by E.D. Walker
Series: Fairy Tales of Lyond #2
Publisher: EDW Books
Publication Date: January 7, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
A lady does not raise her voice.
A lady does not tear her gowns.
A lady does not contradict a gentleman.
A lady does not practice magic...
Lady Violette has done everything she can to be a perfect lady in waiting to the royal princess of Jerdun. She’s followed the princess halfway across the world and lived through a war. Now the princess is stranded in a foreign city as an enemy army draws near, and Violette is stranded with her.
As more refugees from the conflict pour into their city every day, tension mounts between various factions, and a strange powers begin to stir inside Violette. A magic that protects her, but also seems impossible to control. Magic is not a womanly art, after all, and if anyone should learn of Violette’s powers she could lose her standing in society, her reputation, perhaps even her place at the princess’s side.
The only one she trusts with her secret is Ned, an impish squire and fellow refugee from the war. Instead of being repulsed by her powers, Ned admires Violette. For her part, she can’t deny the attraction she feels for Ned, but he has secrets he refuses to share, a wall that he keeps up between them.
Still, Ned helps Violette finally master her powers, but even mastery has its price when an unscrupulous nobleman looks to use Violette for his own purposes. Torn between serving her princess and saving herself, Violette will have to decide how deep the bonds of loyalty run, and just how much she’s willing to sacrifice for her own happiness.
Isn’t that a gorgeous cover? It’s a fantasy romance with a fake relationship trope, too! I was interested, especially when I saw on Twitter that this was actually a LGBT+ romance. It’s apparently the second in a series, so while I did have a little bit of a problem following along at first, I think it works fine as a standalone.
A dimple flashed in Ned’s cheek. “You missed me.”
“I have other duties to complete today.”
“Do you now? And here I thought this was the most important task your princess set you to each day.”
Violette, widowed lady’s maid to Princess Aliénor of Jerdun, fled to the Southern city of Aratum after Tiochene raiders, armed with magic, attacked the Northern cities. In a city chock full of refugees, Violette’s been recruited to deliver messages to the Lyondi King Thomas for the princess. Though Lyond and Jerdun are enemies, the two royals hope their marriage will smooth things over between the two countries. Obviously, the plan will not go over well with the princess’s so-called protector, Lord Guillaume, so Violette pretends to be in love with one of the King’s squires, Ned, in order to pass the royals’ love messages. The influx of refugees has tempers running high, however (sound familiar?), and those who look like the dark-skinned Tiochene, like Violette, are especially in danger. When one of those incidents results in Violette finding out she has magic, she looks to Ned for help in learning to control it – and in keeping her magic secret. Faced with unruly magic, exile, and a marriage that may start a new war, can Violette and Ned navigate their own secrets and find a happy ending?
“These, then, were Violette’s choices: to follow her princess to a foreign, enemy land or to return to her family and be sold off in a marriage of convenience. Unless I make a third option for myself.
How bitterly she envied Ned. As a man, he could become a soldier, a scholar, seek a wealthy patron, explore the world. Violette’s options were to serve or to marry.”
Violette is very traditionally feminine. The setting is very much your traditional western fantasy world, so there are knights and squires (like Ned) and princesses and ladies-in-waiting (like Violettte). As one of the princess’s entourage, she’s skilled at styling hair or planning dinner parties, but she feels useless now that the princess’s party is exiled in Aratum. The least she feels she can do is deliver messages to the King’s squire, Ned, even if it means pretending to be infatuated with him. To Ned’s credit, when Violette disparages herself for her uselessness, he disagrees. For reasons that become obvious, there’s a lot of mulling over “womanliness,” early on in terms of what Violette wants to do with her life now that she’s a widow. She knows she doesn’t want to go home and remarry, as her family will expect, or run away to Lyond with her liege lady, but, as a lady of quality, she feels like she has no other options. And, of course, the least womanly thing in the world is magic. I loved Violette’s determination to master her powers on her own terms, and I loved the friendship that formed between her and Yonca, the older woman employed by the princess as a servant. Ned was absolutely adorable, and I loved the parts of the book where he attempted to teach Violette magic under the guise of her teaching him to read. Their romance did have a youthful feel to it, though, and that and Violette’s search to figure out who she is made this read a bit younger to me. It’d certainly be well suited to a teen reader, as there’s no sexual content beyond some kisses.
“All things end. Changes happen. It’s what you do with it afterward that determines your fate.”
Overall, I thought the book was well-paced, and it was an easy, light read. I did roll my eyes at bit that Violette was, of course, incredibly talented magically, though I’m willing to forgive the “special snowflake” of it because it was ridiculously fun to read. I did find it a bit preachy, in terms of race and nonbinary gender (many Tiochene are gender fluid, choosing to reflect feminine/masculine/or no gender at different times, and Violette frequently comments on how nice it is that the Southerners seem more accepting than her Northern countrymen), though I found Violette’s casual acceptance of the big twist absolutely lovely. I was a bit worried, after watching her so strongly denounce prejudice towards herself and the Tiochene, that she’d prove to have some of that herself, but my fears were unfounded.
Overall, this was a fun read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a LGBT+-friendly fantasy romance. I’ll definitely be picking up the other books in the series!