The Two Lions – Furuya Nagisa
Junpei Shishido is a friendly guy who gets along well with anyone and everyone. One day, he meets a young man at university who acts aloof and distant towards him, and yet he looks familiar…?
Slow and gentle. Strong and kind.0
The Hawthorne Throne: The Unseelie Prince – Kaitlyn Abdou
The Folk have never shied away from taking what they want. Legends speak of Faeries stealing people from their beds, swapping infants with changelings, and impregnating women they find beautiful. You should never trust them, though they cannot lie. Eat their food, and you may never see home again.
Noah Reid has spent his life seeking normalcy after a turbulent childhood with a superstitious mother who refused to answer questions about the father he never knew, and instead, attempted to impress upon him a real fear of Faeries.
Despite his mother’s best efforts, Noah finds himself ripped from the life he knows and thrust into a palace of nightmares. Here, he must face the persistent attention of the Regent and discover the shocking truth his mother took to her grave.
Fàilte air ais, a Naoise. Welcome home…
Content Warning: This novella contains dark subject matter.
I think I’ve gone about this the wrong way. I came in blind, was enchanted by the Liam Taylor’s narration and kept expecting a fairy tale where the human snapped out of the spell and/or was saved at the nick of time. But nooo, Noah or Naoise continued to be mesmerized by the Regent, seduced by sex and just walked blindly into the trap until it was too late. So no happy endings here. There is also a taboo aspect, incest, which some might find disturbing.
Majority of the novella is Noah having his brain addled and there is actually very little happening outside of the seductions. What very little that happened provided some conflict to the story, where the council questions and reacts to the Regent’s actions. A cursory glance would find the whole thing lacking in substance. However, the underlying story is actually quite compelling.
The heir to the Hawthorn Throne of the daoine sìth was found and ready to be crowned but the Regent is determined to stay in power. The heir, Noah, is half human so he is susceptible to glamour. The Regent, Fearghas, used this to his advantage and kept Noah under his control.
I liked that we also get the Regent’s POV so literally everybody, except poor Noah, knew. That the boy was so innocent had me wondering how he even survived the human world. Like in most fairy tales, food and wine should not be touched and Noah was constantly supplied with both so he stood no chance of resisting. Still, part of his brain sent warning signals. At one point, he even acknowledged he had Stockholm Syndrome but shrugged it off. He was presented to the council where they talked about him in Gaelic and he knew the language but he just stood there and did nothing. And then, there was that moment when the connection between his father and Fearghas hit him but still, nothing. It was hard to feel sorry for him, he was so passive.
This is tagged as romance, definitely of the gothic variety. I will try not to wonder how the romance will work because there are darker stories out there that pulled it off convincingly. I’m not gung-ho about Noah and Fearghas just yet, the power dynamics is so skewed. The Regent was villainous through and through. I will read the sequels because I wanted badly for the balance of power to switch or at least even out. Or for Noah to stop being a helpless ragdoll. The story is very effective that way, it makes you want to find out more.
The Unseelie Prince might not have ended happily, but it ended with a bombshell. Delivered in Fearghas’ chilling whisper, never had the words “welcome home” sounded so sinister. What will you do now, Prince Naoise? Are you going to do anything at all?
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it0
Frail of heart
Renounce all fear
Locked away inside
All these years
Remain in the light
Renounce all fears
For you have been
Break this spell
Student Council President and Mayuyama-kun – Arai Niboshiko
Mayuyama longs to have an ordinary high school life but their dazzling student council president constantly pursues him…
LOL!!! At least you’re his number 1, Mayuyama-kun!0
Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.
But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.
When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion.
For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.
This novel has been previously published under the pseudonym L.A. Witt, and has been lightly revised.
The Left Hand of Calvus is an extremely well-written and tightly woven story of a gladiator involved in “a dangerous game between dangerous men” against his will. Authored by Ann Gallagher, also known as L.A. Witt, it oozes USTs without the MC, Saevius, fully understanding what was happening and with nary a sex scene in sight. People might complain about the lack of steam but I am the type who can happily live off USTs alone so this novel is totally my jam.
And it’s not just tension of the sexual kind that is tight. There is constant threat to life and limb and Saevius was perpetually walking on razor’s edge. As a gladiator and essentially a slave, he had no choice but do anything his masters tell him to do. He was told to spy on his fellow gladiators both by Calvus and Drusus, albeit for different reasons. A slight misstep could get him killed by either masters and/or his fellow gladiators and he had to survive on fighting skills and wits. As a veteran fighter, Saevius was nothing if not a survivor and I enjoyed seeing him outwit and outlast hostile elements from his first person perspective.
The author did a great job with the historical aspect giving many interesting details about gladiator life in and out of the arena, one of which was that it’s okay for rich married women to bed these fighters but it’s a big no no for them to sleep with a citizen or free man. This fact was cleverly utilized in the story. I also liked how 78 AD Pompeii came alive without overwhelming the reader with tons of info.
The mystery sounds simple but executed with enough suspense and surprises to keep me glued to the book. Calvus suspects his wife was sleeping with somebody from Drusus’ ludus (house), who might or might not be a gladiator, and wants to put an end to the affair to save his reputation. Drusus, on the other hand, wants to find out who might potentially be another Spartacus. With both masters demanding complete loyalty, it was Saevius’ strange attraction to Drusus that tipped the scales.
Seen through the eyes of the gladiator, Drusus was, for the most part, a mystery but damn was he intriguing! He’s cold, cruel, calculating and something else. I totally get why Saevius was drawn to him without actually knowing much about the person. And while the book is not really about romance, the romance kind of sneaks up on you in that delightful slow burn way. Then BAM! came that big twist which I never saw coming. The best part of it all was that Saevius was super cool about the whole thing. What a sweetheart! The only problem with twists like this is that the hashtag is a spoiler so I’m not putting a tag on it.
I haven’t read that many gladiator stories but I think The Left Hand of Calvus is one of the best ones out there. The story is short, gripping and fast-paced. It just grabs you from the start and keeps you enthralled. If you like twisty historical stories about battle-scarred warriors grappling with impossible situations, this one’s for you.
Other L.A. Witt books here
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away0
He’s like a god strolling among those who think they’re gods.0