Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Regent's Knight by J.M. Snyder

Romantic fantasy, when done well, should engage the imagination as well as the emotions. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of costuming and scenery, and might as well be a contemporary romantic romp with well-dressed lovers. It absolutely has to have characters that engage the reader, but within the context of a fantasy storyline. While elements of the story should be able to survive the removal of the romance, the romance itself should not be able to survive independent of the plot. If they can . . . well, we’re back to contemporary romp.

That integration of imagination and emotion, and the fact that the fantasy setting is integral to the romance, is precisely why The Regent's Knight works so well.

Amery and Tovin, Prince and Knight, are old friends who, for the sake of propriety, must pretend to loathe each other with a passion equal to that of their love for one another. It’s a typical fantasy trope, with a member of the royalty forced to hide his love for a commoner, but the forbidden nature of their same-sex love is a nice twist. Snyder handles this element of the story very well, pushing their adversity to extremes, and smartly exploits the cracks in such a long-standing charade.

This is a couple that works. Both are likeable young men, each with a distinct character and personality, and their very public feuding contrasts nicely with their very private loving. As is always the case with Snyder’s work, this is an erotic read that also manages to be tasteful, pushing the limits of explicitness just far enough to turn on the heat, but not enough to turn off less comfortable readers.

As for the story, it’s a simple one, but it’s what brings everything together. Pharr is a nation under siege, which is why Amery has taken the opportunity to assign Tovin to the castle’s defences, while sending his other knights off to war. It allows the lovers to finally be together, while also adding fuel to their apparent feud. When the war takes a turn for the worse, and the caste finds itself under siege, everything comes to a head. While I won’t spoil the ending, it’s both fitting for the story, and absolutely one of the most romantic things I have ever read.

An all-around great story . . . highly recommended.

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