Pirates!… and a beautiful island kingdom…
An arranged marriage, deception, and a fierce, sexy pirate make up the plot in this entertaining fantasy romance…
Alessander and Celandine, twin prince and princess of Aël, are heirs to the throne. Their father, King Nicolas, rules over their beautiful archipelago known as the Garland. This scattering of islands strung around the royal castle island, Aël, give the kingdom it’s evocative name. “I tried to see the Garland in my mind’s eye, all its myriad isles spread like carelessly strewn jewels in the sea, some in little clusters and some proud outliers like Aël and the Orchid Isle.” -- Alessander
Until ten years ago, the Garland had a long history of raiding and plundering by sea pirates. Ten years ago, King Nicolas brokered a hard-won peace by striking a deal with the notorious pirate, “scourge of the Garland”, Dogan Blackstone. If Blackstone would end the plundering and protect the islands from other marauders, he would have Celandine in marriage when she came of age. Blackstone has kept his bargain and the day has finally come— he has returned to Aël to claim his bride, and wedding plans are afoot… “From the highest window of the Star Spire, we saw the ship approach. Sleek and massive in the azure water, with its wide sails the color of blood… down in the harbor there were a thousand pennants flying. The last time those red sails had been spotted… the sea gates had been barred and the war beacons burning. They’d come for plunder then. Now they were coming for a wedding.”
Having never met Blackstone, the twins imagine him as all sorts of a larger-than-life bad guy: a roguish, uncouth, oafish bully. Needless-to-say, Celandine is fretting and hatches a plan.
The story is told through Alessander’s POV and we get a sense that he is an easy-going, softly raised kind of guy who loves his sister very much and would do anything for her. On the evening of the masked ball where Celandine will be presented to Blackstone, she decides that she and her brother will swap places— Alessander will take her place in her ball gown and jeweled peacock mask, and she will dress in his outfit. After all, they are very similar in look and size, and if Blackstone is easily fooled he will be proven to be no proper husband for Celandine.
We learn a lot about Alessander through his willingness to go along with his sister’s questionable plan and that he can even attempt to pass for her…
But Blackstone could be more than either twin has bargained for.
When Celandine mysteriously disappears from the ball and indeed, the island, the plot moves quickly from palace to pirate ship, and the search is on across the seas. Blackstone takes Alessander along as his hostage and the pampered and protected prince quickly learns that there is more to his island country and the famous pirate who guards it.
The author delivers a well-paced, richly detailed story with its share of suspense and romance… some hot pirate seduction. For, if your promised bride has suddenly disappeared, surely taking her brother in exchange would only be fair?
This was such fun. Having read Tristan’s previous fantasy work, [b:The Adorned|18244994|The Adorned|John Tristan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1374860271s/18244994.jpg|25694373] and [b:Forest of Glass|15729056|Forest of Glass|John Tristan|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1341041043s/15729056.jpg|21407819], I knew I could count on some inventive and beautifully written storytelling. There will be those readers who will yearn for this to be longer, always a dilemma with a novella, but it hangs together well, in my opinion. If I could wish for but one thing more here, it would have been for some fierce swordplay, some bit of flashy buckling of the swash and pirate-on-pirate bluster. These pirates were surprisingly well-behaved. But Blackstone, unpredictable and sexy to the end, shows some naughty kink in his swagger when he keeps Alessander’s borrowed ball gown and talks the young prince back into it for some steamy role-play.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy bodice rippers— here, replaced by knickers, of course— island paradises, and hot romance on the high seas.
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