Aleksey’s Kingdom (A Royal Affair #2) by John Wiltshire ~ Book Review by Lirtle

Aleksey's Kingdom Title: Aleksey’s Kingdom (A Royal Affair #2)

Author: John Wiltshire

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Blurb:

Doctor Nikolai Hartmann escaped the Hesse-Davian dungeons. He fled civilized Europe to come to the vast wilderness of the New World, where he carved out a home in which he could love openly and without censure—Aleksey’s Kingdom. However, there is an irritating green-eyed, dark-haired flaw in his new paradise. A king and a general, Aleksey has no intention of wasting his life away in a remote forest. When he agrees to accompany a group of soldiers to a distant outpost to discover why it has been mysteriously abandoned, Nikolai has no choice but to tag along.

While traveling through the wilderness with their new companions, it does not take Nikolai and Aleksey long to realize that far from mounting a rescue operation, they are merely unwitting pawns in a far more sinister conspiracy. But their enemies have badly miscalculated by threatening anything Nikolai loves. In this merciless place of towering trees, where water plummets beyond the human ability to comprehend, Nikolai must unleash the unfettered savagery of his true nature to save Aleksey.

Lirtle’s View:

Just to give you an idea as we start out our discussion here, I highlighted no less than half a dozen lines and exchanges just in chapter one of this book.

I shrugged and went back to my meal – if I was going to spin a story, I wanted it to be to a very eager audience, and playing Aleksey was one of my chief amusements.

That goes both ways, Niko, that goes both ways. Yup, Aleksey and Niko are one of those couples that love to tease and bicker and poke, enjoying every moment, as well as the usual outcome in each instance.

Nikolai is in my top ten of first person narrator characters. Ever. Wiltshire knows how to give us this story from one person’s point of view and yet give us nearly as much about his partner, Aleksey, at the same time. Their personalities come through so clearly. They’re crusty and imperfect, sexy and intelligent, so in tune and yet sometimes so unaware of the effects they have on each other. In other words, they’re perfect for each other and that flies off the page.

I relish experiencing the world through Niko’s eyes, and his heart, and his stomach, and everything else, while at the same time getting an eyeful, heart-ful, and stomach-ful from Aleksey right alongside. When characters come through this easily, nuance, subtle changes in mood, recognized by me and acknowledged between Niko and Aleksey, and constantly changing inflections in their voices all get to shine and celebrate that shininess.

”So, Your Highness again, now is it?”

He winced. “It slipped out once. I could hardly then deny it, could I?”

“Oh. I apologize. Yes, I can see that ‘oh, by the way, I am actually royalty’ slips off the tongue.”

He hit me. I told him that this would look very strange to anyone watching and that it was always very unwise to hit your elderly physician.

Oh Niko, you’re a sarcastic, cynical, loving, devoted man after my own heart. <<< Not sarcastic, by the way.

These two have survived death together, more than once, and so many other things to get to where they now find themselves. The stakes are high so the emotion is just as elevated. I keep wanting to just say ‘wow’ but that isn’t all that helpful in conveying just how fantastic this story and the writing are within these pages.

I know it’s a part of Nikolai’s personality and certainly fits the times, but some of the sexist things he says still irked me. The worst for me was “womanish woe”, which certainly gave me pause. Luckily, these instances are few.

Wiltshire gives me setting with emotion, with temperature and sensation and texture. Facts are facts, only becoming a story into which I can lose myself when…

His own eyes welled with tears at seeing streaks in the blood upon my cheeks.

… and…

… enjoyed him in the sunlight that filtered down from the canopy above us.

… then…

… unfettered in children – for they have not had the knocks life gives you to squash you into the shape of an adult…

Surprises, passion, quality characterization, humor unique to those characters which shows the complete fullness of their relationship, and emotional struggle and torment, Wiltshire gave me all of these things. They’re all topped off with the cherry that is the highly interactive nature of his dialogue. This is Aleksey, his own brand of cheeky sarcasm:

”Yes. Thank you. And then attempt to force me, whilst muttering and cursing about stirring a man and teasing him, and thus being bettered and forced upon the ground would be turned into my fault. I do like that bit, thank you. Do not stop I said. So you have nothing to worry about… “

The bit in bold is Aleksey reacting to Niko doing something to him while he speaks, just like we all do while talking, breaking into our own thought stream in order to react in the moment. This is not easy to pull off on the page without feeling clunky or nonsensical. Wiltshire excels.

As overused as this word is, it’s the one I would use to describe this story if forced down such a path: Beautiful. The devotion portrayed by way of Aleksey and Nikolai defines the word. Best of all, it’s unlike any portrayal I’ve come across.

There was an exchange I was going to add here that explains this perfectly, but I want you all to experience it yourselves, just as I did.

The tone, setting, and resulting circumstances are quite different in this book compared to A Royal Affair, but I would still recommend reading it first before diving into this story. You’ll miss a lot of delicious detail if you skip around all willy nilly like. 😉

And what a heart-pounding final act of this story! Not for the faint of heart. It also allows the intensity of that devotion to be displayed full force, unrestrained and celebrated.

This has earned a spot on my top ten list for 2015.

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
Kobo US

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
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,

Brandilyn
This post may contain affiliate links.
Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews.  The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.

