Two days before his wedding, Duke Merrick Blackburn’s life was perfect. The day before his wedding, everything came crashing down as his fiancé left him for a man of greater wealth and rank. While Merrick does have a royal title, Duke of Camprodon, he is only a distant member of the royal family, and though he is given invitations to royal events and owns a historic vineyard, he also has no money. So Cassian said farewell and wandered off with his new fling, leaving Merrick heartbroken. The worst part is — other than the near crippling debt and the fact that most of his workers and staff abandoned him — Merrick, the “Rainmaker,” can no longer call the rain. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that his neighbor is accusing him of deliberately causing a drought.
In an effort to save his winery and vineyard, Merrick begins looking for a steward. He needs someone who can take care of the multitude of details Merrick can’t seem to make sense of, who can help him put logic and order into the chaos of his life, and hopefully help him get everything back on track. Enter Ryan McGrail, who takes one look at the lovely lost noble and the reduced staff, and sees the potential in both.
This is the sixth book in the Royal Powers universe and works as a stand alone. While all of the books take place in the same world — one where the nobility of two small kingdoms have super powers and romantic troubles — the stories are all written by different authors and involve various pairings. This series is also self published, which made it a perfect pick for this week’s Self Published Book Week challenge, since I appreciate the shared world building the authors show in these stories.
Merrick is an easy going, laid back sort of man who lets life dictate where it will take him. He enjoys sex, loves love, and sees the best in people. He’s willing to work, if only someone would kindly tell him what work he ought to be doing. He has pride, and those moments where he could lean upon his royal kin and connections for help are airily brushed aside. He won’t take charity. But all that pride is gone when it comes to eating with the staff and working side by side. He wants to be thought of as a good person, wants to think of himself as a good person, even as he does his best not to think about it much at all.
Ryan is more of an enigma. He’s solid, rational, and calm. Where Merrick is all wind and rainbows, Ryan is the solid earth beneath his feet. Like Merrick, he has his standards, and won’t tolerate people taking advantage of or bullying others, which is why, when he realizes how soft hearted and good Merrick is, he can’t help but allow himself to fall for him more than he already had. The physical attraction between the two of them was instant; the kiss just took a little longer.
As with the other book in this series, the writing is almost instantly engaging. However, the pacing, the plot, and the author’s approach to the characters left me struggling with this book. Not because it’s terrible; it just let me feeling so … well, uninvited. Several times in the story, Merrick and Ryan will be having a conversation, but rather than actually read the conversation — rather than see what they say to each other, how they speak, what emotions might be present in a conversation, how they interact as a couple — we’re told that the conversation happened. This, particularly with the first great moment when Merrick unloaded his pain and confusion onto Ryan, left me miffed and bored. If the conversation wasn’t important enough to let me read, then why mention it?
From there, Merrick and Ryan were constantly in each other’s company and while there was, at first, an emphasis on the physical appreciation they had for one another (which makes perfect sense), many of the emotional conversations were left off the page. In exposition, we were told what the two characters talked about, but were weren’t actually to be able to see it to get a feel for their interaction.
Plot threads were left dangling, such as Merrick pondering how the paparazzi could get pictures of him on his balcony, only to have him standing, naked, with Ryan on that same balcony a few days later, or Ryan being approached by a tabloid to give dirt on Merrick … but nothing ever came of it. The confrontation with the evil ex was tepid and felt heavily staged. All in all, I felt like I was kept at arm’s length throughout the story, with so much happening where I wasn’t able to see it. I’m sorry to say that this book just didn’t work for me.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of ten HUGE prize bundles donated by some fabulous self published authors (you can see the full prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Self Published Book Week here.