Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new paranormal M/M romance from Antonia Aquilante. THE PRINCE’S CONSORT is the first story in her Chronicles of Tournai series, and it’s off to a great start!
Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Legends tell of large cats defending the principality of Tournai, but such creatures are only myth.
Or are they?
Prince Philip inherited the throne of Tournai at a young age, and since then his life has centered around ruling his country and resisting those pressuring him to do as they want both in matters of governance and those more personal. He’s become isolated and lonely. Amory is the second son of a wealthy merchant who has never approved of anything about him or had any use for him. Until now.
When kind-hearted Amory is offered to the prince in exchange for more time for Amory’s merchant father to complete a commission, both Philip and Amory are horrified. But Philip agrees to keep Amory at the palace, where they gradually become friends, then lovers. For the first time in his life, Philip is free to share not only his heart, but the magical shape-shifting ability that runs in the royal bloodline—something the royal family has kept secret from all but those closest to them for generations.
Neither Amory nor Philip imagined falling in love, and they certainly don’t expect what those who oppose their relationship will do to keep them apart—maybe even resorting to murder.
How about a yummy taste?
He didn’t know what to think about what they’d done. He’d enjoyed it, but the uncomfortable feeling still plagued him. Before he could begin to analyze it, Tristan was chuckling, low at first, quiet in Amory’s ear, his body shaking against Amory’s chest. Tristan pulled back enough to look at him. His eyes sparkled with happiness, and Amory’s laughter bubbled up to join his friend’s.
The laughter eased the way as they fumbled for handkerchiefs, cleaned themselves up, and neatened their clothes again. Then they leaned against each other and the tree, still laughing a little. It was Amory who moved for another kiss. Both of them were grinning when their lips met, and they couldn’t seem to stop laughing as they kissed, as they kept kissing. But the laughter was soft and light, like the kisses, and Amory relaxed into them, wrapping his arms around Tristan. Telling himself he would think about everything later.
“Good afternoon, brother.”
The unexpected voice and its snide tone had Amory jerking away from the kiss. The back of his head thunked into the tree trunk behind him. Tristan jumped back, separating them much more effectively. Amory almost wished he hadn’t. The short distance between them seemed like a vast gulf, and Amory felt very alone as he straightened away from the tree and turned to face his older brother.
Alban’s handsome face was twisted in a sneer even more disgusted than the one he habitually wore when looking at Amory. He studied Amory and Tristan in silence while Amory struggled not to squirm. No use saying anything to Alban, he knew from bitter experience.
“Now I know why you wanted no part of that pretty little maid last week.” Disdain dripped from Alban’s every word. “You’re more of a disappointment than I thought. Worthless. How are you even my brother?”
With a shake of his head, Alban turned and strode away, likely heading directly for the house. Amory remained frozen for a long moment, not even blinking.
“He’s going to tell your father.” Tristan’s voice was flat, so different from its usual exuberant, almost musical quality. The shock of it broke Amory’s paralysis, and Amory turned to face him. Tristan still stared at the spot where Alban had stood.
“Yes, he is.” Amory ran a shaking hand through his hair and slumped back against the tree. Alban hadn’t hit him, which was a pleasant surprise, but the consequences were still going to be bad. How would Father react? With disappointment, certainly, but that was nothing new. Most likely with anger as well. However disgusted Alban was, their father would be ten times more so.
“Do you think they’ll tell my father?” Tristan turned fear-filled blue eyes on Amory.
“Tris.” Amory reached out. He couldn’t bear seeing him so afraid, and though he couldn’t say much to reassure him, he couldn’t stand by while Tristan was upset either.
But he stepped out of Amory’s reach. “Do you?”
Amory tried to hold back a flinch. “I don’t know.”
Tristan groaned and scrubbed his hands over his face. “He can’t. I don’t know what my father will do if he finds out I prefer men. I’m his oldest son. I’m supposed to take over for him in the business, get married. Have sons to take over the family business after me.”
“You still can. All right, the children part would be difficult if you don’t marry someone who can carry them, but you can still take over the family business.” He didn’t bother mentioning that Tristan had four younger brothers and a younger sister. Surely at least one of them would have children someday who could inherit the family’s business if Tristan never had any of his own and his father insisted on an heir of their blood. But Tristan took his responsibilities as first son seriously. Too seriously. He wouldn’t want to hear that at the moment.
“Not if he disowns me.”
