Axel Blackwood catches a thief and is astounded to see that he closely resembles Liam Alloway, the love he lost seven years ago in an attack by the evil woodland folk known as threeves. Axel suspects he's fallen prey to dark magic, but can't help becoming infatuated with his prisoner. He's overwhelmed with the hope that he can at last bring his lost lover home, despite everything that warns him it's all a diabolical trick. Bryn Darrow, the half-threeve, half human orphan sent to trick Axel and rob him of much more than a simple gem finds himself equally as fascinated with his handsome human captor and the lure of someplace to call home, but he knows deep down that the constable is in love with a dangerous illusion. When he's commanded by the threeves to murder Axel and steal a witch's powerful grimoire, he's forced to decide between the only family he's ever known and the one person who might rescue him from a life of isolation and pain. Will Axel and Bryn be forced into a deadly confrontation before they can discover the truth?
Publisher: Loose Id
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Amnesia, Coming Home, Enemies to Lovers, Trickster Hero
Word Count: 420000
Setting: High Fantasy Old Europe
Languages Available: English
“Unlock these,” Bryn said, holding up his wrists. “I won’t run.”
“Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?”
“I don’t want to run away from you.”
Axel grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Close to Bryn’s ear, he growled, “Who sent you? What are you after?”
“No one. Nothing.” Bryn twisted round to face him. He froze there, face so close his lashes tickled Axel’s cheek. “I’m only trying to survive. I feel like you can help me with that.”
“I could if you’d tell the truth.” Axel eased out of the danger zone, stood, and went to where he’d hung his bags over a rail. He pulled out an old spare shirt, once black and now gray. Going down on one knee in front of Bryn, he tossed the shirt in his lap and unlocked the manacles on his wrists. Bright red marks scarred him there too.
“Put it on,” Axel said.
Bryn rubbed his wrists and flexed his fingers. “You sure you want me to?”READ MORE
“When all this straw starts sticking to the ointment, you’ll look like a scarecrow,” Axel said, ignoring the invitation with difficulty.
Bryn pushed up onto his knees and slipped on the shirt. It was much too large for him, and when he sank back to sit on his heels, he looked like a waif, his strong body hidden again. But what was hidden behind the delicious illusion? Who was he, damn it?
Despite the deceptions and conflicts between them, they regarded each other closely. Axel wanted to take Bryn so bad his mouth watered. He didn’t care who or what Bryn was.
“No one’s ever looked at me like you look at me,” Bryn said.
Axel reached out and touched Bryn’s face, stroking his cheek with a thumb. Bryn leaned against his hand like a cat wanting to be rubbed.
“Goddess help me,” Axel whispered.COLLAPSE
“Enchanté!” This is the phrase that came to mind as I completed this lively and evocative otherworld tale. I was completely charmed by the story. The romance between lead characters Alex and Bryn is lovely and I really enjoyed the delightful supporting cast of this well-balanced and fast-paced book. I give high marks to the author for excellent narrative, timing, word choice, and restraint in world building. All of which served to provide a smooth and winning read into the realm of Lacknor, home to humans and a magical people called threeves—who are sworn enemies. Deputy Axel Blackwood’s heart was shattered when threeves, a treacherous race of forest dwellers, murdered Liam, the love of his life, on the very day the two were going to celebrate their love. Seven years later tall, dark, and handsome Axel, now a constable, is renowned for his threeve hunting skills and has even studied witchcraft to combat the devilish race, who use magic as a weapon against humans. On a cross-country mission to deliver a jewel, Axel realizes a threeve is following him. Axel knows the threeve will attempt to steal the gem and sets a trap. He nets the would-be-thief, Bryn, but the threeve looks exactly like Liam and Axel’s heart and loins waken. Is it truly Liam or is Bryn bespelled to confuse then destroy Axel? Fair-haired half-breed Bryn is less than nothing in the land of threeves, so when his uncle offers him an opportunity to save their race by smiting the humans, he finally sees a chance to become a respected threeve. Bespelled by his uncle, Bryn is to use Axel to gain access to a powerful witch’s grimoire. His uncle promises that with the spell book in hand, they will be able to rid the land of humans, especially the hated threeve killer, Axel Blackwood. Captured by Axel, Bryn grows more and more confused as his threeve memories and Liam’s memories become entwined. Unable to resist the charismatic Axel, Bryn falls in love. Torn between a love that shouldn’t be and duty to a race that hates him, which will Bryn choose? This is a wonderful story. Startlingly original and extremely accessible, sweet and heat make for a potent romance between these two attractive and lovelorn leads characters. I found myself hard-pressed to choose whom I loved more—the heroic, brokenhearted Axel or the tormented, puckish Bryn. A naughty queen, a droll deputy, and fumbling, braggadocious villains add to this magical mix of fairy tale and male/male romance. The writing is incredibly sharp; variety, excitement, and emotional depth balance exquisitely with a clear plot, beautiful settings, and descriptive, on-point, hot, tender, and “rough and tumble” smex. By the third quarter of the book I was hoping that the story was a serial, and at its end I yearned for another visit to the realm of Lacknor. This is definitely an author I’ll keep my eye on. Thank you, Alexis Duran, for making me believe in the make-believe again! “Sparkling, Magical, Romantic”