Happily ever afters don’t happen on their own. They usually need a little help, just around the edges, to make certain there’s enough glitter and music and magic in the air. Andy is no fairy godmother, but he and the rest of the half-human staff of Enchanted Occasions are going to do their best to make certain Prince Rey of the faerie kingdom finds his perfect partner — be it elf, ifrit, or undine — and has the wedding of the year! Now, if only things would stop going so wrong.
To start with, one guest poisoned the others. Now there’s an entire set of rooms with potential consorts who are bedridden, when they’re not running to the bathrooms, and no one to have dinner with the prince. With a burst of inspiration — or insanity — Brooke, Andy’s assistant, volunteers him to pose as the honorable Anders Skuldsson. After all, someone has to entertain the prince, and posing as a prospective partner isn’t technically against the rules. So long as Andy keeps a calm head, doesn’t use his powers to make something happen, or do something silly like fall in love with the handsome, kind, and charming prince of faerie, everything should be fine.
Con is Prince Rey’s half brother who lets himself be guilted into taking Rey’s place during this ridiculous “courtship.” All Con has to do is meet with the candidates, have a few dinners, a few dates, and wait for Rey to show up and pick one of them to wed. Only Rey hasn’t shown up. Doesn’t intend to show up, really, since none of this has anything to do with romance and everything to do with politics. Rey is hiding in the human world and offers only the vaguest of promises to get back before it gets too late. Certainly he’ll be back before the wedding. He promises!
Posing as his half-brother is something Con has done most of his life. He knows what to say and how to say it. What he doesn’t know is what he’s going to do with Ser Anders. The man makes him laugh. The two of them have an instant and comfortable rapport, and Con wants nothing more than to spend every night the way he spent this one: Talking to Andy, having supper with Andy, being with Andy. But will Andy want to be with Con once he realizes the prince he’s being charmed by isn’t a prince at all, but a pauper in disguise?
This was a charming and cheerful fairy tale with demons and dragons, angry goblins, flower faeries, arrogant elves, and a bewildering variety of other odd creatures. There’s more whimsy than world building in this book with many of the creatures being more set dressing than actual people, but I didn’t mind it. This is a fluffy romance between a prince and a party planner and I enjoyed it for what it was. However, there was one sour note that kept this from being a better story, but this is — again — a fairy tale that’s more frosting than cake.
The staff of EO are all half human, called half-and-halfs or ‘aitchers’ if you’re inclined to be insulting, and the boost in reputation they would gain by pleasing the faerie queen would give them the chance to do more magical occasions rather than the human weddings, birthdays, and shindigs that have been paying their bills. It also means that if they screw up, they might never have the chance at anything but human events. EO exists in a realm between the human world and the non-human realms around it, which allow it to posses both magical and mundane conveniences, like wi-fi, magic gardens, and indoor plumbing.
Andy is the half-human son of a Norn, or “fate” from Norse mythology. He’s not an actual Fate, himself; he just has a bit of their magic that caused him to be shunned from his mother’s people because Andy can alter a person’s fate if he tries, though how it happens or how much power this gives him is never dealt with. He’s also male, the only male Norn. Andy is confident, competent, and never seems at a loss in any situation. As the hero of this story, his default personality is ‘good’ and he never really gets past that. Considering that this is a fairy tale, however, he’s sort of obligated to stick to his trope.
On the other side of the story, Con is a man stuck forever in the middle. His father cheated on the faerie queen to be with his mother and Gloriana never forgave either of them. His father was turned into a Wyvern and is used as a pet, his mother locked away in a tower no one can enter, and Con is allowed to exist, with no favor or friend save his brother, Rey, and Talus, the ancient knight. He’s often posed as Rey when his brother wanted to go out and have fun, leaving Con to do the boring things like sit on council, listen to lectures, or get lessons in how to be a prince. He’s dutiful and tired of being a doormat. And surely this will be the last time he’s roped into doing Rey’s work for him.
When Con realizes he’s actually falling for Andy, he’s torn. Does he chase him away to make certain Rey can’t come and steal him, risking losing Andy, or does he keep courting him in the hopes that he can reveal himself and trust that Andy will be in love enough with him to forgive him? When Andy finally lets Con know that he’s not a candidate, but one of the staff, Rey has a moment to tell the truth
… and doesn’t. He knowingly, deliberately keeps up the flirtation and the romance, lying to Andy about who he is.
This is where my one nit-pick comes in. Con sleeps with Andy before telling him who he is. Andy thinks he’s giving his virginity and his heart to one person, only to have it actually be someone else. I get the mistaken identity trope; there are times I’m a fan of it. But I think this scene was poorly done and kind of slimy. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did change how I felt about Con.
The end reveal when everyone shows up and everything starts to go wrong was a wonderful comedy of errors, but the tone was a little off. Instead of matching the slightly light and airy tone of the first third of the book, the ending was more sedate and matter-of-fact. While this does represent Con’s growth from being a young man at the whims of others to a mature adult taking charge of his life and his own destiny, it wasn’t the perfect ending. It was a bit perfunctory with A, B, and C being struck off a list without taking the time to really develop them. I also do wish a bit more had been done with the world and the variety of characters, as well as the prejudices the half-humans endured, along with their powers.
The writing was good and the plotting and pacing were clean and tight. This was a fun book that was, again, mostly sparkle and fluff with very little depth for any of the characters beyond Con and his personal growth. I enjoyed and I do recommend it as a light, fun summer read.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.