The rulers of Tanzhir and Mirea decided before their children were born that they would be betrothed, thus shoring up a trade agreement between the neighboring countries. The couples were quite surprised when the Mirean queen gave birth not to a girl as expected, but to a boy. However, the leaders decided to keep the betrothal intact, thus setting their sons Yuri and Angelo up for a future marriage by the time they turn thirty.
As a result of their betrothal and their parents’ close relationship, Angelo and Yuri grow up together, attending the same schools and spending time in each other’s homes. Unfortunately, the pair have never gotten along growing up and find themselves constantly at odds, despite being tied together for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t help that Yuri is gay and has fallen for Angelo, while Angelo is most decidedly straight. But as much as Yuri and Angelo drive each other crazy over the years, there is a bond between them that can’t be broken. The men belong to one another, and they look out for each other, even as they often can’t stand each other.
As they get older, Yuri and Angelo find themselves growing closer, and not just looking out for each other, but wanting to be together as well. When Yuri finds himself in a vulnerable situation, Angelo is the first person he thinks to call. While everyone has always assumed the men will have a marriage in name only, they are now realizing they may have feelings for each other. Angelo is still not sure he fully understands his feelings for Yuri, which have turned both romantic and sexual, despite the fact that he is otherwise not into men. And Yuri worries that Angelo will never be fully satisfied in a relationship with a man. But they also know that they want each other, are coming to love each other, and can’t imagine being apart.
Oh, I really loved this story and was completely captivated by Yuri and Angelo’s journey. Lynn Van Dorn has really crafted something so engaging here, I was caught up from the first pages. We follow these men over time, jumping into the story at various points in their lives until they are adults, and seeing how their relationship evolves. This is almost completely a character-driven story, and what makes it work so well is that Van Dorn made me completely believe in the bond between Angelo and Yuri. Despite their differences, despite the fact that Angelo is not interested in men, despite often driving each other crazy, these two are so intrinsically connected that they just belong to one another. From the time they were born, Yuri and Angelo knew they were meant for each other, regardless of what either may want. It put them at odds, but also made them a pair. Their early relationship reminded me a lot of siblings who fight and bicker among themselves, but are fiercely protective of each other when someone outside threatens one of them. We see that here so clearly as Yuri and Angelo will always put each other first, always reach for one another despite themselves, because they just belong to each other. I loved watching the story progress as we see them move from adversaries and slowly transform into reluctant friends, then lovers, then men who can’t imagine living without one another. It is so swoony and romantic and I found myself completely drawn into their story.
The real focus here is on the evolving relationship between Yuri and Angelo, but there are some external factors that come into play as well, including an abusive ex of Yuri’s who causes trouble, and some difficulty with their families. The men also have to work through what it means that Angelo is finding himself falling for Yuri. I appreciated that Angelo is introspective about his attraction to Yuri, taking time to really think about whether he is drawn to men, to consider his feelings, etc. But at the same time, there is no panic here. Angelo realizes he cares about Yuri, he is attracted to Yuri, and he wants to be with Yuri, and he doesn’t much care what it means beyond that.
Alongside their developing relationship, and even before things get serious, the guys get into spanking. It starts out as Angelo being irritated with Yuri and wanting to give him some “disclipline” (something both men are eager to explore). As they continue the spanking play, they realize how much Yuri needs that release, how much he comes to rely on Angelo in this way to help him break his tension. And Angelo finds he loves being that person for Yuri, the one who can help him and take care of him. So this story is pretty mild on the kink scale, but does have some spanking elements.
So, I really just loved this one so much. I found it romantic and sexy and totally engaging. I was very intrigued by the way Van Dorn presents the bond between the men, that sense of being each other’s “other half,” often despite themselves. Yuri and Angelo were forced together before they were even born, but they come to find that they truly want each other for themselves. It all just worked for me and I totally enjoyed this story and highly recommend it.