Updated: Feb 13
Print copy: 30 September 2022
Audio copy: 1 December 2022
Synopsis: **Note: there are two different synopses for this book. I have put both below for the purposes of referring to them in my review.**
From Amazon: Who knew the jester was dangerous, or that he would try to steal her heart?
After surviving a horrendous injury, twenty-two-year-old wizard Leyna finds her dream of a glorious career in ruins—until she receives an offer to join the Royal Guard.
But Leyna’s dream soon turns into a nightmare when tragic news arrives of an attack on the king and his court during their travels.
As Leyna’s world is turned upside down, she devotes herself to restoring normalcy at Rutherford Castle and uncovering the true culprit of the attacks.
But the castle’s inhabitants hold dangerous secrets, including the mysterious jester, who is both infuriating and charming. As Leyna is drawn deeper into a web of secrets and lies, they become entangled in a treacherous game of trust and betrayal—but can she trust the jester with her heart?
AMAZON BESTSELLER & AWARDED READERS’ FAVORITE 5-STAR SEAL, this medieval fantasy romance blends magic, castles, ballrooms and a steamy slow-burn romance for a seductive, page-turning escape.
Medieval Fantasy Romance Spicy Slow Burn Romance Wizards, Castles & Ballrooms Soft Magic System Political Intrigue Secrets & Deception Grumpy/Sunshine trope This is Book 1 of the Huskarl Duology - Book 2 Releasing late 2023.
From Goodreads: | Medieval Fantasy Romance | Enemies-to-Lovers | Secrets & Deception | Castles & Ballrooms | Magic & Political Intrigue | Slow Burn Romance |
Who knew the jester was dangerous? Or that he would try to steal her heart?
In the king’s absence, a wizard of the Royal Guard called Leyna is left behind to protect the young prince and teach him magic, all the while trying to ignore the court jester’s irksome teasing.
But when tragic news arrives of a monstrous attack on the king and his court, Leyna devotes herself to hunting down the traitors responsible and restoring the kingdom’s peace and way of life.
As she uncovers the secrets of the castle, Leyna soon discovers that not all of its inhabitants are who they pretend to be, including the mysterious court jester.
Despite her attempts to avoid him, the jester always makes her feel like a fool. So when she recevives [sic] his offer of courtship, it’s the last thing she expects.
As Leyna is drawn deeper into a web of secrets and lies, she soon becomes entangled with the jester in a treacherous game of trust and betrayal.
I rarely read reviews before writing my own, simply because I don’t want the opinions of others to seep into mine when composing, but I could not help it for this book because of how shocked I was that the rating was so low compared to how much I loved the book. When I started the book, I read the physical copy for the first chapter or so (I went back and forth between reading and listening), and the synopsis on the back of the book (which is the one on Amazon) establishes a different exception than what the plot delivers. The Goodreads page, however, shows a different synopsis, and I feel a more accurate representation of what to expect from the book. Additionally, the GR synopsis does place the category “slow burn romance” at the end of the tropes list, though, so it does not claim to be the main focus of the story. What’s also interesting, and what I find is most often the case, is that the Amazon reviews are higher than the Goodreads reviews, oddly enough. In any case, if you’re a reader hoping this book is all romance and a teeny bit of plot, you will find (perhaps to your chagrin) that the book is not structured that way. Despite all of this, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, and had a ton of fun reading/listening to it.
While the romance was not the main focus of the book, I found the plot very compelling anyway. Did I figure out who the Jester was right away? Sure. Did I know who the perpetrator of the terrible tragic event in the story was right off the bat? Not really. Did I still want to finish it? You bet. I also listened to book, and the narrator made it very interesting for me. If I had read through some parts, maybe my experience would have been different. As it is, I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen. I enjoy books in medieval-type settings with court intrigue and spies, so this book was right up my alley.
Though the book is classified as adult, I feel Leyna has a bit of naïveté that goes more with a YA-type novel than an adult one. The Goodreads shelves are all over the place for this one, and for some reason adult fantasy is often classified there incorrectly as Young Adult when it is, in fact, adult; but this book has a tiny hint of YA themes in it relating to the loss of innocence for the main character. I feel Leyna’s journey toward finding herself and figuring out what she wants for herself and not what she wants of herself in order to honor/memorialize/please others can happen for people her age as well. Indies can be hard to classify, though, because they are outside of the boxes traditional publishing likes to squeeze stories into, which is why I love them. The content of the book is very mature, though, so I would definitely not place this on a YA shelf.
When there was romance in the book, I felt it was done well. I loved the chemistry between Jester and Leyna. It wasn’t instalove (though there’s nothing wrong with that in a book—different people have different tropish preferences), but it was a reluctant admittance of attraction and a slow falling in love for them. I loved how the two interacted with one another; they bantered back and forth and Pellegrin made the Jester very appealing, in my opinion. The conversation, when Jester wasn’t being Jester, was endearing. I also found it refreshing that there was a plot that Leyna and Jester were a part of and not the whole story revolved around the romance—to me it was an enjoyable, healthy balance.
The narrator, Kathryn Vinclaire, did a wonderful job bringing the story to life. Different characters had separate, very distinct voices (though one of them was extremely annoying for me), and I could feel the sultriness of the Jester’s flirtatious comments and their effect on Leyna quite well. I loved listening to it, and a great narrator for a great story makes for an enthusiastic and positive rating from me.
There were only a few minor drawbacks for me, but nothing that made the book less fantastic . Primarily, I think the synopsis on the back of the book could use a significant overhaul and should be the same across all outlets. There was an established expectation of heavily focused romance in the plot in one synopsis that just doesn’t translate to the book. It’s a romance, sure, but the romance doesn’t drive the plot. There’s quite a bit more substance to the narrative than just the two main characters walking around the castle making googly eyes at each other. Unfortunately, in the fantasy romance market, if a romance-driven plot is a set expectation for a book, and that expectation is not met, there will be some unhappy bookish folk. Additionally, I really didn’t care for one of the side characters. In the audiobook, the narrator makes the voice for this character very high pitched and whiny to me, and it put me off the character completely. I may have felt differently if I had read the beginning of the book first and then listened later, but I didn’t.
Overall, 4.5 stars out of 5. Highly recommend.
My thanks to Jay Pellegrin for the audio review copy via NetGalley, for which I willingly give my own opinion. I would like to note that I did purchase a print copy of this book before I received the complementary audio review copy. After finishing, I’m not sorry I did. I would definitely buy it again if I could go back and do it all over.