Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Hylas has come to the island of Tykanos at the behest of its governor to build an aqueduct. With its wildly popular tea houses, the island has become a must visit destination for entertainment, pleasure, and edification. But the increased population has strained Tykanos’ already poor water supply and only an aqueduct can help the island achieve its full potential. But red tape, political machinations, and governmental incompetence mean Hylas’ job is far from straightforward and he quickly finds himself involved in a bureaucratic nightmare.

Still, his frustrations are eased somewhat by his new neighbor, Zo. Having taken rooms at the fading and often forgotten House of the Red Balconies, Hylas and Zo, one of the House’s entertainers, soon become friends. But while friendship with Zo is easy, Hylas is all too aware that Zo is seeking a long-term patron, someone who can protect and care for him financially. Hylas is determined to find Zo the perfect patron, even if means ignoring the fact their friendship has evolved into something far deeper.

I always enjoy AJ Demas’ quasi-historical novels and The House of the Red Balconies is no exception. Though not truly historical, the book has an ancient Greek and Roman flavor and, as a result, the world building is engaging, yet familiar and comfortable. But its the characters in The House of the Red Balconies that really shine, especially Hylas and Zo.

Their relationship is slow burning: a quiet and soft friendship that evolves into something more over time. It’s sweet and gentle and I loved everything about how it developed. Both men have their secrets and their road together is not always an easy one, but there is an acceptance between them that is absolute and powerful. Neither are interested in trying to change or control the other and that sense of equality is really what makes them work so well as a couple.

The ending to The House of the Red Balconies did feel a bit rushed. The last quarter of the book tended to leap frog towards its conclusion, rather than maintain its steady, relaxed pace and that was a tad disappointing. I wanted Zo and Hylas to have more time easing into their relationship, but on the whole, this was a minor issue and not one that detracted from the overall story.

Aside from the small pacing issue, The House of the Red Balconies was thoroughly enjoyable. I appreciated the world building and the unique historical seasoning offered throughout the book. But it was the characters who stole the show and I really adored the relationship between Zo and Hylas. They had a sweet, slow-burning romance that worked on every level for me. I think fans of historical romances and captivating storylines will really appreciate this one.