Rating: 4 stars
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As is custom, Warlord Darren Kaine is set to visit Peony Pavilion to enjoy the spoils of war, namely the courtesans of the establishment. Curiosity gets the best of serving boy Cale as he spies on the greeting of the new victors of Havisham, but Cale’s clumsiness causes trouble, as always. Suddenly Cale finds himself the chosen companion of the new Lord of Havisham by accident. A servant boy turned courtesan in a matter of minutes, Cale is not happy with the turn of events and dislikes the thought of being called upon nightly as a plaything, but can’t say no…or rather he doesn’t want to, if only for the chance to spend time with the handsome, gruff Darren Kaine – not that he’d ever admit that aloud.
Darren Kaine can trust no one. When his family was killed by the Sloane’s after being betrayed by the one person he was supposed to be able to trust, it took Darren a decade to build up support to take back what the Sloane’s stole from him. The only solace Darren finds in his daily routine is his time with Cale. The outspoken, disrespectful, almost innocent concubine is addicting. Afraid of his growing feelings for Cale because of the betrayal of his past, Darren struggles with Cale’s role in his life.
When an attempt is made on Darren’s life, and Cale publicly saves him, fingers are pointed in the direction of the lowly born concubine. Certain that Cale is innocent and had more chances to take his life before saving it so publicly, Darren sets out to prove Cale’s innocence, while trying to find out who among his court and staff have betrayed him. And when the betrayal hits close to home, Darren finds himself in danger of losing all those close to him, including Cale.
I am kind of in love with this book. It’s dirty and sexy and witty. The setup – clumsy servant stumbles his way into becoming the royal concubine and boy toy to a jaded, battered, and broken lord of the manor only to find their physical attraction turn into something more substantial – is very good. I was hooked from the get go. And you all know I love a good fantasy, well this one is right up there.
This is a world of kings and warlords, of betrayals and murder, of love and war, and of innocence and jaded hearts. This author has created a dark, gritty, smexy world of courtesans and royals. A world of palaces and brothels. A world where it is commonplace for the lord of the manor to take a concubine on a permanent basis. Like I said, dark, dirty, and sexy.
I adore both of these characters, but I have to say that I have a thing for Cale. While he has an innocent quality about him, he is brash, outspoken, and refreshing. He doesn’t see Darren as a Lord, but as a man. He’s such a witty and fun character. He makes no apologies for who he is or what he wants. And he can melt the hardest of hearts. Cue Darren. Darren is paranoid, hard-hearted, and always on his guard, yet he’s gentle and soft with Cale, even when he acts like he is mean. I love their contrast and how well they fit together.
I’ll be honest, I was worried about how much I would like this book when I first started because it’s written in third person, present tense. Present tense is not my favorite to read, but as I really got into this story, I didn’t even notice it. To me that’s a mark of a great storyteller. I was so engrossed in the story that it didn’t even occur to me to be annoyed by something that would usually distract me enough to take away from the book. It’s a very well written piece. It’s fun and very entertaining.
My only real complaint, and the reason that the story is a four-star read to me and not rated higher, is that the ending, the epilogue to be specific, is so rushed. I wanted to see a somewhat happy ending. After the struggle and confusion that both men go through, I wanted to at least experience some part of their happy ever after, or even more of their happier for now. There is a sentence that could possibly lead in to another book and I will be happy to read that if it does, in fact, happen. But I still would have liked a more solid, more involved ending.
But overall, even with the rushed ending, I adore this story. With the wonderful characters, the well-built world, and the enthralling story, I am so glad that I had the chance to enjoy this gem. I definitely recommend The Price by Dominique Frost and hope to read more of her work in the future.