Erryn reviews ‘Ever After: A Gay Fairy Tale’ by Christina Lee and Riley Hart. The ebook was published February 26, 2016 and was 262 pages.The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Joel Leslie, released September 7, 2018 and is 8 hrs long. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: Who doesn’t love a good Gay Fairy Tale?
As next in line for the Evergreen crown, Prince Merrick Davendall’s future involves ruling, marriage, and producing an heir of his own. But he’s long been tormented by desires that are far from princely. Especially when the beautiful Cassius is promoted to be his new valet, and Merrick is struck by a longing like never before – a longing to know him far beyond royal and servant.
After his father’s passing, Cassius Havendale’s sole duty is to provide for his family. A promotion to serve a pampered prince is something he endures only for their sake. Surely Prince Merrick has no understanding of the true suffering of the common people, nor could he possibly understand what it’s like to desperately desire something he cannot have.
Except the prince is not at all what Cassius imagined. Kind, humorous, and caring to those in need, he also shares Cassius’s affinity for the arts. In fact, Merrick understands his deepest vulnerabilities in a most remarkable way.
As their affection deepens, the underlying tension between them becomes unbearable and they’re unable to ignore it any longer. But when the queen prepares a lavish ball with all the eligible ladies in the land in attendance, Merrick must fulfill his obligations to his country, and Cassius has the needs of his family to consider. They’ve long known their stolen moments would have to come to an end, but are they ready to give up one another and the idea of a happily-ever-after?
*Please note: Ever After is a romantic fairy tale – minus the magic – that features one compassionate prince, one brooding valet, and plenty of angsty, forbidden love. It’s loosely based on a certain treasured fairy tale in a wintery make-believe setting that wouldn’t be considered contemporary but also isn’t based on any specific time period and doesn’t play by any traditional rules.
I grew up with Disney Princesses. Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were all movies and stories I enjoyed as a young girl. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin came out as I moved into adulthood and I continued to enjoy the movies as they have come out. I still haven’t seen Frozen (gasp), but I will eventually.
All that being said, I never dreamed of being a princess. I never saw myself living in a castle. I never dreamed a man would come and sweep me off my feet. Good thing, too, because I’ve only ever met frogs in my adult life.
But I digress.
I recently read another royalty book with two men and I adored it. It was very contemporary, though, and therefore quite realistic. Like it could actually happen. ‘Ever After’ isn’t grounded in the same reality because it is a fairy tale. There are sports cars but apparently no cell phones. There is media, but gossip is spread by word of mouth, not the Internet. There was something charmingly quaint about that. The focus of the story was the two men and how they were going to negotiate their way through their relationship.
Prince Merrick is the firstborn and is expected to ascend to the throne upon the death of his father. He has been raised in luxury but also taught the importance of service. He participates in events for charity and them partakes in diplomatic engagements. He does his duty but sneaks out to bath houses when he needs relief. And with a mother hell-bent on marrying him off to an eligible member of royalty or, in desperation, any lady of good repute, relief is needed. There is no one, to his knowledge, who knows his secret. Well, his sister Marjorie does, but they never speak of it.
Cassius is a servant who has worked his way up to footman, but a crisis in the royal household creates an opening for him to be promoted to Prince Merrick’s valet. Both men have preconceived notions of the other and I enjoyed how those perceptions were slowly but inexorably changed. Both men are honourable, taking duty to heart and living their lives for others – Merrick for the continuity of the royal family and Cassius to support his widowed mother and two younger sisters. There is, properly, a barrier between employer and employee, but valets are very intimately involved with their charges and it is not long before Cass and Merrick discover they both favour men.
There are other interests they share as well, including their personal passions. To find a soul who understands your passion is truly beautiful And whether attending the orphanage or riding horses, the two men find a way to bond.
Although they have a number of interludes, these moments are fleeting and there is always the danger of discovery. There is one night when they get to be themselves and, wow, I loved that scene.
Merrick: We will have one night in each other’s arms.
Cassius: Yes, my Prince…I would like to be on my knees for you, my Prince.
Merrick: You are beautiful, sweet Cassius.
Cassius: I shall smell you until your scent is engraved in my memory. Each time I smell eucalyptus, I will think of you.
Merrick: Your words slay me, Cassius…They are like a sword that cuts into me. Yet also the stitching that makes me whole.
Okay, I might have swooned. Because who doesn’t secretly wish for someone to love them that way? And, for the record, this is an equal opportunity relationship – both men give and take, treating each other as equals.
There is a moment of reckoning, of course, and I might have cried.
Okay, I cried. I wanted the two men to have their happy ending and I wanted the world to embrace them and accept their love. I live in the real world, though, and see every day how the LGBT community gets treated. Still, I had high hopes for this magical kingdom in the snow. As one of his sisters says to Cass, “do not allow Merrick to be your greatest regret,” after he tells her “he will do such great things in Ever Green.”
I am so glad I listened to this wonderful book, narrated by the brilliant Joel Leslie. Since Ever Green is a fairy tale land – minus the magic – there is no grounding or need to be accurate. Given that license, Joel was the perfect choice of performer, providing an accent that is indefinable but clearly present. Prince Merrick has an upper crust tenor while Cassius is more of a commoner and, as always, Joel’s portrayal of the women and children in the men’s lives are brilliant. For a man with such a deep voice, his ability to bring the lightness to the women is pitch-perfect and his orphanage matron’s voice had me laughing out loud. I could just envision the woman haranguing the children and I got my smile.
Riley and Christina have collaborated before, but not in a fairy tale. I hope that all little boys and girls get to hear about Prince Merrick and his Cassius. (The PG version, of course.) Maybe there might even be a children’s book…?
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a hopeless romantic. A lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together. If she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her reading.
Riley lives in California with her awesome family, who she is thankful for everyday.
Mother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina Lee lives in the Midwest with her husband and son–her two favorite guys. She’s addicted to lip balm, coffee, and kissing. Because everything is better with kissing.
She writes MM Contemporary as well as Adult and New Adult Romance. She believes in happily-ever-afters for all, so reading and writing romance for everybody under the rainbow helps quench her soul.
You can find more info on her website: www.christinalee.net. From there you can link to her Facebook reader group called The Swoon Room as well as her IG account and newsletter.