Jaime Buchanan was away at school training to become a healer when his father died. Jaime was kidnapped and sold into slavery to pay his father’s debts, spending months abused and suffering until he was finally rescued. Now he works in the castle kitchens in the Kingdom of Pyderi, happy to be safe and treated well.
One day Jaime is tasked with bringing the prince his breakfast, and there he meets Maxim, the king’s youngest son. Jaime is terrified, but also drawn to Maxim, who it turns out is interested in Jaime in return. When palace leaders learn that Jaime is a healer, he is moved from the kitchens and brought to train with the other palace healers.
Suddenly Jaime finds that his life has totally changed. He is getting to use his healing gift once again, and soon will complete his training. Maxim is kind and loving and dotes on Jaime. He soon brings Jaime into his life, introducing him to the royal family, taking him to events, and showing him the wonders of the castle. Before Jaime realizes it, he is looking at a bright future with a career that is his calling and the man he loves at his side.
The Solstice Prince is the first book in the new Realms of Love series by S.J. Himes and it introduces a lovely couple in Jaime and Maxim. They are just both such nice, good people, you can’t help but root for them. Himes has clearly taken care setting up this series and building not just the palace and the capital city, but giving us a bigger picture of some of the surrounding countries and their politics, including Jaime’s native land. And this is just a sweet, easy story of two men falling in love.
The issue I had here is that things just felt a little too simple for a novel-length book. There just really isn’t any conflict here. Maxim sees Jaime briefly when Jaime delivers his food, and then apparently decides to court him because suddenly he is visiting Jaime, taking him on tours of the castle, etc. And then they are just together. We get no real relationship development here, no sense of what is drawing these men together other than the fact that both of them are incredibly lovely and kind people. They are together almost from the start of the book and there is never any relationship conflict they face, or even any chance to see them really getting to know one another. We are also all in Jaime’s head, and so I really never felt like I knew Maxim beyond his basic biography, as we don’t really see them getting to know one another themselves.
Everyone they meet is also lovely and kind. The royal family accepts Jaime easily and he is integrated into their lives early on in the story. All the fellow healers are wonderful as well and easily accept Jaime into their ranks. I kept waiting for the conflict, or the bad guy, or even someone to be plain old mean or jealous and it never happens.
Now there are some issues these guys face. Jaime is recovering from his enslavement and we are told he still bears some physical and emotional scars. But it all takes place prior to the book, and though we are told he isn’t over it emotionally, we never really see the effects beyond being told. The king is also in ill health and we know he is dying. So there is some poignancy here as Maxim deals with the potential loss of his father, particularly as Jaime recently lost his father as well. But for some reason, this storyline doesn’t carry a ton of weight, perhaps because the king seems at peace, the transition of power well arranged, and things never reach a crisis point for him here in this story.
I think I just needed more to happen here. Even Jaime’s magical gift of healing isn’t really developed. We are told some healers have the “gift” that allows them to heal with magic and Jaime is one of those healers. While we do see him use it, this isn’t explored in much detail.
So I guess the bottom line in all this is that the story was lovely and sweet and I was happy for these guys to be together. But it was just TOO easy, with not enough conflict to carry a novel-length book and not enough getting to really know these guys or their relationship. That said, it is an enjoyable read and it kept me entertained, as well as peaking my interesting for future stories in the series. It looks like the next book takes us to Jaime’s homeland, which we have learned is much more conservative than Pyderi. So I am really looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.
P.S. I loved that the book contains several illustrations by cover artist Sarah Jo Chreene. It something you don’t often get in ebooks so I though they were a nice addition. I will say, however, that while the cover is lovely from an artist viewpoint, the men read so young here I thought this was a YA story at first. Jaime looks like he could be 12, which kind of threw me off. But the pictures are beautifully done.