Penguin Group (USA) LLC
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A Brother's Price Kindle Edition
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It's not *quite* that. It's more of a Harlequin (Alternative) Historical romance with a cutesy gender-flipped premise. I read my share of those in my teens so I don't mind it but...I can't help but feel that the premise is a bit wasted. Under another author's pen, the tale of a capable young man being married off to a royal house to secure the fortune of his many sisters could be dark, hilarious, insightful, or any number of things. Under Wen Spencers it's just...*cute*. And weirdly so, since any reader of darker speculative fiction will immediately ask themselves questions and realize that Queensland kind of *sucks*. On the list of fictional places I would never want to live it's somewhere in between Arrakis and Westeros.
But there's lots of love and (cut-to-soft-focus) consummations of undying polyamorous love, so hey! I guess everything is alright.
It's not a bad book, just a little too twee for me.
In this world, men are rare and valuable, so women form 'families' to share the men available to them. Generally there is one man for however many adult "Sisters" not related to him. While the founding groups of 'sisters' may not have started out as blood relatives, the families over time do become true genetic relation. Families who have historically been able to produce male children gain status, influence and are considered wealthy.
The men, however aren't in the catbird seat here. They are virtual prisoners of their families from the moment they are born till they die and rarely leave their homes. Because there are so few men, they can't be risked in dangerous occupations. The early death of a husband before his children, male or female could secure suitable spouses could mean the death of an entire family, and certainly it would mean a lost of wealth, prestige, and influence.
Men are largely uneducated, work as homemakers, and are pretty much sold and traded between families. I got the feeling that the culture was largely lifted from that of the ancient Greeks, though this culture was more technologically advanced.
In the beginning, even though I have been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for over 50 years, and consider myself reasonably skillful in making the mental and emotional shifts required by that genre, I found myself almost quitting the book. However, I'm glad I didn't!
My sense of disorientation and 'wrongness' was pretty strong at first. Stuff like this shouldn't happen to a strong male character. I had to read almost a third of the book to really 'get into' the situation of the novel. And there ARE some minor flaws in the book that didn't help, though i'll point them out in a bit.
This character is a young man from a reasonably prosperous, but backwater family of no particular influence. about to come of age and facing dim and dismal marriage prospects when he happens to save a princess of the realm. This changes his life and propels his family into the always dangerous world of court intrigue for which they are un prepared and unwilling to enter in to because of who the recently deceased father of the family was. They are backwater for a reason.
As I said in a prior paragraph, there are some flaws, and they kept it from getting a full 5 stars. Fist and biggest in my mind is why does this male shortage only happen to humans? Why aren't the other animals affected? Was it a disease? Are the people of the story not really humans but some similar species? It wasn't ever explained or even addressed. And no one even wonders aloud why this discrepancy even exists.
Another flaw that I chose to overlook because I thought it would get in the way of the story, is that in such a world women would evolve to be larger and stronger while the men would become smaller and weaker. The men are physically weak, while the women aren't really described at all. Yet the young man is able to fight off the attackers of the princess and then Carry her BACK to his house, without breaking a sweat. That seems a flaw in the story logic to me.
I think this weakens the story, in our world, where men are expected to do the fighting and the dangerous jobs, men are VERY much aware of other men's physical size and ability to do violence. The author might have two women meeting for the first time, think she seems strong, and capable, but I think it far more likely women would notice if the other woman is a leftie or a rightie, any limps or weakness in the limbs. that sort of thing.
Now this last 'flaw' might have been overlooked on purpose since the author, Wen Spencer couldn't know at he time she wrote it, if people would perceive it as a serious work or an attempt at highbrow erotica. I have no way of knowing. But I think in a world where there are so FEW men, female homosexuality might well be more culturally accepted even among women who were not really lesbians.
We have precedent in that several of the ancient Greek societies seemed able to accept homosexual behavior in men who weren't committed to that life completely. The book might have hinted at it once, but I think considering there didn't seem to be any overtly religious objection to it, this might have been a bigger part of the cultural, political, and economic life of the society in the book.
On the whole, I thought this was a pretty good book, and I'm glad I read it. If you're worried about it, it isn't a particularly titillating story, but it will hold most people's interest.
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