“Now you’re being dramatic. Preferring men is not illegal. It’s not wrong. Your father loves you. He’s proud of you, and you’ll be the same son he’s proud of after he finds out.”
“You don’t know that, Amory.”
No, he didn’t. But Tristan had a better chance of everything working out fine than Amory did. Tristan’s father was proud of his accomplishments, which was more than Amory could say.
“I may not, but I believe it will be all right. Don’t borrow trouble. My father and brother might be too busy killing me to remember to tell your father.”
Tristan huffed out a half laugh and whacked him on the shoulder. “Don’t joke about that.”
“Who’s joking?” Amory smiled crookedly. “Seriously, though, I do think everything will be all right with your father.” He took Tristan’s hand and squeezed and then let go before Tristan could pull away.
“Maybe. I need to go.”
“All right. I’ll see you soon.”
“See you.” Tristan slipped out of their little corner of the garden and was gone before Amory could get another word out. He tried not to think about how unsure Tristan’s parting words sounded. He didn’t want to lose Tristan. Not when he would likely need his friend more than ever.
He didn’t think Father would kill him, but he couldn’t rule out Father hitting him. It was partly why he was so surprised Alban hadn’t—his older brother was a perfect replica of their father in every way. But even without actual murder, Father could make Amory’s life miserable, and Amory wouldn’t be able to do anything until he came of age next week. A week seemed like a short time but was long enough for his father to…
He needed to think about his options. Father would never accept his preferences. Once his father knew, Amory’s time in his family’s house was limited. He hated to leave his younger siblings, especially Adeline, but he doubted he would have much of a choice. It might be best to leave before he was thrown out.
Sighing, he pushed himself away from the tree and started for the house. He hoped he could avoid Father long enough to spend a little time with Adeline and make some plans. And to get his hands to stop shaking.
Amory is the second son of a prominent glassmaker, and a consummate failure in his father’s eyes. He prefers men, and is caught having a liaison with his oldest friend, Tristan, by his older and abusive brother at the opening of the story. Amory is sure he’ll be cast out of his family and is bewildered why he is not. It turns out, that his conniving father has deeper plans, offering Amory’s virginity to the crown prince of Tournai, Philip.
Philip detests the glassmaker, and is frustrated that his commissioned piece is late, but he’s intrigued by the offer of Amory–not for his virginity but for his wholesomeness. Philip is a lonely man–young to his rule, he’s given everything he has for his subjects, and he desires a partner. A prince can have a lover in the palace, even a male one, and innocent Amory seems like he could become a friend and a lover. Amory’s own feelings are of shame, at first. He’s ashamed to be bartered like a discount, but he sees a beautiful, lonely prince offering far more than a single night and he jumps at the chance to build a friendship and a relationship. HE immediately moves into the palace as the prince’s lover, and they begin to get to know one another–keeping it barely phsyical while they develop a true rapport.
Philip find the confidante he needs, enough so that within weeks he’s able to share his deepest-held secret: he’s able to shift into a big black jaguar as are many of his immediate family. It’s a latent Talent of the royal family, and Amory is enchanted by the magic of it. Amory has a healing Talent that Philip helps him develop with the royal healers. Months go by, and Amory’s familiar at court, having fully bonded with Philip, and sad because of the pressure Philip seems to be constantly under to marry and produce an heir. Philip finally agrees to marry–Amory. It seems a ludicrous choice, but it’s the only one to make Philip and Amory is convinced by Philip’s dedicated wooing to accept the proposal. Amory has some biological secrets that may pan out in the heir-making department, but only if he makes it to the wedding. It seems there’s a plot to remove the prince’s beloved lover before he can become the official husband and consort.
I really liked all the relationship building that happens here. We see Amory and Philip slowly develop their initial attraction by constant steps toward intimacy. Philip has the right to take what he first desires, but he’s methodical and just in his personal life, as well as in his professional station. He’s a doting elder brother, and his compassion is something that really wins over Amory–who cannot believe his good fortune. I really enjoyed getting to know these characters and their quirky/scheming family members. There was good misdirection regarding the source of danger for Amory, and I was glad to say it took me some time to figure out the hidden villain. The shifter and healer Talents gave and interesting twist into the fantasy realm, and allowed for magic to be a part of the everyday life of this story, as well as being available at the climax. I really liked how it all turned out, and look forward to reading on in this series.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.