The Only Option is part of the Dubious novella collection, all of which include a marriage of convenience. It’s a high fantasy story that includes magi, necromancers, dragons, and magic.
Rochus is a necromancer, one highly regarded for his talents by his Queen. As part of his training and practice, Rochus only has half his soul, and his body reflects this lack in that he’s deathly pale, has blue hair, nails, and teeth—which are very sharp, and he only drinks blood for sustenance. He’s not a vampire, though they also exist in this world. No, Rochus is a wealthy man, and orders his blood brought to him in a pitcher or cup.
Rochus is en route to the palace, under the Queen’s summons, and stays the night at a familiar inn. Being approached by Tilo, a sexy young dragon, is not his preference, at all. Rochus has been the victim of violence before and won’t let a sexy creature, like Tilo, lure him away from safety no matter Tilo’s sex appeal. Well, the best laid plans don’t lead to the best laid necromancer. Tilo has his wicked way, and Rochus is rather pleased about it…until he arrives at the castle and learns that the Queen is ordering him into marriage—to Tilo.
It seems that Tilo has some very serious issues brewing in his lands, magical elements that can only be handled by a necromancer. His repeated petitions to the Queen for aid were never received and went unanswered, until Tilo had to resort to such a dramatic request. Rochus is outraged and feels as if he’s being made a fool of. While he submits to the wedding, he’s quick to alert Tilo that his professional services as a necromancer do not fall under a husband’s prerogative.
Well, that pretty much guts Tilo, and his genuine remorse for all his desperate machinations is what turns the tide for Rochus—and maybe fosters some love, too.
I really dug all the magical elements in this story. None of it felt easy, or convenient. There are moments of true peril that must be overcome by careful consideration and application of Rochus’ extensive magical skills—and sometimes some plain out dragon fire, all of which felt totally germane to this world. I loved Rochus’ many pets and how in synch they were as magical helpers. Rochus and Tilo were both well-drawn characters with heaps of integrity. Rochus is a proud man, who’s been hurt many many times before. He’s older—43 years—and has a lot of trouble believing that any man as young, attractive, and virile as Tilo could ever truly want him. This insecurity is what causes him to drive Tilo off, again and again, and I felt that it was really well-considered. It’s obviously not simple age that’s a problem; Rochus’ physical oddities and profession as a necromancer are not generally attractive, as Rochus’ history has taught him, so he’s wary of building a rapport that will only end in heartbreak. And, yet, Tilo demonstrates again and again that he’s really in it for Rochus, not just his magic. It gave Rochus just an inkling of hope for more, which was fantastic. I also loved the dichotomy of the hot dragon and the cold necromancer and how they were so complementary to each other.
The only issue I had was that of time. It seemed as if it only took a couple days journey to reach Tilo’s fortress—and that seemed a mite unrealistic, considering the other spans that were discussed in the book. Other than that, this is a really awesome piece of fantasy that has yummy sexytimes and two very compelling main characters. It may have begun with a marriage of convenience, but it ends with a courtship and an expectation for an HEA.