Rating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

The King of Hearts, King Rei, and his troublesome fated mate, the Cheshire Cat, were lovers for so many years they can hardly remember where one begins and the other ends. But with the end of the war and the death of the Queen of Hearts, Rei had a choice to make between his heart and the Kingdom of Hearts. And, being a good king, he made the choice he needed to make for the sake of his kingdom. Not that it’s stopped Ches from lounging in his lap and stealing kisses.

As King, Rei owes it to his people to marry, and his seer, Vivalter, has seen him hosting Prince Renner of the Mirror Kingdom. So, with his heart crumbling to dust in his chest, Rei pushes Ches away again and turns his thoughts to his duty. Ches, though, has other plans; but will his mischief and shenanigans hold firm against Prince Renner’s lovely face, winning smile, and pure heart?

This second book in the Wonderland Ever After series picks up where Blanco and Alistair’s story ended. It has taken everything I wanted from the first book and given it to me in spades. There’s world building with backstory and hints for the fall of the Queen of Hearts, the world outside the castle, and other power players, such as the Queen of Diamonds and the King of Spades. We also get hints at Hatter’s past, hints at March’s future, and hints of books to come, and all of it framed around the lovely picture that is Prince Renner.

Renner is the sixth son and twelfth child of distant, austere parents who see him as useful only in who he will marry and what alliances he will bring. Even with the weight of their indifference on his shoulders, Prince Renner has never lost his loving heart, though now that he’s had a taste of adventure, of life outside the Mirror Kingdom, he has no intention of going home. But for all that Renner is set up for the next book and given a fair share of attention, it’s Rei and Ches who are the heart (pun intended) of this story.

Rei’s mother was a monster, and his brothers no better. The long war, the civil unrest, the rebellion that toppled the reign of his evil brother … he saw it all first hand. He struggles to be a good and just king, ruling from compassion and kindness, but he finds himself in a precarious position and with so many people at court hating or mistrusting shifters — especially a shifter such as the Cheshire Cat — Rei has done his best to put his heart and his lover aside. But he wants Cheshire back, wants to be held in his arms, comforted when he’s unsure, and kissed when he’s lonely; cat, man, or in between, Rei also wants his friend back.

Cheshire is an ancient and powerful being, full of mischief and playfulness. He knows Rei is his fated mate, which means they’re going to be together one way or another (his brother the seer has promised), but it’s hard to figure out why he has to wait to claim Rei, why he can’t have what he wants, who he wants, now. Prince Renner complicates things. What if Rei decides to marry? What if he falls in lust, or love? All Ches has going for him is his own certainty in his brother and his own heart.

This book is stronger than the first in terms of character, plotting, and writing, and it read surprisingly easily. There’s a fair bit of heat, but mostly it’s a wonderful take on the world of Wonderland, treating it like it is a world as real as our own, albeit with different rules. If you’re a fan of fated mates and happily ever afters, or even just a fan of Wonderland, this book might be for you. I’m certainly having fun following these characters, and look forward to the next book in the series!

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