Double Agents Test THE ENVOY’S HONOR-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M fantasy romance from Antonia Aquilante. THE ENVOY’S HONOR is the eighth story in her Chronicles of Tournai series. I really enjoyed THE PRINCE’S CONSORT, THE ARTIST’S MASQUERADE, THE SCHOLAR’S HEART and THE SORCERER’S GUARDIAN which are all wet in that fantasy world of magic and courtly manners. This book features intrigue and shapeshifting magic as well as love for two lonely men.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Second son of an earl and cousin to the Crown Prince, Griffen has worked hard to forge a career in diplomacy for the principality of Tournai, but he never expected his diplomatic skills would be necessary for a problem so personal to him and his family.

A delegation from the mysterious kingdom of Ivria has come to Tournai to make sure the secret of their people—the magical Talent allowing them to change into dragons—and therefore their kingdom itself remain safe. The delegation is concerned for Corentin, an Ivrian, and the man Griffen’s older brother is soon to marry.

The Ivrians seem to want to drag Corentin back to Ivria for the offense of revealing their secret, but Griffen refuses to let it happen. His determination puts him into contact—and conflict—with Kirill, a negotiator for the king of Ivria who possesses the dragon Talent himself. The two clash and connect, getting closer and pulling away as they try to negotiate the needs of their people and an unwanted attraction between themselves. However, just as trust might be growing between them, a plot is uncovered and a member of the Ivrian delegation murdered. Griffen and Kirill must discover who is behind both for the safety of their countries and the people they love…and for a chance to be together.

How about a yummy taste?

Griffen’s day had been utterly normal—boring, even—until the dragons arrived.

The only mildly interesting thing that had happened was Bastien for once being convinced to attend a family dinner at the palace. Griffen didn’t delude himself into thinking his persuasion and prodding had anything to do with his older brother’s decision. No, Philip’s order had gotten Bastien and Corentin, the man he would soon marry, here. The prince rarely ordered his family about—and never in this type of situation, so Philip’s edict had probably been at least half joking—but Bastien was too dutiful to ignore it, despite his preference to be something of a hermit.

Bastien wasn’t truly unsociable—he just preferred to spend his time quietly on their family’s estate of Ardesia and not at court or even in the capital. Since Corentin taught at the university here in the city, Bastien could no longer spend all his time at Ardesia, unless he wanted to be separated from Corentin, which he obviously did not. And since they were cousins to the prince—Philip’s mother had been their aunt—though they were not royalty themselves, they were expected to be seen at court perhaps even more than others. Griffen had no problem with the expectation, but his and Bastien’s similarities ended with their appearances. They looked almost identical but couldn’t have been more different in personality.

What Griffen had never understood was why it was so difficult to get Bastien to casual family gatherings. Tonight’s dinner was not a court function. They gathered in Philip and Amory’s private sitting room—the royal couple having created a homey place for themselves in the grandeur of the palace—sipping drinks and chatting before dinner. Philip and Amory’s son was with them; Philip held the sleepy toddler now, rocking Julien slightly as he spoke with his cousin Cathal and Lord Marcus. Marcus did some sort of mysterious work for Philip, but he was with them tonight because he was going to marry Alexander, another of Philip’s cousins. The match was an interesting one—the older, serious, self-contained Marcus and the mischievous, outgoing Alexander. Faelen, Alexander’s twin, was chatting with Amory, and Flavian, Cathal’s husband, with Maxen, the man Faelen would marry later in the year, bringing them more wine.

No, it most definitely wasn’t a court event or formal in any way.

This family had grown so much in the last few years—and grown closer too. Griffen loved it, was honored to be a part of it. He was tied to Philip by blood, but blood wasn’t what made a family. If only there wasn’t a hint of sadness dragging at him. So many of his family had paired off—more, had found love matches, something rare among royalty and the nobility who were more likely to marry for power or position.

And Griffen…wanted that for himself.

He’d had his share of affairs with various people over the years and parted amicably after each, everyone enjoying themselves and not looking for more. None of those liaisons had ever been serious or had a possibility of becoming so, which had been fine. Then. Somewhere along the way, it had stopped being fine to him.

“Everything all right?”

Griffen jumped a little before facing Tristan who’d come to his side. “Fine.”

Tristan frowned, an expression that always seemed vaguely wrong on his face. A bright smile seemed to go with his shining gold hair and sparkling blue eyes. Griffen had enjoyed his smiles, and other things, during the handful of nights they’d spent together. What they’d shared hadn’t even been something so formal as an affair, and it had been over long before Tristan married Etan, another of Philip’s cousins. Etan was here, too, talking in a corner with Bastien and Corentin—about something related to one of their studies if the faintly perplexed look in Bastien’s eyes was anything to go by.

“You seemed far away for a moment,” Tristan said, capturing Griffen’s attention again.

“Just thinking. I guess I’m easily distracted tonight.”

“I hope by something good.” Alexander winked as he appeared in front of them, decanter in hand, ready to pour more wine for them. His eyes narrowed as he studied Griffen. “Uh oh. Not good?”

Tristan’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Griffen smiled, warmed by their concern. When neither man looked reassured, he added, “Really.”

