Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Luke Martin is an unhappy college student studying at a prominent university in London when an assignment takes him to an ancient cathedral. While there, he meets Boris von Schatten. The man intrigues Luke, though Boris’s story of being a prince is either a fantastical truth or an elaborate con. After another chance meeting, the two spend the day together. When Boris is suddenly called back home to his tiny country of Schattenberg, he invites Luke to join him once the summer break starts. Luke readily agrees.
But when Luke finally arrives in Schattenberg, he discovers that Boris is missing. Though there is a search going on, Luke is surprised that Boris’s brother, the crown prince Georg, isn’t not a part of it. He’s even more surprised to find that Georg his not the cruel and heartless ruler that Boris described him to be. Eventually, both Georg and Luke help with the search. But Luke is confused about how disinterested Georg seems sometimes. Rumors about the prince are swirling through the castle. Luke has a hard time reconciling what he’s coming to learn about Georg as a kind and compassionate man with the tales of cruelty that Boris had told him.
Everyone expects to find Boris dead at the bottom of the ravine. It seems the only logical explanation as to why he hasn’t yet come home. When a body is found, and it turns out not to be Boris, the mystery just deepens. When Boris’s mother, Princess Katarina is also found dead, it is clear that there is a murderer on the loose and Georg is looking more and more like the one to blame. Luke has come to care for Georg and he can’t believe the man is capable of such heinous acts. When the truth comes to light, the extravagant plot makes one thing clear: the lengths a devious man will go to in order to gain power knows no bounds.
There are some really fantastic things going on in this story. There were times when I wasn’t sure what was true, and what wasn’t, and I really loved that it kept me on the edge, waiting to find out what was actually going on. It was clear from the beginning that everything wasn’t what it seemed, and I couldn’t wait to see the conclusion.
Luke is an American studying abroad in London because that’s what his parents want. From the very beginning, we can see that Luke is unhappy and unfocused. He doesn’t feel like he fits in, and he doesn’t really want to be there. When Boris shows up and charms Luke, it was easy to see why Luke was willing to go spend the summer with him despite the fact that they barely know each other. Luke yearns for something different, and Boris gives him the opportunity. Luke is sweet and earnest and he’s looking forward to seeing Boris again. The fact that Luke doesn’t question much when he gets to Schattenberg and Boris is missing is in keeping with his character. He voices a few opinions, makes some inquiries, but he also takes a lot on faith. I had to be willing to do the same, and let the story unfold as it did.
Georg is not at all how his brother portrayed him to Luke. He seems to have a solid head on his shoulders and really cares for his people. Though I found him a touch inconsistent as a character at times, he was likeable, and his connection with Luke was a lot more real than Luke’s connection with Boris. I found myself wanting to believe in him, even as I was unsure of his part in his brother’s disappearance.
The primary focus of this book is not on romance. In fact, there’s very little romance actually on the page and no sex to speak of. The focus was, instead, on the mystery surrounding Boris’s disappearance. Here’s where I had a little trouble. The mystery element was fantastic, and to be honest, there were several characters that I thought could have done it as the story progressed. Where I had trouble was the fact that Luke seemed a bit fickle. When new information, he was quick to abandon the last thing he knew was true and jump on the new info as if that were fact. To be honest, I found it a little jarring. He was supposed to be an intelligent man, but he was ready to accept whatever he was told as fact. When it came to some of the more, shall we say, fantastical elements, I was a bit surprised that he would so readily believe when only paragraphs before, he would have dismissed them as nonsense.
There were also times that I felt that the secrecy went just a little too far, in that it left me feeling a little lost. I would have liked just a few more clues, like a character letting something slip, to give us just a bit more information. I sometimes had to stop and reorder my thoughts about the information I had, only to realize that the information I was seeking hadn’t yet been revealed. This did pull me out of the story a bit.
That being said, I liked how the author wove this story. Though it takes place in the contemporary world, Schattenberg is far behind the times. The people and the very small country are almost stuck in the 19th century. It added a lot of charm to the tale. And I really enjoyed the way the mystery played out. The paranormal elements that were dropped into the story, some of which ended up having a very real explanation, gave it a twist I was not expecting. In truth, as I was reading, I wasn’t sure what was real, and what wasn’t. And it wasn’t until the end that I knew. It was a great and interesting way to bring the old world and new together.
This was a good story with an intense mystery that came to satisfying conclusion. The romance part aside, the mystery alone makes it worth the read if you’re willing to make a few leaps.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.