Radiance by Grace Draven
THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE
Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.
Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
Today was Ildiko's wedding day, and if she managed not to retch on herself or a guest, she'd consider the entire event a resounding success.
Radiance reminded me to never judge a book only by its cover. I could have missed out on such an exceptional fantasy romance if I hadn't looked beyond the meh cover. This is my first read by the author Grace Draven, one that is continually recommended to me and I finally got the chance to discover her wonderful writing.
Why is this such a fantastic read for fantasy-romance lovers? Grace Draven writes almost like old-school romances. This is good, no great, for readers who love slow-buildup romances, ones based on opposites who do not necessarily attract (at first) yet find themselves together. Brishen and Ildiko are to be married. Each comes from high standing, yet are pawns, spares used to secure political alliances. This is where the story gets kick-ass in my opinion. Not only are they from different kingdoms and races, but they are physically repulsed by one another. Hence a sort of Beauty and the Beast vibe. Radiance takes these two opposites and layer by layer, subtly reveals each others beauty and builds a friendship, and eventually a courtship that will have you curling your toes.
It takes two strong and charismatic characters to pull this off, and Ildiko and Brishen easily accomplish this - so much so you'll be smiling and giggling. I loved how they could tease each other about their "awful" looks and found humor in it. But, don't worry there's a slow awakening that's going to knock your socks off. Filled with humor and sensual romance, I was also extremely happy that fantasy element was carried out just as expertly. We learn about their cultures and customs and come across some truly disgusting creatures, an evil stepmother, bandits and dark sorcery to round out this fantasy story. We see and experience through Brishen and Ildiko eyes, and I loved discovering what each thought about the others customs and appearances. Often hilarious and sometimes disgusting ... and end very romantic, you won't be bored. Danger, twists, and romance. Thank goodness I looked beyond the cover because a gorgeous jewel lies inside.
My rating: 4.5 Stars. I really liked it!