Source: ARC from author
Rating: 5 Stars
Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.
Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane man trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.
When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.
Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.
An up-front warning – this book is not for the faint of heart, or those unable to deal with abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual. There are some graphic descriptions of abuse: while most action is off-page, it is discussed on-page.
This is, I think one of Smith’s gentler novels, but at the same time, she still takes her time taking your heart apart piece by piece – and at one point, she certainly ripped mine to shreds – and then patches it all back together again ready for the end.
My goodness. Nothing in the universe Smith has created ever comes easy – especially for the Lokmane. In this novel we get to know Lorin – a Lokmane daro we met briefly in Freedom’s Embrace – and Sunny, who some of us may have met as a babe in a short story Smith shared a while back. And as usual, Smith’s characters are broken people – usually through abuse of one form or another – who are trying to learn how to stand on their own two feet again.
Smith made me cry. Now, I am NOT a person who cries easily when reading books. The fact that this was the second book within a month that got to me says more of my fragile health at the time than anything else, but even then I think I would have had tears in my eyes at a particular revelation in the book. In all, I have huge respect for an author who can engage my emotions in a story that far.
I loved learning more about the Marcasian society, and it was special getting to know Lorin and Sunny. I look forward to meeting them again one day, as surely their story is incomplete.