Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life.
Rumors say the prisoner, Gray Leynham, is a witch and a traitor. What is certain is that he has spent years in misery: blind, chained, and rendered nearly mute by an extreme stutter. And he dreams of people’s deaths—dreams that come true.
As Brute becomes accustomed to palace life and gets to know Gray, he discovers his own worth, first as a friend and a man and then as a lover. But Brute also learns heroes sometimes face difficult choices and that doing what is right can bring danger of its own.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Sucked me in and kept me hooked the entire book despite the non-erotic romance.
The Set Up: Brute is used to being treated as a beast of burden for his abnormal size and mocked for his ugly visage. He saves the prince’s life in a bridge construction accident and is rewarded with a mysterious job of guarding a prisoner in the palace. Brute learns the blind prisoner is labeled a traitor and witch who dreams of people’s deaths that always come true. Slowly Brute and the prisoner become friends and then much more but could they ever have a future?
Why I Read this Book: I loved Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride: “’I’m on the Brute Squad’—‘You ARE the Brute Squad’” So when I read the synopsis of this book I had to read it.
What I Liked: Brute is one of the most lovable characters I’ve read in MM romance. His character development and self-worth growth is heartwarming to read and I feel in love with Brute. His honor, loyalty and humanity are remarkable given how he was raised. Brute is as unique as his romance with Gray, the prisoner. Neither of these men are alpha leads who have money, power or prestige. Instead they’re honorable men trying to live meaningful lives even when the hands they’ve been dealt are miserable. They connect on an emotional level long before a sexual one and their emotional intimacy is very intense. I had no idea how this romance would turn out given that Gray was a prisoner and Brute his guard but it flowed so well that I stayed up way too late to finish the book.
What I Also Liked: I’m not sure if this would be classified as paranormal, parallel universe or medieval. I suspect it’s got elements of all three and for that reason I especially liked the setting and plot. Initially I thought this a medieval setting with princes and peasants but then add in Gray’s visions of death and it becomes paranormal. Then there are elements involving fae-like powers of healing and vegetation/animals different than Earth’s and I think it’s set on a different planet. But really it doesn’t matter what labels are put on this setting, it’s utterly compelling. The palace life is extremely well described as is the second half of the book in the country. This author has real talent to capture setting, atmosphere and characters that I will absolutely have to read more by her.
What I Didn’t Like: This isn’t a particularly erotic romance. The sexual language is very flowery and euphemistic but I didn’t really mind since the romance was emotionally intense and the setting and plot so compelling.
IMO: Anyone looking for an MM romance way outside the norm should pick this up and fly through it as I did.