This is not great science fiction and certainly the politics in here is laughable. But it is a sweet and charming romance that likely will keep you fully invested until the end. There is plenty of action and adventure but the focus never really swerves from the romance, which I think many readers will appreciate. The writing is easy to follow and it has a satisfying ending.
Story: Prince Kiam of Iskat and Count Jainen of Thea are forced into a quick political marriage after the death of Jainen’s previous husband (Kiam’s cousin). Iskat rules a small system of planets but it is part of a larger Collective that spans the galaxy. A renewed peace treaty with the Collective will ensure that their small empire remains protected. But that peace treaty is in jeopardy due to unrest at Thea that Jainen cannot control. If Jainen and Kiam cannot provide proof of unity among Thea and Iskat , the treaty is off and Iskat’s empire will be fair game to larger empires.
The usual romance tropes are here: misunderstandings, lack of communication, secret attraction. The author does a good job of not letting these cliches become too annoying; it can be so frustrating to the reader to know that all either main character has to do is just communicate. Admittedly, it did wear on me at times.
Both Kiam and Jainen have their own personal demons to fight: Kiam is considered the wastrel royalty and Jainen feels he has failed his one duty to help his planet. Kiam is freewheeling and outgoing, Jainen is compressed and high strung. Kiam feels he has to keep his distance from Jainen who must be grieving the death of his husband and Jainen takes Kiam’s reticence and distance as rejection and failure.
There are several side characters but the story closely follows the POVs of Jainen and Kiam. Both do feel uniquely crafted and separate from each other. Neither feel too much like an overidealized hero, though neither is very deep. Author Maxwell gives them enough foibles to give them enough nuance to be interesting. Of course, both are deeply good people trying their best to do right.
The plot is kind of silly and honestly not very realistic. But I think those looking for a nice escapist read won’t mind too much and appreciate that at least the author put in an overarching story with enough mystery and adventure to make for a fun read.
I listened to the Audible version and had mixed feelings on the narration. Kiam sounded like goofy cliche English nobility while Jainen sounded like a 45 year old man with a middle Eastern accent. It was very odd. But this was the perfect book to listen to on Audible – you won’t get lost if distracted and it is very easy to follow.