Series: Wraith Kings #1
Source: purchased by the reviewer
Release Date: July 11, 2015
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Blurb from goodreads:
~THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE~
Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
~THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE~
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn't just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she's known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
I was looking for an audio book and selected this one due to the cover art and the blurb. Oh my gosh -- my favorite book so far this year! I've been listening to it on a loop ever since I finished it last week. Just can't get enough of these characters and their love story!
I'm a romance fan who has drifted away from romance over the course of the last decade. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly has turned me off this genre, but I know one of my complaints is the limited time span of today's novels juxtaposed against the fervency of the main couple's supposed love for one another. The couple meets, are instantly attracted to one another, are thrust into some dangerous or threatening scenario where they must depend on one another, have tons of orgasmic sex, and fall in love and know they want to spend the rest of their lives together...and everything is wrapped up within a couple/few weeks. Bah! I hate that. It seems so fake to me.
Thankfully, this book gave me none of that!
"Radiance" centers on a couple from differing kingdoms (one human and one not) who are affianced for political gain. Each is resigned and perhaps a bit nervous about the marriage. Neither one is bitter or resentful or hostile. They meet by chance in the garden about an hour before the ceremony, not knowing at all that they are each other's spouse-to-be, and they have a wonderful conversation full of honesty and humor, respect and acceptance: two strangers from very different races who are willing to meet in the middle and treat each other with kindness and respect. They are candid about the fact that each finds the other to be completely hideous physically, but there's no meanness in them; in fact, it's a source of great levity for them. (As the book goes on, they joke about being "hag" -- the woman -- and "dead eel" -- the man.) At the end of the initial meeting, when the bride gives her name to the man (still not realizing he is her intended groom), the man wonders if he could truly be this lucky, because he had been prepared for the worst and instead found his prospective bride to be a complete delight.
The majority of the novel continues in this vein. Right from the start, Ildiko and Brishen are bound by their commitment and mutual regard for one another, and their feelings deepen and transform over the months they are together. The second half of the book has a little bit of external conflict, but this is not a novel that hinges on a plot full of contrivances and adventure and emotional urgency. And I loved that! I loved that we just got to see the characters relate to one another, share moments together, become friends, fall in love. It is simply beautiful!
(Postscript: If you are a fan of audio books, I really recommend this one, as narrated by Gabrielle Baker. She has a lovely British accent, low and smooth, and her reading was a perfect match for the characters and their story.)