Title: An Exception
Author: Megan Derr
Length: 10,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Riot faithfully served his lord for two decades, putting his mage skills to use helping to fight the beasts in the Territories and to make the lives of the castle inhabitants easier. When his lord dies, he is replaced by a younger man with no interest in retaining a man of Riot’s age and old-fashioned notions. His position lost, his belongings confiscated, with barely any coin to his name, Riot flounders in a world that seems to have no place for him, desperate for whatever work he can find—but adamant he will not break the rules he has lived by his entire life.
This story is another in the Jewel Bonds series which contains the very readable Kiss the Rain and An Admirer. Having liked those stories a great deal, I was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately, despite a strong opening this book is definitely the weakest story so far.
The story starts well. Mage Riot is without a job having stood up for his principles against a new, young and foolish Lord. He is approached in a tavern by a young fighter, Coroe, who wants to employ Riot to accompany him and the noble lady he is escorting through the wilderness. Riot is attracted to the young fighter but knows that he must stick to his principles of not mixing work and pleasure, no matter how sorely he is tempted.
The first thing I liked about the story was the way it turned things around slightly. Coroe is the much younger fighter, a bit inexperienced with dealing with people but who has a good heart. I liked him as a character and found the way the way he owns up to his mistakes rather endearing. Riot is much older, with experience behind him and I liked that it wasn’t the age difference which caused the tensions between them, but rather a sense of honour on both sides. I liked the initial zing of attraction and was looking forward to seeing how it would work out for them.
Unfortunately, in the end I was a little disappointed because as the story got going it began to feel a little rushed. There are large gaps in the story where most of the relationship is developed between the main pair and yet we are only told about that. The stiffness between them seemed forced towards the end because we lose out on seeing their friendship develop, and I found that I couldn’t connect as well to the pair towards the end as I had at the beginning. This meant that I lost the spark in the romance towards the end and it all fell a bit flat for me when they finally resolved their differences.
Despite my disappointment, I still liked this story. The world that the author has created here is interesting and I would love to see a longer book set in this fantasy setting. The writing is good, and the emotions at the beginning, especially with Riot, felt true and honest. If you’ve liked the others in this series then this one is worth reading too, but as I said earlier, it doesn’t match up to the previous stories. If you’ve not read any of this series before, then I suggest you start with Kiss the Rain.