Title: All For One (All for Love #2)
Author: Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M & M/M/M historical romance
Length: 322 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A swashbuckling tale set in the world of The Three Musketeers, concerning the relationships between four men. Despite some good ideas and an interesting setting, there were a few flaws.
Aristide, Léandre, and Perrin pledge only three loyalties in life: their King, their captain, and their passion for each other. So when the musketeers discover a plan to accuse M. de Tréville of treason, the initial impulse to kill the messenger, Benoît, is tempered by their need to unmask the plotter. But their first two suspects, the English ambassador and Cardinal Richelieu, prove to be innocent, forcing the musketeers to delve deeper into the inner machinations of the French court.
Meanwhile, Aristide finds himself falling in love with the ill-fated messenger, a blacksmith without a home who rouses all of his protective, possessive instincts. Benoît, however, has no interest in any man. Torn between desire and duty, Aristide must find a way to protect the King and clear his captain’s name—all while heeding the demands of his heart.
All for Love Series
All For One opens by throwing the reader straight into the sexual relationship between three men. Aristide, Perrin and Léandre, are firm friends, companions and lovers. Aristide returns home from duty and straight into bed with his two friends where we are provided with a lengthy ménage sex scene between the men. Now this could have the effect of drawing you into the story, or, as was the case with me, find it all a bit confusing as to who was who and why they were in bed together. Having said that, the main theme of this book is the changing relationship between Aristide, Perrin and Léandre, so I could see why the authors were keen to show them in bed together so early on in the book. Their relationship is defined both by their shared comradeship, occupation, and their physical attraction to one another and as the fourth main character, Benoît, is introduced shortly after the conclusion of the sex scene, the ménage scene provides the reader with a series of pieces of information about the relationship between the three men, which is necessary as we move on into the main thrust of the story.
Once Benoît is introduced, lying bleeding beside the road, the story diverges into three separate paths. The first path is that of who shot Benoît and why he was carrying a letter which made accusations against M. de Tréville, the man in charge of the Musketeers. The second path is that of the relationship between Benoît and Aristide. The third path is how that relationship then impacts on Perrin and Léandre.
For those of you who’ve read the other book by these authors set in this world, Checkmate (which I haven’t read), you will be pleased to see some of the characters from that book make an appearence here as well. In fact, those characters are pretty instrumental in solving the mystery plot as they seem to come up with all the ideas and spend large amounts of time talking sense into the musketeers who want to haring off and fling accusations wherever they go. There’s also an appearance by the healer, Raul, who by an amazing coincidence (or perhaps his hinted at gypsy powers) seems to turn up just as someone is in dire need of medical attention. Actually, I found the action sequences, the intrigue and the plotting, all rather exciting in places. I also liked the characters of Christian and his Spanish lover/bodyguard Teo, perhaps more even than the main characters of the four men.
The second plot between Benoît and Aristide was a ‘gay for you’ storyline. Benoît is from a small town in France and is at first shocked and appalled by the open sexual relationship between Aristide, Léandre and Perrin. Out of the four men I liked Benoît the most. I could sympathise with the terrible things that had happened to him in the past. I could, given his upbringing, understand why he feels as he does about the relationship between the other men. I could see how, through a mixture of loneliness and a longing for human comfort, he would reach out to Arisride, whilst also being confused about the true nature of his feelings. All that coupled with the way that he is shown to be lacking in self-confidence, frustrated at his lack of skills and strength when compared to the others and full of a mix of naivety and self disgust made him by far the most complex character in the book. Compared to Benoît, Aristide seemed quite two dimensional. He falls in love quite quickly with Benoît, something I found difficult to understand given the way Benoît rejects him, and even a few hints about his past weren’t enough really to make him anything other than a fairly bland character.
The same goes too for Léandre and Perrin, although I would say Perrin was perhaps the most well rounded out of the three with his wicked and bawdy sense of humour and his habit of acting and speaking without a great deal of forethought. Whilst the plotline, which covered the change from the men sleeping as a three to Léandre and Perrin finding a new path as a couple, was certainly very hot and sexy, filled with many, many sex scenes, I didn’t find it as engaging as the other parts of the books. I grew impatient whenever the focus shifted to Léandre and Perrin and wanted to get back to the mystery or the fraught tension of the relationship between Benoît and Aristide.
Overall then, I had quite a mixed reaction to this book. Some of it was swift moving and exciting, some of it slow and ponderous. The sheer number of characters were sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of but they also added colour to the story. There was a lot of great humour and joking in the book, much of it of the rude variety but then there were also (in my opinion) far too many overly long sex scenes which slowed the pacing. In the end, this will be a book which will appeal to those who are looking for an unusual setting of pre-revolution France, like ménage sex – and lots of it, as well as lots of just m/m sex, and also to those who have read Checkmate and want more the characters from that book.