Wryler Glimmerveen loves books and learning and hates being stuck in his family’s rural home. As the fourth son, he hopes to be married off to a wealthy merchant’s son so he can move to the city. However, Wryler’s hopes are dashed when instead he is matched with the big, hulking lord of Gryffon Hall, Aeric Rouchet. Aeric has a reputation for being fearsome and his home is an old castle on the edges of a forbidden forest. But it is also located along a prominent trade route Wryler’s father hopes to exploit with Aeric’s protection, so Wryler is handed off for marriage to the brutish man.
Wryler is surprised to find that Aeric is much more gentle than he seems, and he is doting and tender with Wryler. Wryler is drawn to Aeric, both sexually and emotionally, much more than he ever anticipated. But something odd is going on at Gryffon Hall. Aeric disappears for long nights without ever telling Wryler where he is going. Wryler is warned away from leaving the castle grounds and the forest looms frighteningly at the outskirts of their home. Even worse, Wryler is warned by a strange man that Aeric is evil and dangerous, and that Wryler must take action against him.
Alone in a strange place with a husband he barely knows, Wryler isn’t sure what to believe. When he learns more about Aeric’s secrets, Wryler is even more uncertain. Now he must figure out where to put his trust and how to protect himself, and hopefully Aeric as well.
I picked up Gryffon Hall because I love the “beauty and the beast” trope and this story promised a bit of that woven in. Aeric is this big, hulking man who people are afraid of due to his fierce reputation. And Wryler is a much smaller, bookworm of a guy who somehow ends up married to this man he barely knows. However, Wryler soon learns that Aeric is not nearly as fierce as he was led to believe, at least not with those he cares about. The monsters that lurk in the forest and stir up problems are trouble though. We even get some gorgeous library porn.
The book has a fairy tale quality to it that I enjoyed. We are in Wryler’s POV and he is thrown off guard when the marriage to a merchant he thought was imminent is suddenly cancelled and he is instead immediately married of to a big, brutish stranger who lives in the middle of nowhere. When he is approached by a strange man full of dire warnings, I like that Wryler is smart enough not to take things completely at face value, though he does listen to the warnings and take action to try to figure out what is going on. So I appreciated that Wryler isn’t a total pushover here, and he manages to be a bit tougher and a bit smarter than expected. At the same time, I did wish that he actually talked to Aeric at some point along the way. While he doesn’t totally get swept up in what others are telling him, Wryler could have saved himself a LOT of trouble with just a tiny bit of talking to his husband.
Since we are in Wryler’s POV, we don’t get to know a whole lot about Aeric. Some of this makes sense as that is part of the point of the story. We know there is something going on, but we don’t know quite what. But it did leave me feeling like we don’t get to know much about Aeric or get a really developed sense of the two of them together. I also feel like the pacing is a bit off as the ending comes pretty fast and things are wrapped up quickly and I think this could have been developed and explored more after the longer build up. And finally, I would have enjoyed some more world building here. We are told there are these horrible beasts in the forest, but we don’t learn much about them, or any of the politics that are involved. Part of Aeric’s role as lord is to mediate problems and capture those who get out of line, but again we don’t learn much about that.
However, overall I found this one entertaining. It is a light, quick read and I liked the fairy tale aspect of it. I think some parts of the story could have used more development, but overall I found it an enjoyable read.