About the Book:
Author: Heather Frost
Series: Esperance Trilogy #1
Publication Date: Nov. 18, 2022
Synopsis: Twelve strangers. Six marriages. One year in Esperance.
Amryn has many reasons to hate the empire. Her latest is her forced marriage to General Carver Vincetti, also known as the Butcher. If he learns even one of her secrets, he will kill her. And Amryn has many secrets. Not only is she an empath with forbidden magic, she’s also a newly recruited rebel intent on destroying the empire—starting at Esperance.
Carver knows the rebels have infiltrated the remote temple of Esperance. His job is to find them before they can wreck the emperor’s new peace. Despite the demons that haunt him, Carver thinks he’s ready for this new mission—but he’s not prepared for Amryn. From her fiery red hair to her surprising wit, his new wife has captured his attention. Now he just has to determine if she’s the enemy.
When the newly married couples become targets in a violent game, Esperance becomes more dangerous than anyone anticipated. Carver and Amryn are about to discover that no one is exactly who they appear to be—especially each other.
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I just finished this story, and I AM NOT OKAY. Whew! What a brilliant read! Danger, intrigue, romance, forced proximity, enemies to lovers, hidden magic, and more, the story is intense, immersive, and one of my favorite books of the year.
The story follows Amryn and Carver as they are chosen to represent their kingdoms and wed, along with five other couples. The twelve must spend a year at Esperance, forming a new council in an effort to gain peace across the kingdom. But Amryn is a rebel and plans to work behind the scenes to rebuke the system that oppresses empaths like her. Not all is as it seems in Esperance as rigorous daily schedules and new relationships are forged, and Amryn and Carver learn some hard truths. Danger follows them and the other couples, and when one is murdered, the stakes grow ever higher.
I have so much I want to say about this book because I am obsessed! I fell in love with the characters, the writing, the world-building, and the intense story. They’re all layered and immersive, and they grip you from the very first page. I couldn’t wait to find out who was targeting the newly wedded couples, how Amryn would keep her power and ulterior motives hidden, and how these twelve very different people would handle new marriages, new friendships, and leadership roles, all of which they were thrust into without knowing how much danger they would face. It’s twisted and layered and filled with political intrigue, more morally grey and confounding characters than I ever expected, and THE BEST ROMANCE!
Amryn is everything I love in a protagonist. She’s intelligent and strong, and she fights for the causes and people she believes in. A solitary person, Amryn has never really had a friend. Her secret gift kept he isolated from others, so making friends at Esperance is an entirely new experience for her, and you can tell she’s out of her comfort zone. She is understandably shy, withdrawn, and hesitant to jump into conversations (and relationships), yet she slowly changes as she becomes more confident, accepted, and informed. She’s a complex character who goes into this arrangement to protect empaths like her and to help the rebels. However, her goals change as she gains more insight and becomes close with the very people she hates.
Carver is an equally layered character, and I might be a little in love with him. I adore a brooding hero, and Carver sure knows how to be emotionally withdrawn, brooding, and cold. Oh, and gorgeous! A war hero known as the Butcher, he has a reputation for being ruthless and relentless in battle. But his tough exterior hides the caring, protective, and broken man underneath. I adore him and want to give him all the love that he doesn’t give himself. I think that’s what makes his romance with Amryn even more special. They both open themselves up and become vulnerable in ways they never have before.
Amryn and Carver’s love story makes my enemies to lovers heart melt. They are from totally different worlds and have completely opposite alliances, yet they somehow work. The way these two fight their intense feelings for and attraction to each other slayed me! Their feelings for each other build slowly over time, and I think they both learn a lot about prejudgment and seeing things from different perspectives. Plus, their chemistry – the angst, the longing, the weighted conversations, THE SEXUAL TENSION – perfection! I just adore the way their story progresses and deepens and how they prove their love and commitment to each other. They change so much, both individually and as a couple, over the course of the story, and I loved every minute of it!
There are other unique and interesting love stories in the book, which I enjoyed since I’m a huge fan of a good romance. From tentative alliances to passionate love matches, many different kinds of relationships are highlighted. Jayveh and Argent are relationship goals, and what a great pair to be future leaders. They are amazing characters, and their romance contrasts with many others in the story. The friendships are also remarkable. Carver’s relationship with Argent and Amryn’s growing friendships with Jayveh and others she meets in Esperance are bright spots in the midst of never-ending danger. Carver and Argent have a life-long friendship, and you can totally tell by the way they talk and interact with each other. There’s an ease and trust there that Carver doesn’t have with anyone else, and I really liked seeing that side of him. And I loved that Amryn found some valuable friendships. It’s something she never had before, and it was so touching to see how these relationships changed her for the better.
I can’t wait to read the next book in the series after the many shocking and emotional revelations. I’m curious to find out what happens to some of my favorite characters, and I’m eager to learn more about the magic system. If you like romantasy books like The Bridge Kingdom, Castles in their Bones, or The Selection, you should totally check Esperance out!
Special thanks to the author for (
making me fall in love with so many characters and then ripping my heart out of my chest) providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.
- The romance! Sa-woon!!!
- The intrigue and suspense.
- The world-building.
- The characters.
- EVERYTHING. I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK!
“Fictional characters don’t have the ability to hurt us.”
“The best ones certainly do.
“To live is to face the unknown. It is the joy and the challenge we all must meet. But I know you’re equal to the task.”
“It’s a terrible truth that the people closest to us are the ones with the greatest ability to hurt us.”
