I LOVED it!!!
I'm no stranger to Grace Draven's work, so I went into this with high hopes, which were more than met.
Ildiko has been "condemned" to marry Brishen, a prince of the Kai.
It's difficult to tell who is less eager for the marriage: bride or groom.
Ildiko is human and Brishen is Kai. I don't know the name of this particular trope, but it's one of my absolute favourites: when beautiful women/men among their people are married off to beautiful women/men among their own people but, to each other, they are absolutely abhorrent.
It can usually start off on a bitter tone like, "Ugh, this disgusting monster I married." But Draven has the refreshing sense to write her characters as pragmatic people, open to making the best out of the hand fate dealt them, and opposed to drama.
So we have Ildiko and Brishen starting off as friends, allying to survive court intrigue and attempts on their lives, falling for each other even if along the way they can't help but find the other physically repellent. But they do fall in love, for they find each other's inner beauty.
It's like Beauty and the Beast, but they're both beauty and beast, and their love feels all the more precious for it, pure and true, without the initial trappings of lust at first sight.
What follows is a slow romance steeped in an engrossing plot and ending on a cliffhanger that has me dying to read the next book in the series!
I can't wait!
Grace Draven's official site