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Alex Beecroft

REVIEW:  Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft

REVIEW: Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft

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Happily ever after doesn’t always come quietly. Sometimes it puts up a fight.

Kjartan’s family is royally dysfunctional. He’d prefer to ignore the lot of them, but can’t since his father has set him and his brothers on a quest to win a throne Kjartan doesn’t even want. Worse, his younger brother resorts to murder and forces Kjartan to teleport—without looking where he’s going.

Art gallery worker Joel Wilson’s day has gone from hopeless, to hopeful, then straight to hell. One minute he’s sure his boss has found a way to save the floundering business, the next he’s scrambling to sell everything to pay off a loan shark. If anyone needs a fairy godmother right now, it’s Joel. What he gets is a fugitive elven prince in a trash bin.

They’ll both have to make the best of it, because fairy tales run roughshod over reluctant heroes. Particularly when there aren’t enough happy endings to go around.

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Product Warnings
This sweet romance contains a starving artist trying to scrape together a living, extreme sibling rivalry, royalty behaving outrageously, and elves being unreasonably beautiful, grotesque or deadly.

Dear Alex Beecroft,

Based on the blurb this story seemed to be inspired by fairy tales, and I love fairy tales
and their retellings for adults, so of course I wanted to review this book.

As the blurb indicates, Joel and Kjairtan meet in Joel’s world (“our” world). Kjairtan
(Kai) has teleported himself there in order to avoid being killed by his brother, and Joel is
having troubles of his own. His boss was supposedly hit by a car, but he then disappeared
with a bagful of money. Joel thought the money was going to be used to save the gallery
he works in, but some mobsters have other ideas, expecting it as repayment for a loan
they are owed. Now the mobsters are after Joel and he has his hands full trying to find the
money. In the midst of this, at a most fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you
look at it) moment, Kai shows up.

The hilarity of both of them assessing each other and trying to adjust their assessments
was amusing, as it always is when beings from the different worlds learn about each
other. Kai knows that humans exist, but he has a lot of preconceptions about them. Joel
knows nothing about elves’ existence, but apparently he’s a Tolkien fan, so in no time at
all he comes to accept that Tolkien elves exist in reality. As an aside, I was a little
annoyed at first because I wanted the writer to bring her own touch and come up with
more original characterization of elves than just telling me that Joel sees a creature from
Tolkien’s worlds come alive. My annoyance soon disappeared , though, because I
realized that one – Joel may not *know* any other elves and has nothing to compare his
impression but with Tolkien and two – the author showed me an interesting and not quite
Tolkien-like characterization of her elves.
I thought their interactions were beautiful.

“He picked up a pectoral pendant the size of his fist, on which a solitary humanoid figure was battling what looked like Cthulu. It was light and soft in his hand, molding to his grip. “Um. Okay then.” Putting the jewel back on the table, he turned to find Kai only a step away, watching his moment of revelation with bright-eyed pleasure.
“Can I…um…I’d like to…” Joel closed the distance and slowly, waiting for a denial that didn’t come, curled his hand around the back of Kai’s neck and pulled him in for a brief, gentle kiss. When he let go, Kai’s eyes were shut and his ice-white mouth was smiling and faintly tingled with pink.
“Are you aware how rarely you finish a complete sentence?”
Joel blushed, delighted by the sweetness and the ease of the moment. [snip of the sentence for spoiler reasons]. This, though Kai was a far greater danger in real terms, made him feel cherished. Secure. “I can’t help it if you leave me speechless”.

I enjoyed the writing, but as you may see from the sample (or not) it is very descriptive, so definitely check out the publisher’s sample. Her style is one of many that I enjoy, but you may find that it is *too* descriptive for your liking.

The writing made me temporarily forget as to how fast their mutual attraction flared up,
but when I finished the book I came back to the Insta!Part of their Love and was not
happy about it. I think the reason I was not happy is because while we see constant fairy
tales undertones in the story (the Quest the King sent his sons on, the constant refrain that
the youngest son always wins, etc.), the depictions of the main characters are deeper than
what we often see in fairy tales, where the characters are frequently archetypes and the
Quest is the main point of the story.

In the “pure” fairy tale I would have much more tolerance for this kind of instant
attraction. I do realize that it occurs partially because the story is a novella – I have read
several novels by Alex Beecroft and know very well that she can write slow-burning love
stories to perfection. It is not the worst variety of Insta!Love by any means, and as I said
above, when I was reading the story the writing completely swept me away – it is when I
started thinking about it that the relative dissatisfaction came.

I really appreciated how very *unpleasant* a lot of Kai’s fellow elves felt to me. This is
not the first story I have read with elves not being all sweetness and divine light, but I
would still say that the majority of fantasy stories portray them in a positive. What I
appreciated the most is Kai’s characterization. He is a gentle soul overall, but he certainly
absorbed a lot of teachings of his world and even at the end of the story when Joel asks
him not to do certain things, he agrees because he loves Joel rather than because he thinks
Joel’s way of doing things is better. In other words, there was a lot in his character I
could relate to as sympathetic, decent and likeable, but there was always something in
him that felt alien to me and I really liked that. I liked that he felt like being from another
world, rather than just looking like one.

