Published by Tor Books on February 2, 2021
Genres: Love & Romance, Science Fiction
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat's rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam's cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.
But when it comes to light that Prince Taam's death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war... all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
This is a book that didn’t really pique my interest the first few times I saw it mentioned. But it just kept showing up in lists of recommendations on Twitter. The synopsis didn’t appeal to me but it kept being billed as Red, White, and Royal Blue in space. I did love that book. I finally gave in.
I ended up really loving the romance aspect of this book but not being a huge fan of the sci-fi aspect.
I don’t generally read high fantasy where there are kings and queens and empires involved. It just doesn’t interest me. This is the sci-fi equivalent. There is an empire and there are treaties that are being renegotiated for … reasons… and there need to be alliances because … it said so…. I wasn’t sure as I was reading this if the political world building in this book was weak enough that it didn’t really make sense or if I just didn’t care enough to really think hard about it. There is some world building concerning gender that is very well done. On this planet everyone wears jewelry of different materials to signal their gender. Gender does not limit a person’s ability to do any job or marry any person.
I was interested in the characters. Jainan is from a vassal planet. He was in an arranged marriage with Prince Taam of a stronger planet in his system. They were like a celebrity perfect couple. One month ago Taam was killed in a vehicle crash. Now, because these planets need to be seen to be aligned, he is being forced into marriage with one of Taam’s cousins.
Kiem is the cousin that was a disappointment to his family. He doesn’t have much going on so he can be sacrificed in an arranged political marriage. He’s informed that he’s getting married tomorrow.
Kiem thinks that it is horrific that the grieving Jainan is being forced to remarry a stranger. Jainan is used to having to be the perfect political spouse and doesn’t understand how to act when Kiem isn’t into that. The interactions between them as they open up to each other are wonderful.
CW: There are depictions of abuse and discussions about healing from trauma. There is limited on-page sexual activity. It is mostly fade-to-black.