an amazing job of showing two young people in love. The relationship was so organic and gorgeous; everything from Madeline’s anxiety at falling in love, to her first brush with jealousy, is described beautifully. And Yoon’s husband did an excellent job with the illustrations, which really augment the reading experience. (Also, that cover art, wow!)

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story about what it means to live and love. Even people who don’t like YA would enjoy this story! (And while I think this is a great novel for people who enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, don’t think that this is just a copy-cat!)

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Review: Another Day, by David Levithan (Rating: 4/5)

levithan-another-dayAnother Day, by David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Knopf (August 25, 2015)
Page Count: 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult Romance (Genderqueer/Genderfluid)

Rating: 4 out of 5

* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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Summary: Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all.

Notes: I will be reviewing Another Day with the assumption that anyone reading this has previously read Every Day (although I will avoid spoilers for either). While both novels can stand on their own, I’m not sure how I would separate out my feelings about Every Day in order to review Another Day without any emotional bias… the novels are just too entwined in my head!

My Review: This was an extremely difficult book to write a review about. Normally when I start a review, I ask myself a few easy questions: Did I love the book? Were the characters interesting? Was the relationship realistic, organic, and compelling? Did I find myself absorbed by the plot?

When it comes to Another Day, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes”. However, that’s also true of the prequel-slash-companion novel, Every Day. They are, in fact, the same story told from the differing points of view of the main characters.

Another Day is told from the point of view of Rhiannon, a girl who is struggling to understand what love truly means. She thinks that she loves her boyfriend Justin, and that love is something you have to work for, compromise for. But then she meets A and her entire definition of love changes; here is someone who puts her first, who asks her opinions, and who doesn’t let her settle for less than she deserves.

There’s only one problem: A has no body. Every day, A wakes up in someone else’s life, a spirit hitchhiker of sorts. And when A wakes up one day as Justin, A quickly falls in love with Rhiannon. But Rhiannon has framework to be in a relationship in which the other person changes bodies every day. Some days A is a skinny nerd, other days he is a football player, and some days she’s a gorgeous black girl. Rhiannon struggles to see through the outer package, but even she admits that the A she pictures is a boy; it’s not that she doesn’t try, and she constantly questions her own inability to think past the stereotype, but every day is a battle between what she wants and what A actually is.

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Now, here’s the difficult part… how do I rate this? Getting to see Rhiannon’s side of the developing relationship, her confusion about A, these things made the novel unique from its predecessor. But the plot was the same. There were no surprises, because we have already seen most of the events from A’s point of view. So it’s a novel that has to balance solely on Rhiannon’s emotions, and the emotions of a teenage girl in love are not exactly stable support.

If I had never read Every Day, I would say that the novel is fantastic. I would give it five stars in a heartbeat, because the plot is original and the writing is witty and the characters are complicated and brilliant and utterly realistic in the way that only teenagers can be. But having read Every Day, I want to say this novel is just average, a 3/5 rating. It’s 300+ pages of a plot that I’ve already read (but really enjoyed, and didn’t mind re-reading), and the only new parts were when Rhiannon tries to work through her gender stereotyping and to understand that what’s inside doesn’t always match what’s outside.

So I’m going to split the difference here, and give this a 4 out of 5. Still recommended even if you’ve read Every Day, although I’d start with that one if you’re new to A and Rhiannon’s relationship.

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Review: A Fashionable Indulgence, by K.J. Charles (Rating: 5/5)

charles-a-fashionable-indulgenceA Fashionable Indulgence, by K.J. Charles (A Society of Gentlemen Novel)
Publisher: Random House/Loveswept (August 11, 2015)
Page Count: 264 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Historical Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5

* I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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Summary: When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: Julius Norreys, the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.

My Thoughts: K.J. Charles’ beautiful writing, compelling characters, and expert historical knowledge will sweep you off your feet and back to Regency England. Here the poor clash with the rich, and a young man must decide if living the life he’s always dreamed of is worth turning his back on what he believes is right.

First off, I don’t think the summary does the story justice, so… Harry was raised by his radical parents, but the constant fear or riots and arrests has led him to realize that he doesn’t value the politics as strongly as his parents did. He initially jumps at the chance to be accepted by his wealthy grandfather, to live among the highest class of society… even to the point of agreeing to marry his cousin in order to inherit. But it quickly becomes obvious to him that he cannot ignore the suffering of the friends he’s left behind in the mud, and he has to make some very difficult decisions.

In the midst of the political and economical drama, Charles weaves in a lovely romance between Harry and his mentor, Julius. Though they begin as just friends, attraction quickly flares between the two men. They’re lucky to be surrounded by a close-knit group of men who share their orientation, and who help support and protect their growing relationship. This is a time period when homosexuality was punishable by death, so there’s a constant need for secrecy as both men transition from attraction to love.

And while this is definitely a romance, it’s also a lot more than that. Charles has the rare and precious talent of being able to bring history to life without bogging the reader down with the mundane and uninteresting tidbits. This is a richly illustrated society, and Charles uses Harry as a bridge between the starving commoners and the ludicrously wealthy elite. She does an amazing job of showing the politics of the period in such a way that it enhances the plot.

I think my favorite part of this book was the character of Julius. He’s a dandy, preferring to focus on his appearance over anything else. But he’s also an incredibly complex character, a man with a tragic past who has buried himself in the superficial in the hopes of masking his pain. Harry might be the protagonist, but it’s Julius who shows an emotional transformation as he learns to open his heart and trust in his love for Harry.

I could honestly go on and on about this novel, but I’ll restrain myself. Instead, I’ll end this review by saying that this is the perfect historical romance, where the characters are intriguing and the romance unfolds naturally and elegantly. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait for the other two books in the trilogy!

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