Velasin vin Aaro has been leading a charmed life of relative leisure and doing so far away from the prying eyes of his father. He’s a third son and little is expected of him, but when his father summons him, a bitter betrayal has Velasin happy enough to head home. At least, until he’s told he’s to marry a noble from recently allied Tithena. It’s not what he wants, but Velasin’s an obedient son and intends to do as he’s bid. When a violent confrontation leaves Velasin broken and alone, his life’s sudden upheaval offers a chance of escape and maybe something more.
Caethari Aeduria didn’t expect to marry an uptight Ralian, but he always knew he was bound to a political match. He hopes, if nothing else, to be friends with his husband. But when Velasin is nearly killed in front of him, Caethari and Velasin scramble to find a would-be murderer, while juggling court politics and intrigue and violence. And all of that as they try to figure out if they can learn to love one another. It’s not exactly a normal recipe for romance, but for Velasin and Caethari, it might be the start of something amazing.
A novel rich in world building and character development, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance sets the stage for romance under improbable circumstances. There are some mild pacing issues and occasionally the book staggers under the weight of its own plot, but on the whole, A Strange And Stubborn Endurance was a fantastic read. As a note, this book does contain an on page sexual assault. I wouldn’t call it particularly graphic, but it could be triggering for some.
The two main protagonists and a strong secondary cast are the centerpieces of this book. Velasin and Caethari are thrown together under the auspices of a political marriage, but assassination attempts and complex court politics make their honeymoon anything but ordinary. Velasin is the more developed character of the two and the emotional arc he experiences following his sexual assault is well written. He swings from despondent to reckless to shy and everything in between, all of which adds another challenging layer to his relationship with Caethari. But this allows for a more realistic exploration of Velasin’s journey as a survivor.
There are times the ensnarled nature of the politics at play in A Strange and Stubborn Endurance tend to drag the plot a tad. It’s nothing that lasts overly long, but there are moments when the action lags and gets bogged down in political and world building details. It isn’t exactly info dumping, but excessive facts occasionally slow things down. It was a mild irritation at best and balanced out by the overall story and by the excellent characters. And given the extent of the world building, it felt like a small price to pay for such a well rendered and imagined piece of fiction.
A Strange and Stubborn Endurance was an excellent read, filled with engaging characters and enough mystery and action to satisfy most readers. There were some pacing problems from time to time, but nothing that dramatically detracted from my enjoyment. This is the kind of book you take your time with and appreciate the nuance and detail it offers. Consider it highly recommended.