Bitterwood by Rowan Speedwell #AfternoonDelight

Bitterwood by Rowan Speedwell #AfternoonDelightBitterwood by Rowan Speedwell

Genres: Fantasy Romance, M/M Romance
Published by Riptide on September 17, 2016
Pages: 130
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars  

A quest into the heart of the wintry north country for a mythical cat and a powerful mage takes Captain Faran, his men, and Mage Meric to the estate of Joss Daenes, Lord of the Bitterwood.  The journey is wreathed in secrecy and desperation, but the blizzard keeping them inside the manor of Joss and his sons brings an unexpected result.  Faran is amazed at what he finds in this far north corner of the kingdom- the industry of the people, their loyalty to Joss Daene and the kingdom, and their distrust of the recently demised king are just the beginning.  Meric and Faran learn of the legends and magic of the lands even as they experience it for themselves in their present company.  The great cat is everywhere known of and leaves awe in its wake.

Faran is attracted to Joss and Joss to him, but he mourns that it is not meant to be because success or not from their quest still has him leaving the north lands and returning to his duties as a soldier for the kingdom.  In the meantime, Meric and Joss’ younger son forge a connection which is part of the legend about the Daenes- a family of magic wielders who know their true love as soon as they meet them.  But death can break the bond and it is death Meric faces if he cannot find the great cat or the powerful mage of the prophecy.  So the hunt is on.

I enjoy a good fantasy setting and a quest adventure is my ultimate fantasy trope so I was eager to pick Bitterwood up and give the writer a try for the first time.  I found this steady-paced tale a delight.  I immediately liked Captain Faran as a narrator and also the times when Meric told his part of the tale.  Faran is a unique man and I enjoyed seeing this world and its people through his eyes.  He humbly does his job and is loyal to the kingdom even though his hard childhood and the political climate made working hard and staying true an arduous task.

The romance was tender and passionate.  Faran respects Joss and likes him and has the same from Joss even before they act on desire.  I loved these two together and didn’t like that in the end their sense of duty and honor would be what tore them in separate directions.

The hidden twist about Meric and also about the prophecy of the cat and mage was not difficult to figure out, but that twist at the end of the story was a nice shocker.  The desperation as they were up against time and the danger of the hunt in the darkest part of the woods added good tension and excitement.

All in all, I enjoyed my first encounter with the author and found this story rather engaging.  I think m/m light fantasy romance lovers should definitely add this one.

My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m not a big fantasy or m/m reader I confess so I’m not sure it would be for me there. But I’m glad you had a good time!

    • Yeah, it certainly does narrow it down reader-wise. I don’t see too many that are both. I did indeed enjoy it. Thanks, Melliane!

  • This is a stand alone? I may give it a try then.

  • Has someone wrote a Patroclus-Achilles fantasy love story? If not, someone should!

    Anyway, two warriors falling in love? Hawt!

  • the world and character building sound really fascinating here

  • sounds like it was nicely done. I do love when a twist catches me by surprise (even if others are easy to figure out)

    • Yes, it was a pleasant surprise to get the story b/c m/m fantasy like this was some of my early favorites in the m/m niche, but that end twist left me gasping in surprise. 🙂