Nikolai Hartmann has a tale for us. As a doctor and someone who has spent time in many a location, he’s got a lot to tell, quite a tale to tell.
Author: John Wiltshire
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: L. C. Chase
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Doctor Nikolai Hartmann represents himself as a learned man of science who believes wholly in the rational and scientific above all else. In reality, he is a man haunted by an unusual past and running from his own nature. While the Reformation transforms much of Europe, it has yet to touch Hesse-Davia; this is a land mired in superstition with cruel punishments for crimes such as witchcraft and sodomy.
While traveling to the dying king’s bedside to offer his medical expertise, Nikolai is set upon by a bandit. Reaching the king’s ancient stronghold, he discovers his mysterious brigand is the beautiful, arrogant Prince Aleksey. Aleksey is everything Nikolai is not: unguarded, passionate and willful. Despite their differences, Nikolai feels an irresistible desire for the young royal that keeps him in Aleksey’s thrall.
But Hesse-Davia is a dangerous world for a newly crowned king who wants to reform his country—and for the man who loves him.
After a rough start, I was well and curious before leaving chapter two. I say rough because the tone in the beginning, the style, mixed with the first person telling of Niko by Niko, made me feel a bit detached from everything. Welp, that rough start didn’t last and I was officially baited.
Enter Aleksey and… friends. Gregory, Johan and Mark. smirk Just you wait. 😉
By chapter three, the alternating tones had me feeling off kilter, which I like. This absence of complete balance stayed with me through the entire read, which in turn kept me wondering, curious, questioning. In other words, an interactive read. This was by no means passive.
Self-aware humor offers jibs and jabs from both Nikolai and Aleksey. The stuff of life. That’s good writing, YO. Talk about a great conduit through which their personalities start to light up the pages, more and more as I read on. This is particularly difficult to do when one character is telling us about everything and everyone. Wiltshire succeeds in Aleksey shining just as brightly. I liked them both because of this, an equally divided burden to entertain that works.
Frustration and sweetness and mystery and darkness and intrigue and undulating sexual tension. I don’t know about you, but that’s a mighty tasty dish of literary alphabet soup. licks fingers
It’s an interesting choice, this: sometimes instead of dialogue, it’s Nikolai describing the conversation and resulting reactions. It took me a little while to get used to that. It felt like the weak link in the writing but it’s a unique artistic choice to make. It does add to the feel that this is a recounting as much as live action. The writing overall, no matter the style, is thickly layered and smooth. I burrowed down into it like it was mid-February, 30 below and three feet of snow was surrounding my house.
There’s a cool cultural mix, all by way of Nikolai and his travels: his lengthy time in the New World, returning to England, and then to Eastern Europe and Aleksey. It widens the lens, creating more breathing room, more possibilities for the story. Enlightenment, sometimes at a price. On the flip side, even in this sometimes very restrictive society, sexual fluidity is explored.
More beautiful writing and a turning point. My goodness, I was ALL. IN.
”… a role… I desperately wanted to play in Aleksey’s life.”
Flirting. Honest to goodness flirting, over a long period of time. Why isn’t there more of this realistic and delicious flirting in books these days? Talk about an irrefutable way to grab my attention and make a connection to these characters, their world, my feelings about it all.
I could feel the frost atop the mud, the cold. I could hear the horses whinny, their anxious or happy huffing. I could see Aleksey and his green eyes, his youth and confidence. I could see Nikolai and his broad shoulders, his intelligence and heart, his humor and pain. I could see the castle and the forests and the tent and the cots. I could see it all. And I did so contentedly.
The supporting characters are just as vivid. Even though sparsely used in some parts of the story, their presence as a whole is still felt, ruminated on and discussed between Nikolai and Aleksey. A few of them in particular made me curious to know more about their own stories.
This is how you build a relationship. The more I read, the deeper I fell into this world. One of the best things in life is to have both deep friendship and unconditional love in a partnership. All of the things I’ve mentioned are used in showing how this can all work.
There are twists and turns, both in plot and with characters. Brilliantly scrumptious fiction.
Niko and Aleksey, I won’t forget you.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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