10 thoughts on “Aleksey’s Kingdom (A Royal Affair #2) by John Wiltshire ~ Book Review by Lirtle

  1. Good review, Lirtle. I know John predicted that if people had trouble with his treatment and depiction of women in Bruise-Black Sky they would have even more trouble with this one.
    Is it misogynistic to have a female villain? Or was it more phrases like you quoted above. Remember the story has a historical setting and in those days women didn’t have the vote, and they were little more than chattels for their husbands. I iamgine that womenly woes would have been a typical remark.
    I found the short discussion on transgender people interesting (or as he described it) people with the body of a woman and the mind of a man. How is a male mind different from a female’s?
    I found it amusing that at one stage I was getting annoyed at Nikolai for doubting Aleksey so much, but then followed a segment when he admitted doing it and knowing it was wrong but he couldn’t help himself. They loved the drama of the doubt.
    In some ways, that’s so gay! Lol.

    • It’s not the fact that there’s a female villain, I don’t really ever have a problem with that. Evil is evenly spread between all.

      And I stated that I know it’s par for the times but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t or didn’t bother me. And a reader wouldn’t necessarily know what thoughts the author might have had regarding any particular part of another book and how reactions to that may translate to reactions to this story.

      I liked those discussions, too, regarding roles and gender identities. On one hand, it speaks to what we already know in that people of all types have existed since there have been people walking around LOL and I liked that it was included. On the other hand, for me, it highlighted even more the sexist comments Nikolai made because it was such a contrast to the this convo you reference.

      • I’m intrigued. And please don’t take this as being confrontational.

        I’m not sure I understand where you are going with this bit: “And a reader wouldn’t necessarily know what thoughts the author might have had regarding any particular part of another book and how reactions to that may translate to reactions to this story.”

        Most of JW’s stories were submitted to publishers before November last year (when he became more known) so I’m not sure he deliberately worded things to cater for any particular expectation or to adhere to any unwritten standard. It was more that he anticipated a certain reaction based on what had happened in reaction to other books.

        Maybe I phrased my comment badly.

        And who is sexist? The character or the writer? Are you saying that you felt the book suffered in your mind by having a sexist character (regardless of the time period)? What if the character had been greedy? Impatient? Irrational? Doubting? Which faults are “allowed” in mm romance and which are not?

        Again this is not having a go at your rating or review, it’s just a subject that I find fascinating. It’s a bit like the one regarding the gap between what many gay men in real life think about monogamy and how our fictional romance characters feel on the subject.

        And I know readers are irrational beings. I’ve had people knock off a star because of my main character’s moustache! We can’t help reacting the way we do, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But it is worth thinking about, or we will end up with cookie cut-out characters.

        I also wonder whether sexism accusations differ depending on the gender of the writer.

        • You said: “I know John predicted that if people had trouble with his treatment and depiction of women in Bruise-Black Sky they would have even more trouble with this one.” and ” Most of JW’s stories were submitted to publishers before November last year (when he became more known) so I’m not sure he deliberately worded things to cater for any particular expectation or to adhere to any unwritten standard. It was more that he anticipated a certain reaction based on what had happened in reaction to other books.”

          I say, a reader isn’t going to know what an author’s concerns are before they read a book, in most cases. I’m reviewing from a reader’s perspective.

          You said: “And who is sexist? The character or the writer?”

          I say, again, you’re bringing the writer into this when I’m reviewing the book and the character, and giving my reaction to both. Nothing is mentioned about the writer. To call out a character’s imperfections is not to imply the writer shares them. It could appear that’s what you’ve done.

          You said: “Are you saying that you felt the book suffered in your mind by having a sexist character (regardless of the time period)? What if the character had been greedy? Impatient? Irrational? Doubting? Which faults are “allowed” in mm romance and which are not?”

          I say, simply because I, or anyone else, doesn’t like a part of a character or a story in no way suggests these traits or topics shouldn’t be “allowed”. That’s quite a leap you’ve made. Everyone has traits that others hold that they find irksome or annoying. This in no way equals a feeling that something shouldn’t be allowed.

          Anyone who has read any of my reviews, particularly those involving characters who are much more realistic in their portrayal – i.e., the opposite of your “cookie cut-out” concerns – involving the imperfections all of us have, knows that the vast majority of those complexities don’t warrant judgement from me, which is my personal feeling about them, just like this case.

          You said: “And I know readers are irrational beings. I’ve had people knock off a star because of my main character’s moustache! We can’t help reacting the way we do, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

          I say, it could appear here that you’re calling me, or other reviewers, irrational. It also could appear that your making an assumption that I, or anyone else, would or does feel shame about feelings. I will only speak for myself on the latter and say that I don’t feel ashamed of any of my reactions to this book. As for the former, the very concern regarding the type of judgment your voicing, well, it could also appear that you’ve done that yourself in judging someone’s decision to use mustaches, or anything else, as a way of determining their rating.

          To find something sexist and voice that reaction, and expose that as a part of a rating, isn’t irrational.

          It could appear, and does to me, that you’ve chosen to focus on the writer’s possible concerns, your own assumptions about the reasoning behind my review content and rating, and that of other reviewers, as opposed to the content of the book itself. In other words, negating your initial “Again this is not having a go at your rating or review” premise.

          I also say that, just like I have the right to choose about which things I highlight about a book in a review, you have that same right to discuss the content of the review.

          Thank you, AB. 🙂

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