Cedric de Breos was an average son from an average farmer’s family before he was chosen—by royal decree—to befriend Alain Tomolia, the solemn and enigmatic crown prince of Dunn. As Cedric dutifully pursues their strange friendship, he begins to suspect that Alain is haunted by a dark secret, one which has its roots sunk deep in the crown prince’s past. Cedric’s situation is complicated by the gradual realization that his intended purpose is not only to serve as companion to the crown prince but also as his surrogate in the whipping yard, taking the punishment for Alain’s misdeeds. Will Cedric find a way to come to terms with the resentment, pity, curiosity, and reluctant attraction he feels toward the crown prince, or will he allow the circumstances around them to command their fate?
Excellent. This pretty much epitomizes what I am looking for in a work of erotic fiction. Way too often, books like this turn out to be nothing more than a kinky set up. This is a full story about two genuinely complex leads, with an efficiently drawn fantasy/historical setting that was intriguing and plausible within the confines of the genre. Even more crucial, the "erotic" elements were not gratuitous or just for titillation, but were absolutely essential to the world being drawn and the characters' psychology. It also doesn't hurt that the story is beautifully written and, minus a few very modern sounding phrases like "suicidal ideation," carefully edited. I was really impressed by how much it does with its 50 pages. More than all of this, the story surprised me, continually moving in unexpected directions that opened up deeper insights into Jaken's characters while never totally doing away with their fundamental mystery. Highly recommend.
[Me being annoying and picky: what's with the cheesy, ugly cover! Totally does not do justice to this story.]
Rating: Four Stars
(Originally posted on Goodreads: link to Amazon)