Monday, May 28, 2018

Kat's Review: King Consort

King Consort by J.R. Gray
Publisher: J.R. Gray (May 15, 2018)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- M/M
Dual 1st POV

Avoiding sleeping with women was my specialty, an art form even. As the future King of England I couldn’t be caught sleeping with men. My whole life played out in front of the paparazzi, and they didn’t miss a thing.

I had a carefully crafted womanizing persona to maintain. My life came with rules, all of which I broke when I couldn’t resist a one night stand with the enemy: A beautiful paparazzo with a heart of gold. He may be the only person who doesn’t want me for my title, and he can never be anything more than my secret.

But secrets have a way of coming out and not only will they scare him away, but they’ll lose me the crown.

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Kat's Review:

I’m not gonna lie - I love me some royals. Not as a ruling body so much as a group of people whose lives are probably a lot more exciting than mine. J. R. Gray’s King Consort tells the story of Louis, a pretty transparent homage to Prince Harry in modern day Britain (if he were secretly queer - sorry, Meghan Markle) and Xavier, a paparazzo with a long facial scar and a history of not-good partners. They both have Issues. Louis (not pronounced like “Lewis”) is trying to stay in the closet for fear of disappointing his grandmother, the Queen, and ruining his place in succession (both his parents are dead in this AU), in addition to corralling his sister Anne (no Wills) who’s had a few tabloid spreads for being a wild child.

There’s plenty of tension. Differences in social status. A queer king? How can a prince love a man with a disfiguring facial scar? An unlikely pairing between celebrity and a photographer tasked with stalking him. Yet for all that, there isn’t much movement in the plot. There’s a lot of talking, which is definitely fine in a romance, but the whole thing really felt like being in limbo. Maybe that’s the feeling Gray was going for, though. Louis and Xavier spend a bunch of stolen time together: clandestine meetings at the back entrances of hotels, smuggled nights in hotel suites, stowaway trips on private jets. Xavier struggles with the idea of being a mistress, and Louis struggles with coming out and leaving the carefully constructed image of misogynist douchebag behind (that one will probably be harder to overcome).

I… didn’t really like either of them. Louis is pretentious, which one would expect of a person next in line for the British throne. But he was also pretty consistently a dbag. Not really in harm-doing manner, but just by existing, I guess. Maybe I read this in a misandrist mood. The story is told in dual first person POV, so I got his inner monologue (and was not very impressed). I disliked Xavier a little less. I was definitely intrigued by his face, and also skeptical of all the times Harry - er, Louis - referred to him as the most beautiful man he’d ever seen. Not that folks with facial disfigurements can’t be beautiful or attractive! Just that Louis almost seemed to fetishize Xavier for the scar, and it felt a little weird. 

**Minor spoilers**

I had to wait quite a long time to find out exactly what caused the scar. I was expecting a long, tragic, secret story. There wasn’t one. Dude got cut up by glass when he was a kid. On the one hand, that’s pretty mundane and a little disappointing. But on the other, I was actually glad that there wasn’t a Tragic Gay Reason for his scars.

**End of spoilers**

There were a few minor characters I liked. Anne was pretty cool. We learn some things about her throughout the story, and Gray doesn’t seem to fall into the trope of All Ladies in M/M Stories are Terrible Bitches. One of the security personnel, Doug, is also pleasant. I hope he got bonuses for smuggling Xavier everywhere.

The sex is pretty low-key for the most part, especially in the beginning. They have sex a few times during their first night, but we only know firsthand about some oral; the next morning, Louis reflects on not knowing Xavier’s name though “[he’d] shagged him more than once.” Some things are skipped over or sort of glossed over in unexpected ways. Like, I’m here for the cute story and also for the graphic depictions of sexual activity. The instalove between Louis and Xavier at least checks the first box.

Overall, I found this one boring, and it took me longer than usual to get through it. I think I would have preferred for the story to take place in England at least, to ratchet up the tension; having most of the plot take place in the U.S. and Canada put a lot of psychological distance between our lovers and the consequences of outing the heir apparent. But also, it was sort of weird reading a story that was like a fanfic of Prince Harry in an AU. Although Louis was in the RAF, not the British Army, so you know, there’s not a lot of resemblance, I guess. Except for the red hair.


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Source: eARC from the author

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Thanks for the review, Kat! 


Until Next Time,

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