There is a prophecy to save a dying people, a proud queen who will not be questioned, and three sons — Hans, Christian, and Andrew — who will fall in love whether they like it or not. This collection contains three previously published stories about three princes, one destined to marry a prince of the sea, one to marry a prince of the air, and one to marry a prince of the land. But nothing is simple, especially when their mother and her prophecies are involved.
Prince of Seas is the first story about Prince Hans, who has fallen in love with his brother Christian’s fiance. Since Christian would rather not marry the sea demon at all, Hans has a wonderful idea. He will disguise himself as his brother and take his place! He will be the one to marry Prince Felimid. Unfortunately, Prince Felimid is in love with the golden haired servant boy who swam with him, not the chestnut haired man he’s married.
And that’s my problem with the story. Felimid doesn’t seem to care that he knows nothing about the blonde boyand it doesn’t matter that he’s getting to know his husband, that he enjoys sleeping with him — no, he only wants the blonde boy. Hans isn’t innocent in this, either, having drugged his brother, lied to everyone, all with no plan of how to get out of it. He just wanted to get his way, and come hell or high water.
All in all, it’s mildly pleasant with interesting world building, but the romance didn’t stick the landing for me.
Prince of Land and Fire features the middle brother, Christian, who goes by Tian. He’s a bit of a rake, taking lovers where he pleases and doing his best to avoid finding anyone resembling an earth elemental, because he doesn’t want to marry. He’s also into the “games of pleasure and pain,” which not many of his court are entirely interested in. But when Tian meets the Gnome Alastair, he finds someone who matches his every need very well, his desire to cause pain as well as his desire to give pleasure. More than that, Alastair is witty and charming; they connect on so many levels and find a friendship as well as a romance.
Of the three stories this one is my favorite. Tian and Alastair have a strong and vibrant chemistry, and both of them have an open and friendly sort of charm. The challenges put in their way to keep them apart are very fairy tale, and the resolution and the reveal of Alastair’s male and female nature (all elementals are able to move fluidly between genders) felt very sweet.
The Zeprhyr Prince is Andrew’s chance to take center stage. As the eldest, he’s been given the most responsibility. He is the peacekeeper between his mother and … everyone. It’s exhausting, but necessary. And when Andrew’s told he’ll be marrying the Spanish sylph, Prince Nubes, he simply bows his head and agrees. He’s seen his brothers both marry for love, and while it would be nice … Andy’s not going to hold his breath. Which is fortunate, because his husband is an ass.
Nubes is constantly telling Andy he isn’t quite what Nubes wants, that he’s not the partner he envisioned, that sex with him will be unfulfilling, so on and so forth. He does this before, during, and after fucking him, letting Andy know exactly where he stands. Or, in Nubes’ exact words — told to Andy’s mother in front of Andy — “He will serve, but he can never be my true equal.” While he doesn’t act on it, when Andy tells Nubes that a massage won’t lead to intercourse, his thoughts are: “We’ll see about that.” He also goes directly from Andy’s bed, their wedding bed, to the room of an old consort, hoping to sleep with him. Nubes does this on the ship home, too, night after night after night with the consort repeatedly telling him no.
Because this is a romance, Nubes does eventually come to respect and even accept that he can love his husband … but only after Andy finds a way to do the thing Nubes most wants to do. So Nubes doesn’t love him until Andy fulfills Nubes’ requirements without Nubes ever having to do anything to prove himself to Andy.
This story also features Nubes’ consort, Un-Ala. For twenty years he has been Prince Nubes’ companion and lover, knowing that the prince didn’t truly love him. Not the way Un-Ala wanted to be loved. It was friendship. It was fondness. And now he has a chance at something more with a court musician — Lord Andrew’s ex lover — with whom he shares a similar temperament and gentle, quiet nature. The two of them have a chance at happiness that would be made easier if Prince Nubes stopped trying to climb back into his bed, no matter how many times Un-Ala turns him away.
The writing for all three stories is good and the pace and world building are well done, but the romances in two of the books have issues. That’s not to say they aren’t with their own merit, but of all three books, I most recommend Tian’s story and would only suggest reading the other two if you’re hungry for stories that take place in the same world.