Joel seemed more like a White Knight type of guy to everybody around him, but even he
accepted some less than savory things being done for the greater good. I liked that too. I
liked how he felt more like an ordinary guy in the extraordinary situation rather than
Superman. But the battles scenes were very cool.

There was a certain plot point in the storyline that seemed like too great of a coincidence.
To avoid spoilers, I will just say that who the mobster who was after Joel turned out
to be bothered me. I mean, I accepted it for the sake of the story, but I found it jarring.
I would certainly read more about these guys and about this world.
Grade: B-/B

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REVIEW:  The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

REVIEW: The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

Dear Ms. Beecroft:

Except for having m/m, action, and m/m action, this was a real change of pace from the previous Beecroft novellas I’ve read, all of which were Regencies. Impressively, not only is unusual setting beautifully realized, but the entire tone of the story is completely different.

outlawThe time is 1720; the place is Harghita County, Transylvania. (I love the down-to-earth specificity of that, as well as the fact that this may be the first romance set in Transylvania which isn’t a paranormal.) The story is told from the point of view of Vali, the young and naive heir to the ruling Boyar. Although he has a contentious relationship with his father, he’s shocked to realize that Wadim is not the just ruler he thought, but a capricious tyrant. When Vali runs away and meets up with the outlaw Mihai, he finds not only an opportunity to address his father’s wrongs, but a kind of love he hasn’t even been able to dream of.

Even aside from the unfamiliar setting, this story takes a lot of risks: It’s a romance between an inexperienced 19 year old, and an older, stronger man with power over him. I thought the risks worked, mainly because the relationship is convincingly consensual, sex never occurs when Vali is overpowered, and the power imbalance between them continually shifts. Though the story does often play with the erotic possibilities of that imbalance — even at their first encounter, with Mihai holding a knife at his throat, Vali finds himself enjoying “the pressure from balls to lungs of a powerful, demanding warm body thoroughly dominating him… Lust added itself to terror in his panting breaths, and he despised himself and the bandit indiscriminately.”

Vali, perhaps like many people afraid to express their true sexuality, has actually had a captivity fantasy:

In his mind it had been a Turkish jail… one night, when he was at death’s door, the jailor had come to him… he had pinned Vali’s still-defiant fists above his head in one great hand, stripped him with the other — slowly, looking and touching every inch, ignoring Vali’s fervent protests along the way.

Then he would turn onto his stomach and think of being spread and speared, his struggle turning into surrender and then wanton enjoyment as he stroked himself… and that he was helpless, helpless to stop any of it.

But Vali isn’t always helpless; he’s got wealth, status, and extremely good fighting skills on his side. And Mihai doesn’t literally fulfill this fantasy, which Vali had already realized was ruined by the reality of prison.  After they begin a sexual relationship, Vali sees the downside of being with someone stronger than he is:

Mihai had jumped down, landing on his feet, and got hold of him again before he could move, dragging him like a deer carcass off towards the wood.

‘I must help! Let me go!’ The strength that had seemed so glorious only moments ago felt like a curse now that it wasn’t doing what Vali wanted it to do.

But even when they enjoy a hostage fantasy together, their sexual encounters have a genuine sweetness to them — especially the first one, because Vali is so happy and eager, taking the cynical Mihai by surprise:

Mihai was biting his own lip, his eyes closed, his hips driving his prick into Vali’s hand in angry little jerks. He startled back almost in fright when Vali kissed him and their eyes met. In a flash of understanding, Vali watched Mihai’s expression deepen and soften, as though he had expected no intimacy from this and Vali’s trust had taken him aback.

Despite its length, this novella was surprisingly immersive. It seemed like almost every sentence placed me firmly there — not in a strained, guide-booky way, but just in relating the small details of life: “While Mihai dozed in a patch of sunshine, Vali built a bed for them there–a hollow in the hay thickly lined with sheepskin and covered in extravagantly woven red blankets with black, yellow and white stripes.”  Just a simple visual, but it takes me to that cozy scene, and shows the trust building in their relationship.

The complex relationship between Vali and his father was also well expressed, and there’s an intriguing small sideplot about his sister, who is far less romantic than Vali, and not narratively punished for it. It’s the primary relationship that gets shortchanged by the length of the story — it worked for me, but there just wasn’t enough of it. Time I wanted to see spent on the couple experiencing love was instead given over to the plot. The fast pace of the story is also disconcerting; Vali constantly bounces back from physical abuse and right into his next adventure, almost with the speed of Wile E. Coyote.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone yearning for a change from the standard settings of romance, and for readers who enjoy action and adventure. My gut rating for it as a romance is B-, but because of its many fine and unusual qualities, I’m rounding it up to a B.

sincerely,

Willaful

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