James is the Prince of Wales and the future King of England. For years he has been hiding the fact that he is gay, aided by his best friend Cassandra who pretends to be his lover. James has a strong sense of duty for his role as the future monarch, but he also feels stifled by his need to remain closeted and the demands of living his life in the public eye. Yet James knows he has little choice but to carry on, as the next in line for succession after him is his sister Amelia, whose fragile emotional health means there is no way she could handle the burden of being queen.
While traveling in Africa, James meets Benjamin Dahan, an international business journalist who is there to report on James’ visit. Ben is unimpressed by James’ role as prince and James loves that he can act like a normal person around him. The two spend an afternoon together that leads to unexpected passion between them, but things are shattered when James learns the truth that Ben is really a reporter.
When Ben gets transferred to London, however, the men have a chance meeting once again, and this time they are determined to continue their physical relationship as the chemistry between them in intense. James knows there is no way there can ever be more for him than clandestine sex with Ben. The demands of his position are so far reaching, coming out is an impossibility, as there is a list of political and social ramifications that could impact the nation. And Ben is a man who has no interest in getting attached. He had a bad relationship in the past that left him wary of having ties to anyone. So a purely sexual connection is perfect for both the men. Except for the fact that the more time they spend together, the more they are falling for one another.
It soon becomes clear that despite their intentions of keeping things casual, there are feelings growing between them. But circumstances haven’t changed: Ben still doesn’t want an attachment and James can’t come out. Now the men have to decide what they really want, and if they are able to take the ultimate risks so they can be together.
Oh, this book was so good I was engrossed from the very start! Author Lilah Pace does an amazing job of bringing us inside James’ world of royalty and power and I loved the behind-the-scenes feel of the story. We get to see behind the curtain, into the palace and the decadent lifestyle, to the family secrets, to the reality of life as one of the most famous people on the planet. I found it just fascinating and totally engrossing to be brought into James world, both the fantastical and the mundane, and experience what his life is like. Pace provides such detail it feels like we are really in the rooms of the palace right along with him.
Along with that, Pace gives us such wonderfully developed characters in James and Ben. They are so rounded and layered, each with fascinating bits about them that make them such interesting people. James in particular is just so engaging. He is both so removed from the real world, but also so down to earth. He is entertained by simple things like catalogs and junk mail and the novelty of going for a walk outside with no one noticing him. At the same time, he doesn’t own a credit card and has chefs who prepare his dogs’ food. He is an interesting mix of a man who lives a life that could never quite be called normal, but at the same time, who values privacy and self reliance and the need to have some normalcy in his life. Ben too is nicely developed, a man who struggles firmly with a determination to be independent and untethered, but who finds himself falling for James nonetheless. Pace does a great job showing how Ben’s background has shaped him, making him more than just a man afraid of commitment.
The real crux of this book is the seemingly unresolvable issue of James coming out as gay. What is so well done is that this obstacle is what helps these guys get to know one another; with this hurdle in the way, they know the relationship has clearly defined edges. The conflict comes when they fall for each other despite this and now must figure out how to go forward. The story is a duology, which means that although we get a significant resolution here (and oh, did my heart go pitter pat!), the story doesn’t fully resolve in this book. I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger as much as not the full story.
Really this book had just about everything I could want. Fabulous characters who are sweet and super sexy together (I mean, SUPER sexy). Fascinating world building and a really developed setting and framework for the story. Interesting side characters who I could really root for (I loved Cassandra particularly). And a really significant conflict that seems unsurmountable. My only small criticism is that I think the book runs a little long, and even though I found it totally engaging, I think some tightening through the middle would have had things moving a bit faster. Regardless, I am counting the days until I can start the second book (which comes out next month) because I am dying for more of Ben and James and to see how it all comes together.