Rating: 3.25 stars
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Once upon a time, there was a young man named Jason, raised on tales of myths and legends, who longed for a Prince Charming to whisk him away from his small, small-minded town. Unfortunately, the only prince Jason ever found was a high school love who lived deeply in the closet until he left home to pursue his own dreams of playing college football, only to return home bitter, brooding, and betrothed to his high school girlfriend. Now Jason lives above his second favorite dream, a bookstore of his own. However, his bookstore sells more quiche and coffee than classics. He’s also managed to write the odd story or two, tales of love and adventure, even if he hasn’t been able to live them.
Jason’s quiet life of settling is soon to be swung upside down as the new neighbor moves in. Tall, dark, and handsome beyond belief, it’s as if he was made just for Jason! With an exotic accent and a shared love for the stories of Zeus and Ganymede, the two soon strike up a friendship, followed by a very sweet flirtation. But Adam is keeping something from Jason. He won’t go beyond a kiss goodnight, no matter how much both of them want more. Is it possible he’s married? Is he recovering from a love affair gone foul? Is he a priest?
Adam, better known to his subjects, his brother, and his parents — the king and queen of Monterosia — as Amadeo Montefalcone, has escaped to America in order to avoid the burdens placed upon him as prince and heir. He doesn’t want to be king and he doesn’t want to settle for a loveless marriage. He wants to find his own path in life and his own love; he wants to find a man he can give his heart to, wholly and utterly. Only his brother Cristiano knows his secret, and it’s Cristiano who has set up this false identity for Adam and helped smuggle him to America.
Adam would like nothing more than to whisk Jason off his feet and show him what a proper courtship ought to be, but until he can be honest with the man of his dreams, he restrains himself to mostly chaste embraces and gentle kisses. One day he’ll have to tell Jason the truth about who he is, he just doesn’t know how. Soon, however, the choice will be taken out of his hands as his country grows frantic in their need to know where their vanished prince has gone!
Jason reads books, which makes his sister call him a nerd. He’s not overly into fantasy or science fiction, his tastes are pretty much hand in hand with current culture, and he’s read The Color Purple as well as Mark Twain. I suppose this makes anyone who reads, in sister Daphne’s mind, a nerd. Jason is also sweet, honest, open, and beautiful, as anyone ought to be who is the destined true love of a prince.
Adam, likewise, is a perfect example of his trope. Tall, dark, handsome, and exotic. His kingdom is small, right next door to Italy, and has yellow buildings. Despite his severely two-dimensional beginnings, Adam has a small glimmer of a personality beneath his princely trappings. He’s gracious, horny, and a bit old-fashioned. He refuses to sleep with Jason until Jason knows the truth, even though he was willing to consider the handyman, Timothy, for a brief moment with no concern, because that would have been a fling and nothing more. Adam feels severe guilt for his past relations with other men because they were illicit, hidden things, fumbles in dark alleys or secretive visits to Amsterdam where he still favored the anonymity of dirty, hidden away places.
Adam has some severe issues about his sexuality and how he both needs and wants to express it. Fortunately for him, Jason — who has, himself, had a difficult time as his first lover kept Jason as a dirty little secret — has no shame about being gay or about being with another man. Jason has a good head on his shoulders as far as relationships go, knowing when to stand up for himself and that he deserves to be happy. With Jason by his side, I’m certain Adam can get past the ultra conservative, self-hating part of his upbringing.
This book is a fairy tale carefully covered in a contemporary coat. There is little reality to this cute little tale, for all that it takes place in a small town and involves not one, but two scenes in a Walmart. It’s also very lopsided, with much of the book taking place during the few days of Adam and Jason’s first meeting, first flirting, first kissing, and burgeoning relationship… and then it’s off to Adam’s kingdom, which we get to see in the last five or so pages of the book, for a climactic battle between good and evil. The ‘twist’ came so far out of left field I don’t think it was even in the same neighborhood, let alone the same state. It made zero sense, had nothing to do with anything, and was then over with no explanation. Giving Monterosia a strange and archaic contest in which Adam has to prove himself is fine, but there is absolutely no warning and no build up. The kingdom itself is little more than a painted backdrop so Adam can declare his love for Jason, but there’s no time spent there to make the kingdom, its culture, or its people — let alone Adam’s mother, father, and brother — either interesting or important. While I liked Jason and Adam for all their slightly cliched beginnings, the story they were put in didn’t fully work for me.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Elizabeth.