Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force.
Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints.
At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara’s services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away—for reasons of state and reasons of the heart.
This is one I read for our HEA Fantasy Romance book club over on r/fantasy. This is a book that I can appreciate, even while it’s not exactly my cup of tea. In theory, this book checks a ton of boxes for me and so I had high expectations going into it, and maybe that’s part of my problem. It’s mildly historical, there’s some political intrigue, it features fantasy of manners-esque society structures, it has romance, there is lots of book talk–these are all things I love! But somehow I ended up being somewhat disappointed in the end. But, again, that’s probably me. I didn’t dislike this book! It has a lot going for it! But perhaps my expectations along with some other things made this one not a great fit for me as a reader.
The prose in this book is fantastic and put me in mind of the time period in which it takes place. That being said it can also keep you at a certain distance from the characters, more of an observer instead of being close to their hearts the way that I like. While this was a detriment for me, I think it’s one of those really personal preferences. The style of writing is gorgeous, and really helped set the mood for the story.
In terms of being a blend of genres, well it’s very fantasy-light and also the romance is there but it’s not heavy on that either, at least for most of the book. It’s much more focused on the setting, the function of society, and the political intrigues. I think it does a great job of blending, but they’re not all given equal parts if that’s something you’re looking for. It took a long time for the fantasy element to even present itself, but it does wind up playing a major roll in the plot at the end of the day. The romance also takes a long time to come around, it’s a very slow burn.
I think the pacing is probably the thing I had the most issue with. It’s glacial. If you’re expecting a quick, light read, well this is not it. The plot takes a while to get going, or for you to even realize exactly what the plot is. But I would’t say it’s slice of life either, as there is a very definite plot that is set up from the beginning and then doesn’t come around in a big way again until near the end. The middle of the book sort of meanders while Barbara and Margerit settle in to their new lives and get to know one another as well. So, the middle sections, I’d say, is very slice of life feeling. And while I don’t always mind slice of life, some of the things in this just flat out bored me. There is a lot of talk about laws (several pages) and the detailed discussions of the mysteries (the magic, basically) and how they work. I confess that I don’t really care about all those details. If you’re the type of reader who loves those sorts of things this will probably be right up your alley.
Back to the romance. This was a slow burn, as I said earlier. As a romance fan, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the romance played out in this one. It wasn’t that it was a slow burn, I don’t mind that, but you do expect some payoff in the end. And while the characters do end up together for a while, well, after that it’s just not very satisfactory. Because events at the end of the novel throw the relationship into upheaval. And while we are told things work out okay, we never get to see it so it feels like we’re left hanging. In the context of the story I think it works out and if you’re not romance minded then I think you’ll be fine but it left me a bit frustrated in the end.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, despite all my complaints and how long it took me to read it. I just think it probably wasn’t the best fit for me as a reader, but maybe it’s a good fit for you! 3.5/5 stars.