Genre: period romance / intrigue
Pairings: f/f (lesbian)
Queer Representation: cis lesbian
Rating: 3.5 stars
The book premise is a well-loved trope, which helps settle the reader into an otherwise somewhat slow beginning. Barbara is a swordswoman and protector of Baron Saveze, and old and eccentric man who may or may not have her best interests at heart. Conveniently, the Baron also owns Barbara.
Margerit is a moderately wealthy ingenué on her first dancing season. Her uncle has her hunting for a husband, but Margerit would much rather study at university. A chance encounter has Margerit meet the baron just before his death, impressing him, and coming into his wealth and, of course, Barbara as well.
There were a number of really great trope bases that the book set up from the beginning. The ‘I don’t want to own you but I’m forced into it’ paired with the ‘I will protect you for honor and because you’re a good person’ fit well together here. The political intrigue is well done, although the standard patriarchal setting is a bit stale.
The romance builds well and kept me reading for about half the book. What let me down was the lack of payoff. I can be fine with fade to black scenes if there are some reasonable kissing or petting scenes, but every physical scene in this book was either only lightly described (they kissed), or fade to black (they walked out of the woods three hours later). I attribute my frustration primarily to the expectations borne from the advertising. The cover is candlelit and very…lesbian cozy. Between that and the back blurb I was expecting at least mid level steam, or one decent groping scene. By the end of the book I was left satisfied with the plot, but frustrated enough with the lack of payoff that I didn’t want to look up the next book. The book may have been thrown across the room. I can neither confirm nor deny this.
Overall the book was well written and the plot solid. The magic bit seemed tacked on and the book could have stood well without it, but it didn’t detract from the plot, either. I’d have loved to see it play a more prominent role, perhaps bringing our two protagonists closer together as academic pairs (moreso than was already accomplished by the library scenes). Readers of ‘clean’ period romance, historical fantasy, and those looking for sweet instead of hot will enjoy this book a great deal. Those looking for a bit more sex in their spec fic may find the book very frustrating.