I’ve read several of this author’s contemporary books, but had yet to try her older fantasy series. When it released in audio, I was eager to take this chance to satisfy my curiosity about Kristen Ashley’s flexibility between genres. I was not long into this one before I realized that the writing style, the feel of the characters, and even the dialogue was very familiar even if the setting and plot were true-blue fantasy. Dragons, elves, witches, hot alpha warrior men, and a high-strung yet compassionate sassy heroine. What more could a KA fan want?
This was the start of a new series highlighted by a powerful, match-making witch, parallel realms, magic, intrigue, and great passion.
In this book, Finnie Wilde desires the ultimate adventure and she gets one when she approaches powerful witch, Valentine. Valentine has promised to send Finnie into another realm much like earth, but with differences and in the process Finnie’s double who lives in the fantasy realm will get an adventure on earth. Each realm has a twin in the other realm. Finnie wishes to switch with Seoafin because in the fantasy realm the twins of her parents are still alive. She will get one year and then return.
Seconds after Valentine performs the switch, Finnie learns that Seoafin kept a lot of details from her. For one thing, Finnie is now a princess and for another, she is getting set to marry the feared Frey Drakkar. Seoafin didn’t want to marry The Drakkar so swapped with Finnie to escape. Finnie ends up married to a man who doesn’t seem to like Seoafin and only married for the good of the realm. Now her husband drops her at his hunting lodge in the forest and takes off to go back to business as usual with his men. This was definitely not how she imagined her adventure going. Nor were the very different parents as welcoming in this realm as her own had been even though they thought she was their daughter, Seoafin.
But Finnie makes the most of her isolation by doing for herself around the hunting lodge and getting to know the villagers nearby so that when Frey Drakkar returns he gets a surprise in more ways than one.
Frey went against the advice of several and his own better judgment to wed the Winter Princess, Seoafin Wilde. In a drunken moment, he learns that she prefers the love of women and wants nothing to do with him. He goes through with the match, but from the moment he met his bride in the church, he senses a difference. She is warm-hearted and smiling. She seems confused by Lunwyn ways. But he figures she is playing him and drops her off at his hunting lodge and is amused to think the pampered and spoiled princess will be roughing it while he is off on his ship raiding and trading.
His return to the lodge proves him so wrong. Seoafin is not struggling, but has fixed up the lodge, does the chores including cooking, and is a favorite of the village. She is sunny and bright and so very different. His rougher warrior ways frighten her and she is squeamish around hunted game meat when everyone in the kingdom knows that she learned riding and hunting skills from her father. Something isn’t right and only a visit from the elves sets him straight.
He has wed the bride of the prophecy, but his bride is from another place. Frey is not disappointed by the switch and grows to love and appreciate his compassionate, fun-loving, and adventure-seeking Finnie. He takes actions with great repercussions to keep this beautiful woman.
Meanwhile, unrest fills the lands and Finnie’s life is in danger as some seek to end the reign of the House of Wilde. Frey must do all he can to seek out from which direction the danger comes. All the while, the clock is ticking down for the time Finnie must return to her own world. Only now she isn’t sure she wishes to, for she has fallen in love with Frey Drakkar not knowing he is keeping secrets.
Alright, this one is an engaging fantasy romance adventure. I loved this realm with it’s magic, dragons, elves, and people much like those of earth. It wasn’t a unique backdrop, but familiar in the way I love about fantasy. I enjoyed the inclusion of the court intrigue and warring lands to make it all more interesting. But the real tension and build up was between Finnie and Frey.
Frey is an alpha male of the first water. He is a leader and makes plans with decisiveness as a result. He is unused to consultation about his plans and doesn’t pay much heed to the differences between his and Finnie’s world. Finnie is also one to go her own way and is quite used to consulting no one either. This leads to several clashes. They are both keeping secrets out of necessity and naturally these secrets come back to bite them in the butt. Both aren’t great at communication and do a lot of assuming. Finnie has a hair trigger and goes off which in turn causes Frey to dig his heels in and get stubborn. The reader is well aware how things are going to go down when the secrets all come out though it is fun times watching these two find their way and be together.
Like is generally the case with this author’s stories, there is a certain style of thought and dialogue that is familiar. I won’t say I appreciate it so much as I’ve adjusted to it. There is a reason this author’s books are a hundred or so pages longer than perhaps necessary. So many extra words and thoughts from the heroine. I think I was going to go through the screen of my phone at some point and shake Finnie until her teeth rattled if she did the ‘um’ thing one more time. The reader gets this long monologue in the heroine’s mind and ‘um, um’ as she can’t find her words. But with adjustment, I tolerate this because I enjoy the rest of the story.
As to the narration, Tilly Hooper did a great job. She has the tone and timing and the emotions down. Her male voices were rather interchangeable with their gruff and guttural sound so the listener has to pay attention as to which man was speaking, but nothing that was distracting or annoying. I thought there was good continuity since this was a longer story.
So overall, this was a winner. I would definitely enjoy continuing on with the Fantasyland series and spending more time with the many colorful characters, the world, and the new stories to come especially after that set-up scene near the end for the next couple.
My thanks to Audible.com for providing the story in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #272 FR
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