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The Solstice Prince (Realms of Love Book 1) Kindle Edition
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What I really appreciated was the love story without all of the angst or drama that normally fills M/M fantasy fiction. I have read enough of the serious, tear-jerking books lately and was glad to finally find one that I could just thoroughly enjoy the story without having to be anxious about something bad happening. I tend to read reviews/spoilers BEFORE reading a book because I tend to get overly emotional when it comes to stories involving death of main or important secondary characters... thankfully none of that takes place in this book.
One of my favorite aspects of the book itself was the beautiful illustrations. There are four that show key moments of the story and they're simply gorgeous.
This one is already a favorite of mine. I was so hooked I ended up reading it in one sitting! I know I'll be re-reading it again and again
First of all, there are a number of poorly worded passages that could use professional editorial guidance, including some annoying and awkward repetition as if readers can't remember things they were already told, such as info about where Jaime came from, and the other cities and nations of the region. There's also an almost exactly repeated line about Jaime having gathered from overheard bits of talk that the king was old enough to be Maxim's grandfather. (In actuality, he's maybe old enough to be his youngest son's GREAT-grandfather, which means, BTW, that the kingdom had a king with no heir for surprisingly many years, since the bearlike oldest prince is still in his prime!) It's also sometimes hard to tell what's meant to be Jaime's knowledge vs. narrator info-dumping for the reader. These issues were more common in the first portion of the book.
Other times, it felt like a reaction or response was missing or artificial. For example, early on, Jaime thinks to himself that he'd been so withdrawn that he didn't even know what city or country his rescue had landed him in, but even after he knows the capitol's name (where the palace is located), he doesn't know where that is; he was a book-and-history-loving, third-year student at a prestigious academy, so shouldn't he have known a bit of geography? The way Maxim apologizes for his sister's forceful anti-slavery remarks sounds like she'd said something distasteful or offensive, instead of merely having stirred up some bad memories. Much later, when Jaime's mentor at the infirmary makes a teasing allusion re. "taming a griffin", I assume it refers to the apparent royal crest (and thus to Maxim), but despite seeming puzzled, and being past fearing everyone with authority at that point, Jaime doesn't seek clarification.
At the sentence level, there's even one that painfully reads, "a numerous number of..." when obviously "numerous" is all it needs! Checking my Notebook, I see various other outright, if minor, errors, such as comma splices and fragments, a dangling participle, and more poor syntax or word choice, etc.
The content had problems beyond the writing, too. Prince Maxim may be kind, open-hearted, and egalitarian, but he's a bit obliviously pushy for me. When he first shows he's interested in Jaime, Jaime (while definitely attracted) is still at the too-timid-to-even-speak-up stage. Maxim leads him here and there, with Jaime often not even knowing where they're headed or why, and not asking. Being "swept off your feet" by an attractive, powerful guy can be carried too far, and holding hands is less sweet when it's almost being dragged around. I'm not suggesting Maxim pushed for anything *sexual* before Jaime was willing and eager; their romance's consummation doesn't come until near the end. However, I read for quite a while in the attitude of "Let's see if SJH can convince me this relationship can truly become a solid, healthy one."
I know romance authors love to have characters declaring how they were attracted from their very first sight of the other, but in this case that felt a little squicky, because Maxim's a grown man, and his first sight of the just-rescued Jaime was of a dazed and injured presumable BOY, since he's said to look younger than his nineteen years. I'm not sure how that roused in Maxim admiration for Jaime's courage and endurance, much less thoughts of more. And then the decision he makes for Jaime ("I hope you don't mind") about how to have him introduced by the herald at the ball ...
Oh, I should comment that there are a half-dozen or so line drawings in the book, but while they're okay, the leads tend to appear too young, IMO, for a book with sexual content. At least the prince doesn't have the spoiled-looking mouth that almost made me turn away upon seeing the cover.
The enlightened country of the setting was a bit unbelievably rosy-perfect. Lower servants spoke freely to royalty, the king had zero hesitation over accepting a son's low-born male love (though I guess he doesn't need more heirs), and Jaime doesn't even get any could shoulders (at least that he notices) from courtiers who lost their chance to win Maxim's affection.
I ended up finding both characters likable, though. Jaime gained confidence and showed his caring, overcoming many of his PTSD symptoms and no longer fearing that he'd be cast out again, and resuming his training and practice in magical healing. Cheerful Maxim revealed his vulnerable side, partly through his beloved father the king's illness. I did feel the romance moved in another big jump in the conclusion, but since they'd magically felt each other's emotions, I suppose I can believe Maxim saw no reason to wait.
N.b., there's a note from the author saying that she plans another story with these two, though not the very next book in the series.
So, is it worth a read? That depends on the price (I got it at 99 cents), and your tolerance for the stylistic and plot issues I've pointed out. It's a bit of a Cinderfella story, so if that's your cup of tea ...
This delightful, heartwarming romance captures the heart and the imagination. The fantastical world and its lively inhabitants draw the reader in as we follow Jaime on his journey of recovery from the depredations by his fellow citizens and the horrors of slavery.
Jaime is adorably sweet and selfless, and though traumatized, maintains his core goodness; bolstered by kindness from others, he eventually reclaims his life and stops living in fear, while being swept away by Prince Maxim’s goodhearted charm and fortitude.
Maxim and Jaime’s courtship is endearing, and watching them navigate the giddiness and highs of love as well as its quiet comfort was gratifying. “Solstice Prince” is a lovely fairytale romance whose strong world-building, well-crafted story and cast of characters keeps its sweetness from being trite or cloying, and makes it a truly enjoyable light read.
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