Author: Clare London
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M fantasy paranormal romance
Length: 82 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A touching paranormal fantasy romance where a spoiled but inwardly lonely chancellor is taught the meaning of love by a remarkable young man.
A powerful but pampered lord, Chariz has no interest in a single slave thrown at his feet, until he finds out the man is no slave at all. Oriel may be an empath—or a Magician—or a charlatan, even, and his mysterious allure draws Chariz closer. But Oriel’s touch is a prize that others crave, too, putting him in mortal danger. Chariz must decide whether he will pay the price of Oriel soothing his desires and needs, when that price may demand a shocking sacrifice… from them both.
I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for the redeemed rake or the dissolute young man who is brought to his knees by the love of an innocent. In this novella, Clare London has taken that theme and added a paranormal twist and a fantasy setting which I found only enhanced that theme and freshened it for those who may have been tired of reading it in a historical setting.
The dissolute man is Chariz, son of ‘The Lady’ who appears to rule the city in the stead of her absent consort. His family connections have made it so that Chariz has the position of Chancellor, a job he does well for one so young. However, his youth, good looks and power have made it so that Chariz finds only boredom in his life. He often neglects his job, spending days locked in his room with a number of willing young men. He takes for granted that he has only the finest food and wines, the most sumptuous clothes and servants to wait on him. When a young slave is brought to Chariz, he sneers at the young man. Chariz takes the young man, Oriel, to his bed whereupon he discovers a connection between them; one that not only exposes all Chariz’s insecurities and past hurts, but also leads to unexpected love.
One of the things I liked most about this novella was its setting. It heavily models that of medieval times, but has the added twist that the power lies with Chariz’s mother and her magician advisers. The atmosphere around the castle is oppressive. Servants and hangers on witness any discussions that take place, gossip and rumours are rife, and the all pervasive superstition make it difficult for Chariz to have any peace at all. The political machinations of The Lady and her magicians added to this oppressiveness, especially towards the end when Chariz learns how easily his decisions can be overturned.
Another part I liked was the gradual change in Chariz. At the beginning of the story, everyone lives in fear of Chariz and his careless cruelty. When Oriel arrives with his simple honesty, Chariz is taken aback when he hears some home truths about himself. Threats and intimidation don’t work on Oriel who calmly accepts all that life throws at him, so over time Chariz is worn down and forced to face up to what he is. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for him, but an experience he doesn’t have to face alone as he becomes increasingly protective and reliant on Oriel.
If I have a criticism of the story it is in the character of Oriel who was a little too passive for my liking. He has been badly used in the past because his power is so sought after and yet he just accepts that this is how his life is. In some ways this is part of the attraction for Chariz, as his rage and mean spiritedness is counterbalanced by Oriel’s inherent goodness and passivity. However, I still wanted Oriel to show some spirit, some indication that is frustrated at the treatment he receives from others and that his life has been unfair at times.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story. The writing was lush and vivid in its descriptions of the setting and the emotions of the characters; the sex scenes were both hot and beautifully tender; and the story satisfying to read. I would recommend Touch to those readers who are looking for a well written and unusual fantasy based story about the redemptive and self-sacrificial power of love.