Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sara Bell - Devil's Fire

Forced into an arranged marriage after the death of his true love, Gareth has no intention of giving Alric of Kray the time of day. He'll do what he has to, but he knows he'll never find a love like the one he's lost. Alric has problems of his own, but is willing to go along with the wedding to help defend his kingdom from the forces ready to tear it apart.
When Alric is gravely injured, Gareth discovers the secret of Alric's magic, and discovers that he has feelings for Alric that he's been trying to deny. They may be able to heal Alric's wounds, but can they defeat the enemy that lurks behind the scenes, waiting for them to make one false move?

Comment: When I was organizing my MM e-books a few months ago, I finally remembered this story, which seemed to be well liked by many people on line. I added it to my reads of august and got really curious about the premise. I had hopes about it...

This is an arranged marriage story, Gareth is a widow and still mourns his husband and now, for political reasons, he needs to marry again, this time with Alric, someone he doesn't know much less love. They go forward with the marriage but there's a common enemy who wants Alric's powers for himself and his quest for more. Gareth starts to see in Alric someone in need of love and his feelings start to change and it comes to the point where lives are at risk and Gareth will need to do everything in his power to make sure those he cares about are safe...

The blurb gives the impression this will be a romantic story where the two protagonists fight their feelings but eventually come to terms with what is happening between them. In a way this is what happens, but for me the execution wasn't the wonderful piece of writing work I thought I'd get. The reluctance between them wasn't explored conveniently and I kept thinking how some parts were being rushed. When their relationship changed at last, it wasn't as romantic as I thought.

The story is set in a fantasy world where gay marriages (thus relationships) are seen with normalcy as hetero ones. Good. But then the world building seemed filled with many details which weren't explored in the best way, I think. I wished there was more information about how the society worked, about the types of people , their lives, a bit more structure to make this feel more serious.
The focus was obviously the fight against the bad guy and that wasn't enough to sustain this long novel. I had the feeling the idea was there, the paths were set but the execution felt flat in most parts.

The story's development seemed a task to be fulfilled. There were times I got a bit bored because there were so many sentences which didn't add anything except knowledge which I think should be given by character's actions or dialogs. Not that it was an information dumping but it wasn't provided in the best way, I think. I wanted a bit more need to read, some more drive to get to know what happened after, but the way things were written didn't give me that vibe.

Back to the protagonists' relationship, I wasn't as captivating as that because o matter their eventual love words and acts, I wasn't really convinced about them. The reader is told Gareth mourns his late husband still and despite his words stating so, when Alric is with a friend, Gareth is jealous right away and he starts to change his behavior and his feelings soon after. Fine, this I could believe but it was such a sudden change of heart, it's too obvious it was a task to be accomplished to keep the story moving. Alric is a man with strange powers, he was abused by his first husband, he was mistreated and kept his good soul, but it seemed rushed how he accepted intimacy with Gareth (I don't mean just sex) despite his state of mind, which surely was still fragile after the things that happened to him and the guilt and the unworthy feelings he had.
Still this all could be accepted if only the story had any romantic feel but despite the pretty words and chevalier actions I wasn't marveled by them...

The fantasy elements were interesting and full of imagination, the society's structure could have been developed more but the main ideas seemed a good starting point. It's really a shame this wasn't more passionate in terms of writing and I can't go past the fact the writing wasn't addictive or polished enough to give the whole book the feeling that something special was in front of me.
Unfortunately, this wasn't as wonderful in its delivery as I imagined despite the good elements one can see and the possibility of them...this is positive but barely, for me. Others loved it, so, as always, all opinions are personal.
Grade: 5/10

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