And there wasn’t—though they still didn’t look as if they believed him. He was just…thoughtful.

A sharp rap on the door saved him from having to convince Tristan and Alexander. Before anyone could move to answer the door, it flew open, and Ligeia tumbled into the room.

Surprise froze Griffen for an instant. His sister had elected to stay home that evening—though Philip and Amory would’ve been happy to have her join them if she wanted—with Patia and Idalia, two of the cousins who’d become Bastien’s wards several months ago. She shouldn’t have been at the palace, certainly not looking wild-eyed and near panic with her light-brown hair escaping its pins and her dress one she never left the house in.

He broke his paralysis and spoke at the same time Bastien did. “Ligeia?”

“What happened?” Bastien continued. “Are you all right?”

She halted a few steps inside, after pushing the door closed behind her—it was amazing the guards had even let her through looking the way she did. “Fine, I’m fine,” she said, breathless. Had she run through the palace to get here? “But…”

“What is it, Ligeia?” Philip asked as her gaze darted around the room. He didn’t exactly use the tone of voice that Griffen identified as more prince than family, but the way he said the words commanded attention, nonetheless. From all of them.

Ligeia focused on Philip immediately and took a breath. “Some people came to the house, looking for Corentin. From, um, his home.”

Marcus and Maxen looked confused, but everyone else froze. They knew exactly what that meant.

The dragons.

My Review:
This is the eighth book in a fantasy series, and likely best enjoyed when read in sequence, though it can be read as a standalone. I have read books 1-4 in this series and still felt there was enough background to fill in the gaps I had from not reading books 5-7. This review may contain some spoilers for previous books.

Griffen is the second son of his family, his elder brother Bastien is the Duke of their familial estate in Ardesia. They are both cousins to Philip, crowned prince of Tounai, and Griffen works in the palace at Jumelle, the capital city as a diplomat. Bastien is engaged to Corentin, a scholar from a hidden realm called Ivria where the people have a magical secret they endeavor to keep from society-at=large: many of their number can shift into a dragon form. Bastien had been attacked and kidnapped in a previous story and Corentin’s magic both saved Bastien and revealed the secret of Ivria, at least to Prince Philip and his consort Prince Amory and certain other trusted members of Philip’s family and retinue. Griffen doesn’t think dragon magic is odd, and he’s happy for his brother’s happiness.

Griffen, Bastien and several other members of the prince’s family are dining in the palace for a private celebration over impending nuptials when a delegation from Ivria arrives unannounced and with little decorum. Kirill is among this number, but he’s startled and frustrated when the unofficial delegation leader makes unreasonable demands–to hand over Corentin to be returned to Ivria for questioning. The delegation was only sent to determine if the revelations Corentin had let slip posed any danger to Ivria or its interests–but Kirill is soon convinced that the unreasonable and crude demands his fellow envoy are making stem from a deeper plot, one that would reveal the dragon’s magic in an attempt to ignite a conflagration.

Kirill and Griffen are both working to help Corentin and smooth over this situation, and they are both caught in an unwanted attraction for each other. Kirill’s fellow delegates are encouraging this–either because they want to see him happy or they hope he can exploit the relationship. The delegates have been invited to stay in the palace, temporarily, so that Philip’s guards can keep an eye on them, and make sure they do not attempt to kidnap Corentin. Kirill knows this, and he doesn’t trust the people of the palace, or Griffen, for these reasons. Still, their communications become less intrigue-laden and more friendly–until one of the Ivrians is murdered in the palace gardens. Now Kirill’s missing is to find the murderer while extricting their group from Tournai with haste. Even if it means leaving Griffen behind. Maybe…temporarily.

This is an intrigue-heavy mystery that develops alongside the romance. Griffen is a good man and he’s willing to trust Kirill more than Kirill trusts him–and that’s find for a while. His excellent behavior and attention to details help Kirill to navigate the two walks he’s taking in the negotiations about Corentin and his growing regard for Griffen. We had met Griffen briefly in earlier stories, but he was never a central character before now. Kirill and his Ivrian compatriots are interesting and I liked learning a bit about their culture. Not all of them can shift into dragons, but Kirill can–and he shows a lot of trust to shift in front of Griffen once Griffen finds an isolated area for Kirill to stretch his wings. The romance develops slowly ans is adversarial at first, due to the nature of being from different nations and wanting different objectives–namely, Kirill is angry that Griffen has knowledge about his magic, and he’s afraid that knowledge will be used for harm. It takes time for Kirill–and his fellow delegates–to see the few people from Tournai who know their secret go to great pains to not let it be revealed to any new persons, thus protecting the Ivrians from the exposure they want to contain.

Griffen and Kirill develop a plan for further connection, once they agree that they want more than something casual. Kirill feels so seen and cherished by Griffen, who loves him in human or dragon form. Griffen really feels connected to Kirill, and their lives seem aligned both emotionally and diplomatically. Bastien and Corentin also share their happy ending with the greater group of friends and family that make up these books, with glimpses of folks who might become MCs of their own right in later stories. I’m a fan of this series and the magical world they encompass. Can’t wait for another story to hit the press!

Interested? You can find THE ENVOY’S HONOR on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press gift card!
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.

Catch up with Antonia on Facebook, and twitter.

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