the king's delight coverRating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Felix Hobson has spent the last several years working hard, training to become the best horseman he can be. Now that his training is complete, Felix is prepared to assume the role of a groom. And with his father as captain of the guard for the royal family of Lilleforth and an acquaintance in the king’s inner circle, Felix finds himself appointed nothing less than the royal groom. Not that Felix cares about the pomp of court. No, he’s just thrilled to work with the best horses in the land. He’s not shy about his casual disdain for royalty. After all, Felix assumes all nobility are just as stuck up and snotty as the one courtier he met as a teenager. That includes the king. But for the sake of tending to the magnificent mare Blackbird, Felix will put up with just about anything. Especially wayward characters he catches attempting to steal the king’s own horse.

Except it turns out it wasn’t a ne’er do well sneaking into the stables, but rather the king himself, disguised so as to give his advisor and mentor the slip. King Leopold prides himself on being a fair and level-headed leader. But it’s trying at times. Especially when Chancellor Mattias continually reminds Leopold of the endless tedium of correspondence and other duties that invariably take precedence over a daily ride on Blackbird. The surprise encounter with his new groom first sends jolts of desire through Leopold. Before Felix realizes who he’s dealing with, Leopold happily flirts with the idea of indulging in a little bit of a slap and tickle with the groom. The desire and attraction is surely there and their tastes when it comes to certain bedroom games are even in sync. It doesn’t take much to convince Felix to engage with the king on his terms. After all, they’re both going to get exactly what they want: some no-strings attached fun between the sheets. Too bad both men don’t realize they’re falling for each other until it’s too late, especially as it’s all too clear that while the king may be sovereign of the land, he may not have the freedom to romance a commoner—even if Felix is the man of his dreams.

The King’s Delight is a quick, fun read that focuses on the relationship between Felix and Leo. It includes fun tropes like mistaken identity and unrequited love. There was an interesting mix of more contemporary social sensibilities (the king can and does take male lovers) and nebulously historical norms (pretty uncritical acceptance of hierarchy). I thought the juxtaposition worked well most of the time thanks to Honey’s consistent writing and character portrayals.

The story deals with two main questions: how will a relationship between the king and the groom work out and what about the childless king’s line of succession. From the start, Felix and Leo recognize and act upon their mutual attraction. The feelings only grow when they realize Felix enjoys getting a good spanking as much as Leo enjoys giving one. On page, most of their connection comes across during intimate scenes and the activity directly there after. I thought this helped keep things firmly rooted in lighter territory. But when Felix and Leo had to part (they do have jobs, after all), all I really had a sense of was how compatible they were in the sheets. There are frequent mentions of how well they connect in ways that don’t involve sex, but those didn’t seem to get the same level of on-page exploration. Still, there was enough of an inner monologue with both Leo and Felix going on to know that they were having deeper, more intense feelings for each other beyond sexual gratification.

The question about succession preoccupies Felix’s time away from the king greatly. In the story, this is well constructed through a state visit from a beautiful princess in a neighboring kingdom. Plus, the princess proves herself to be intelligent and savvy in state dealings. Her arrival puts Felix’s fears of being pushed out of the king’s bed on display. And from this, the story derives a bit of angst as Felix tries to convince himself he always knew he and Leo were just having a bit of fun and there’s no reason for him to be jealous. Felix cannot deny how well Leo and the princess get along when they go out together on a ride, and that marrying the princess would immediately solve the question of Leo’s heir. At the same time, one member of princess retinue also ends up playing a major hand in the climax of the book…and that, too, centers around the idea that the princess and Leo should marry.

My own small criticism was with the big climax. One of the MCs is clearly in a potentially dangerous situation, but it takes about five minutes of work for the whole situation to resolve itself. It felt more rushed and less polished than the rest of the story. The lead up to the big scene was exciting and had me hoping for a dramatic ending. Ultimately, though,

Spoiler title
the captured MC finds a way to basically rescue themself and take their attacker temporarily out of commission,
thus rendering any acts of heroism from other good guys useless.

On the whole, I thought this was a well-crafted exploration of two men from different classes falling in love while absolutely not meaning to. There’s just enough world building to make the semi-historical (riding horses, copper bathtubs, etc) aspects feel like a part of the characters’ world. If you like spicy romances with a literal bit of slap and tickle (pun intended), then there’s lots of Leo and Felix action and plenty of banter. And, of course, a big happily ever after that involves a fun red herring with a minor (but well documented) supporting character. If you want to spend an afternoon or two on a pleasure read, I think The King’s Delight will fit the bill nicely.

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