Having taken up the mantle of Prince of Tournai a year ago after a fatal accident killed his parents, Prince Philip has slowly been losing himself under the weight of responsibility. Though groomed from birth for the position, he hadn’t expected to lead so soon and is beginning to feel smothered under the pressure of grief, politics, and his uncle’s “helpful” counsel on any and everything, particularly Philip’s need to make a politically useful marriage and produce an heir posthaste. Having to meet with the country’s foremost glassmaker, an aggravatingly pompous and ingratiating toady, doesn’t help; having aforementioned toady shamelessly offer up his son’s ass virginity on a platter for a deadline extension pushes Philip from weariness to rage within seconds. Seeing Amory’s horror-stricken face causes him to swallow his impulse to send the man packing for good and follow up on his gut instincts about the gorgeous and seemingly sincere and sweet young man.
While almost completely overcome by horror and embarrassment at his father’s disgusting bartering of his body, Amory is still aware of his unexpected attraction to the handsome young prince. When Philip offers him the chance to stay at the palace as a friend and potential lover, Amory senses the possibility of something special with the kind, compassionate, and “endearingly hopeful” ruler; getting out of his father’s house and being given the chance to find his own path is a bonus. Between engaging conversation and pleasurable nights spend cuddling and kissing, the pair find themselves completely enamored of one another and the possibility of something more quickly becomes forever. Displeasure at the prince for taking a male lover and neglecting his duty to secure an advantageous wife becomes deadly rage and rejection when Philip weds Amory. Even the prospect of potential future heirs does not remove the target from Amory’s back, and with few allies and even fewer trusted compatriots, Philip and Amory’s HEA may come at too great a cost to last.
I chose The Prince’s Consort for the TBR Pile Week of Reading Challenge Month because it has been on my Goodreads wishlist since 2016, and as it’s recently found a new home at Ninestar Press, it seemed like a perfect time to read it. Overall, I enjoyed The Prince’s Consort. Amory and Philip are extremely likeable—both caring, patient, and giving. Their courtship is so sweet and, at times, almost overly courteous that they made me smile because they reminded me of Tosh and Mac, the super polite British gophers from the WB cartoons. And while their relationship is insta-lovey, as feelings of love are expressed within a few weeks and marriage within a few months, it’s the kind that works for me as they spend almost 40% of the story spending most of every day getting to know one another and making out before having sex.
I was also intrigued by how Aquilante incorporated the shifter aspect into her world. There are no shifters in the typical paranormal sense; they are not a separate species or being. The ability to shift is simply a rare magical Talent—more akin to a specialized transfiguration spell. Tournai citizens (at least the upper classes/nobility) are tested for magicaTalent, which can be present to varying degrees. Thus, Shifting Talent is no different than Healing Talent. This may or may not work for some readers, as it exemplifies the “lite fantasy” world building inherent to the story. Consort picks many elements to build a sense of the fantastical (magic! shifters! sorcerers!) and weaves them into the environment of castles, carriages, and swords found in many fantasies to transport the reader there…but only just enough so that you invest into the fantasy romance and, later, the magical pregnancy. So, if the Cinderella/Pretty Woman insta-love vibes or the literally magic-induced mpreg don’t engage you, the minimal world building may leave you even more unfulfilled.
Additionally, the pacing may be hit or miss for some readers as the book is frothy, adorable goo with some hiccups when the disapproval (and in some cases) abandonment by family and peers casts a pall on Amory and Philip’s happiness. Then comes the first attack on Amory, which kicks off the cyclic “action” of the story, which is a series of ever-increasing close calls followed by weeks or months of inactivity/anxiety intermingled with landmarks of their relationship progression—from Amory’s discovery of a magical way to pregnancy, to the wedding, and then the decision to become parents. With 2/3 of the book absent of this major conflict, it makes the overall pacing a bit uneven. However, I appreciated Aquilante’s depiction of Amory’s struggle with being pregnant. Although the changes to a pregnant body are natural, they can be disquieting, and Amory’s feelings of body horror (which aren’t all tied to his gender) are explorable.As for the birth, again, some people will think it a superficial, eye-rolling cop-out and others will think, well, this is a magical fairytale; why shouldn’t fairy dust be applied to delivery as well?
The Prince’s Consort is a good read that I am happy I unearthed from the depths of my TBR pile. It happened to hit my sweet spot just right of things I tend to find problematic or off-putting when done poorly—insta-love and lite fantasy. Additionally, as Amory and Philip are charming leads and most of the secondary characters (both ally and opposition) are well-drawn enough to add depth and movement to the story, with some inspiring curiosity about the rest of the series (like Elodie, Philip’s excitable and over-indulged sister who I want to see stop throwing tantrums and grow up in the future), I think those looking for a lovey, feel-good fairytale will like this one.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two great audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio (you can see the details and full event 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 TBR Pile Week here.