Riley Murrough is a barista living a normal life, when one day he is attacked by demons trying to kill him. As if that is not shocking enough, Riley is rescued by four tiger shifters who manage to kill the demons. The next thing Riley knows, he is waking up in another realm and learning that he is the fated mate of the king.
Khalon has waited centuries for his mate, but he is dismayed to find it is a human. As the king of the Soldati, Khalon needs an equally powerful mate who can help him protect humans from the demons and who can be a source of strength to the Soldati. Khalon is sure the priestess has made a mistake in bringing him Riley, and decides he will keep his distance until they can speak to her about having her fix the problem. It is just as well, as Riley doesn’t want much to do with the arrogant Khalon, especially as it is clear that Khalon doesn’t want him.
As the men journey to see the priestess, they find themselves spending more time together, and get to know one another. A friendship and an attraction begin to grow between them, but both know nothing can come of it. Khalon’s need to claim Riley is strong, but he knows he can’t have a human for a mate. And Riley realizes that he is a liability to Khalon in his ability to protect his people. But as the two grow closer, they find themselves realizing that they truly want to be together. If only there was a way to make it work between them.
The Soldati Prince is an expanded version of Charlie Cochet’s short story of the same name in the (incredibly fabulous) Charmed and Dangerous anthology. I loved that original story when I read it and was hoping for more books set in this world, so I was thrilled to see this new edition and plans for a further series. This is still a fairy short book (around 100 pages), but it is longer than the original and expands the development of Riley and Khalon’s relationship.
What I most loved about the original story was the interplay between the two men. Riley is feisty and tough and even though he is a human in a world of powerful warriors, he isn’t easily intimidated. Khalon is pretty surly at first, disappointed at this human mate, frustrated that Riley challenges him, and torn between wanting Riley and knowing he can’t have him. So they are at odds right away and I love how Riley can’t quite stop himself from provoking Khalon when the king is arrogant or grouchy. As they get to know each other, this banter fades a little, which is kind of disappointing as I loved the dynamic between them. But even so, I really enjoyed these guys together. I wish that the romantic, sexy times had come a little earlier. There is a lot of middle where they are waiting around to travel and though they are getting to know one another, the romantic relationship doesn’t move very fast. But I found them a likable pair and I think Cochet does a nice job pulling things together for them in the end.
The other thing I loved about the story is the wonderful world building. Cochet manages to build a really well developed paranormal world in a fairly short story (even shorter in the original). It feels surprisingly fleshed out and detailed for the length and the land of the Soldati feels fresh and interesting. The set up here is perfect for future stories, and I am so excited to see the couple on tap for book 2 as I loved them together.
So I am really excited about this series and thrilled that Cochet has taken the original short and is building upon it here. I honestly don’t remember enough detail to be able to say how much overlap there is between this version and the short story, though I think if you read that one, you would have enough foundation to move on in the series to future books. But I loved the original and was pleased to get a chance to follow up with a more expanded story about Khalon and Riley. So a great book and I am looking forward to more.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.