A bird shrieked above them and Amryn startled, clutching her glass in a vicelike grip.
“Afraid of the birds?” Carver asked from beside her.
She pinned him a look. “No.”
His aquamarine eyes held a hint of amusement. “Liar.”
She couldn’t really deny it when another bird screeched and she winced.
“It’s all right,” he told her. “They’re harmless. Just loud.”
“The whole jungle is loud. I’m never sure which creature is going to call out an attack next.”
“Actually, it’s the silent predators that are the most dangerous.”
She snorted. “Thank you for that reassuring thought.”
“Any time.” His eyes narrowed a little, then traced over her face. “You look a little flushed. Are you all right?”
The heat in her cheeks mounted under his stare. “Forgive me, but I’m not used to being baked alive.”
His dimple flashed as he quirked a smile. “Living on the Scorched Plains can be difficult.”
The reminder of her earlier quip was unexpected. She wasn’t sure if it was a peace offering of sorts, or another attempt to throw her off-balance.
She didn’t have a chance to respond, because Prince Argent and Princess Jayveh stepped up to join them. “Ah, the Scorched Plains,” Argent said to Carver. “Your eternal resting place.”
Carver turned to the prince, his voice even as he said, “I wouldn’t want you to get lonely down there.”
Amryn’s breath caught at the inherent insult. Her attention snapped to Prince Argent, but he only threw back his head and laughed.
Carver flashed a smile.
The empirical princess shook her head, though amusement sparked in her eyes as she turned to Amryn. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Amryn. I’m Jayveh.”
Feeling somewhat off-balance, Amryn gave a belated curtsy. “The pleasure is mine, Princess.”
“Oh, please, there’s no need for such formalities.”
“Agreed,” Argent said, wrapping one arm around Jayveh’s waist. His smile was full as he met Amryn’s stare. “You must call me Argent.”
She didn’t think she’d ever be able to do that. Her heart raced in her chest and her palms were slick. This was Prince Argent Vayne. The only person in the empire more powerful than him was his grandfather.
And Carver had insulted him. And Argent had laughed.
She’d known they were friends, but she never would have believed that she’d see the Heir of the Craethen Empire and the Butcher tease each other. She didn’t think men like that were capable of it.
“He means it,” Carver said from beside her, his tone gentle.
She glanced at her new husband. A man of many contradictions, she was coming to find; he had sensed her unease, and he was attempting to quell it.
“I really do,” Argent said. Then he held out a hand, and Amryn had no choice but to take it. He lifted her hand and brushed his lips against her knuckles. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Amryn.”
Sincerity poured from him, with only a shadow of concern. Or was it doubt?
She withdrew her hand the moment it was polite to do so.
Jayveh’s gaze was warm as she addressed Amryn. “I have to admit, I have many questions about Ferradin. My mother used to read me stories about fairies and enchanted lochs. It always sounded so otherworldly.”
“Xerra feels much the same to me,” Amryn confessed.
“The jungles of southern Xerra are especially overwhelming,” Jayveh said. “I grew up on the northern plains, and even I can feel the difference in climate.” She eyed some of the flyaway hairs that had curled free of Amryn’s braid. “I’d be happy to share a smoothing tincture for your hair, if you’d like. It works wonders for me.”
“I would appreciate that,” she told her honestly.
She noticed the men had gone silent as she and Jayveh talked. Argent watched them with a small, contented smile on his face.
Carver simply watched.
“It’s no trouble,” Jayveh said, her genuine kindness threading the air. “I’ll have something delivered to your maid tonight.”
“Attention, please,” their guide called out. “If you are all properly refreshed, it is time to move on to the next item on the high cleric’s agenda. Gentlemen, you will accompany me to the training grounds, which have been readied for some friendly sport. Ladies, you will follow Cleric Hashi to a tearoom in the temple, where you can get to know each other better.”
“Will you walk with me, Amryn?” Jayveh asked.
“Of course.” There was no other polite answer. Besides, regardless of what mission the Rising assigned her, they would want her to take advantage of getting close to the future empress.
“I can escort you back to the temple,” Argent offered.
“No.” Jayveh patted his arm. “You need to follow instructions, Your Highness.”
“He’s never excelled at that,” Carver said blithely.
Argent kicked his boot, though not with actual force.
Jayveh slipped out from her husband’s arm and handed over her glass.
The prince took it without hesitation, though he simultaneously gestured for two bodyguards to come forward.
Jayveh loosed a sigh. “You’re a little overprotective, you know.”
“I know. But you’re deserving of every protection.” He leaned in and set a quick kiss on her cheek.
From the corner of her eye, Amryn caught Carver angling toward her. Her stomach plunged and she twisted away, only to freeze when she realized he wasn’t leaning in for a kiss—he was extending a hand to take her glass.
Face flaming, she passed it to him. “Thank you.”
He dipped his chin, his eyes fastened on her as if he worried about her sanity. “You’re welcome.”
Her face was still burning as she turned to follow Jayveh and the other women away from the stone gazebo.
She felt Carver’s eyes on her long after they left the garden behind.
About the Author:
Heather Frost is an #1 Amazon bestselling author of YA/NA fantasy romance. Her books have been Whitney Award and Swoony Award Finalists, and Royal Decoy was a 2022 semifinalist in The Best In Indie Awards. She has a BS in Creative Writing and a minor in Folklore, which means she got to read fairy tales and ghost stories and call it homework. Heather lives in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains in northern Utah. To learn more about Heather and her books, visit her website: www.HeatherFrost.com.
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