Published by: InterMix
Format: eArc mobi
Genre: Contemporary m/m
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Erin
What to Expect: Sweeping, epic romance, royal intrigue, and the most romantic first meeting I’ve read in a long time.
James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he’s keeping a king-sized secret…James, next in line for the throne, is gay.
He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.
While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James’s eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.
But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have to decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth…
These books are so good, I don’t know how to start this review. His Royal Secret is the kind of heart-pounding, addictive romance we all crave. You know that book, the one to get you out of your worst book slump and then plunge you immediately into a book hangover? This is that book..
James is deeply closeted, something he’s made peace with as a necessary part of his life as the Prince of Wales. He is a serious, sweet, and thoughtful young man, at once very powerful and very sheltered. James’ sister, Lady Amelia, has a mental illness she’s been hiding from the public for years. He’s afraid that his coming out will cause him to be removed from the line of succession, putting the pressures of ruling directly on her. James is content to keep on this way, Cassandra. Then he meets Benjamin Dahan, a man who never stays in one place — or one country — for very long.
Ben is a journalist, originally from South Africa. They meet cute during a rainstorm in a remote Kenyan resort. Their chemistry is instantaneous and undeniable, but conducting an affair beyond that one night is impossible…until a chance meeting at a fundraiser in London. They set off on a series of clandestine meetings at Clarence House, the Prince’s residence. Each meeting is hotter than the last, and James and Ben have a hard time figuring out how to let go.
I have absolutely no idea how accurate Pace’s depiction of life inside the British monarchy is, but she certainly creates a believable world, rich with details. She never handwaves how difficult it is for Ben and James to see each other; every time they meet is fraught, which adds to the narrative and sexual tension. The use of social media feels accurate and current as well. That isn’t to say that this is a gritty inside look at palace life: this is a fairy tale, with a handsome prince and a royal palace and an evil ex, and lots of drama. Some people might think the sister with the self-harm and anxiety disorder and the weirdly sociopathic queen and the manipulative ex-lovers are too over the top, but I think she balances it well with those everyday details. And hey, this is romance! We go over the top and we love it.
The first book captures that desperate feeling of new love and infatuation perfectly. I kept squeezing my eyes shut and squeaking to myself because I was so caught up in the romance. It ends on a very dramatic HFN. As soon as I was done, I texted my Binge on Books overlord, Judith, begging her to do this review so I could get the next book right away. (So do yourself a favor and preorder the second book….you won’t be sorry!)
If His Royal Secret is the story of new love, His Royal Favorite is the story of love under pressure. Ben thinks he understands what he’s giving up to be with James, but he has no idea how much his daily life will be disrupted. He spends a lot of the book deeply unhappy, which is difficult to read. She doesn’t back away from the challenges they face, and how brutal the slow slide away from a loved one can be. His Royal Favorite has wonderful, sweet, and hot moments, but it’s ultimately about taking them apart so you can get to that good, satisfying HEA at the end. Ben and James love each other deeply, but that’s not always enough. Ben needs to learn how to let go of his wanderlust and his emotionally manipulative ex, and find his own way in the world of the monarchy. James needs to come to grips with the fact that he can’t buy or command his way out of every problem.
It’s hard to see throughout the book how they’re going to get their HEA, but no worries, they do! It’s fascinating to watch these two men navigate a relationship in tandem with the British government and the Church of England. As soon as they come to one level of understanding, then an external force throws a wrench into it.It’s such a believable barrier that the roadblocks to their HEA never feel forced, and it makes sense that it would take two books to unravel it all.
I had a…well, an interesting reaction to Ben’s struggles to be taken seriously. He was absolutely right in wanting to maintain his career and to use his skills, rather than being seen as James’ arm candy. But the book doesn’t explicitly address that this has been the expectation for women attached to powerful men for thousands of years. Suddenly, the objectification, the loss of identity…this is suddenly a problem because he’s a man? I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the author’s intent, but I did get a little eye-rolly at that part. Welcome to the world of women, Ben!
These books take you on a ride, from wild, emotional highs to terrified, claustrophobic lows and you can’t put them down for a second. If you want to escape the world for a while and fall into an epic, glorious, emotionally wrenching romance, these books are exactly what you need.
What you might not like: If you’re looking for gritty realism, this is not for you. The plot is a big, bold, romantic, soap opera plot with all that entails. Also, there are some pretty graphic scenes involving self-harm, so please avoid these books if that’s a trigger for you. There is also quite a bit of discussion around parent death.
What you will love: This is going to wring good book noises out of you and leaving you gasping with a giant book hangover. You’ll fall in love with James right along with Ben and you’ll be swept up in their big, bold, romantic soap opera of a love story.