I picked this up at random sometime last year, and it’s been sitting in my audible library just waiting for me to finally listen to it. I think I’ve been avoiding it since I didn’t realize until after I bought it that there was a strong romance subplot, and those aren’t generally my favorites.
This was pretty cute and much better than the other romance I just finished this week. Although this started out with some fairly instant lustfulness going on, it ended up being a slower burn romance that took its time and became endearing before it kicked off in earnest. I tend to respond to those types of romances better than whirlwind rushed romances.
There are two POVs who are each other’s love interest, and they caught my interest since they’re are slightly older than the standard romance novel protags. I think they’re both in their early to mid thirties, so while they aren’t “old” they aren’t in that teenage infatuation/crush raging hormones stage either.
The woman, Grace, is a perfume maker. She’s divorced and living alone with a creature that’s sort of like a cat mixed with a weasel. I love it. She collects flowers and herbs to make certain oils and then with meticulous precision, she makes quality perfumes for high paying clientele. She has a couple friends who run in the noble’s circles and one of them tells her that a prince is coming and she needs to make a classy and unique perfume for him as a present. If the presents are acceptable to this prince, a new trade agreement could be established or something (I honestly can’t remember, it’s something like that). So, she does, and she makes him a really nice scent that he loves and ends up asking for more. She sees an opportunity to make some money and charges an amount that would typically be a year’s salary for her…. and he agrees! Things go south, however, when she’s told the prince has been poisoned and she’s a prime suspect.
The other POV is a paladin named Stephen. Paladins are tied to specific gods that give them different sorts of powers which is fairly standard stuff for fantasy… except for the fact that Stephen’s god has died. Stephen’s Order was left in ruins… many of his Brothers and Sisters went mad and either committed suicide or had to be killed because they went on rampages. There’s a fugue state known as Beserker state that all Paladin’s of the Steel God can fall victim to. After a certain point, they can black out and become a nearly mindless killing machine… since Stephen doesn’t trust himself around others he’s also been alone for years despite the fact that his particular Order doesn’t require celibacy from its members.
Well, these two broken characters meet and fall in love and try to deny it for a long while, and of course he has to come and help her when she’s put on trial for murder. Also… there are random decapitated heads showing up all over the town which also seems like a pretty big deal, at least Stephen thinks so.
The writing was pretty cute and whimsical. I especially enjoyed Grace’s inner thoughts, they tended to make me laugh or at least put me in a good mood. It was a joy getting to know her, and she was just slightly different from other characters I’ve read recently to make this feel pretty fresh but still remain familiar and cozy enough that I think this may count for my Comfort Reads Hard Mode square for r/fantasy bingo.
The world building was a touch light for my general interests, but it didn’t become as much as a drawback for me as it would have if I wasn’t enjoying the characters as much as I was. I feel like I don’t know much outside of what was strictly important to the plot and characters. Sometimes intimate world building like that suits a story that isn’t about the whole world ending or needing rescuing, just a couple people trying to get through the day.
The pacing was pretty good, I breezed through this in just a day. Part of that is because I was on audible, but another part is that I just didn’t want to put it down because it was cute and cozy and warm.
Overall, I would highly recommend this to people who like smaller stories, a more intimate cast, endearing characters, a slow burn romance with lots of kissy time later on in the book.
- Tropes: broken characters finding love, murder mystery, gods granting powers
- Tags: slow burn romance, moderate magic, small cast, even paced, charming, warm, cozy, older characters
- Genre: high fantasy, romance, murder mystery
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 81/100 or 4/5 stars on Goodreads