This book was released on June 2nd and I reviewed it for REALMS ON OUR BOOKSHELVES
An Infamous Beauty. A Daring Warrior. . .
For five years, Sapphire has been the King of Sari’s most treasured concubine. Independent at last, she refuses to put herself in anyone’s control again. But now another’s meddling has led her into the path of proud, arrogant Wulfric, Crown Prince of the rival kingdom of D’Ashier…a man who is dangerous to her in every way.
And A Seduction That Could Destroy Them Both
The daughter of Wulfric’s fiercest opponent, Sapphire is a prized warrior in her own right and highly skilled in the sensual arts—in short, Wulfric’s perfect match. A lasting union is unthinkable, but the bargain they strike—to spend one night together, and then part—proves impossible in the face of a desire powerful enough to bring two countries to the brink of war, and two hearts to the point of surrender…
An ambush-attack on Wulfric when he accompanies a patrol to the borderlands between D’Ashier and Sari and a devious plan of a jealous Queen bring Wulfric and Sapphire together. Wulfric is offered to Sapphire as a servant when the Queen forces her husband to relieve Sapphire from her duties as his concubine. When they find out their respective identities, things get complicated. Wulf returns to his homeland but finds out he can’t live without Sapphire and takes her with him against her will. The time they spend together in D’Ashier brings them closer together and their initial passion grows into love. But there are many obstacles in the form of mercenaries out for blood, the war between their kingdoms and a jealous monarch and jilted lover.
Katie “Sapphire” Erikson has been the preferred concubine of the King of Sari for five years and he fell in love with her from the first moment he saw her. Sapphire doesn’t reciprocate these feelings and feels awkward towards the Queen who truly loves her husband but must endure his feelings for Sapphire. Sapphire yearns for her freedom and recognition as an individual. Her time as the King’s concubine feels like confinement because she is not able to speak her mind or follow her desires and wishes. She is confident, outspoken and smart. She is not only skilled in the amorous ways. When it comes to combat and battle strategies she also has knowledge and skill. She is tough and strong but deep inside she is vulnerable. Her feelings for Wulf take her by surprise and make her feel uncomfortable at first.
Wulfric “Wulf” Andersson is the Crown Prince of D’Ashier. He is ruthless, intelligent, cautious and meticulous. There is truly nothing anti-hero about him. He is the epitome of an honorable warrior hero who is alpha to the core. The moment he sees Sapphire he is under her spell and his feelings confuse him. Before Sapphire women were meant to enjoy temporarily and he didn’t commit to one woman alone. Sapphire evokes deep feelings in him. Feelings he has trouble dealing with because of the situation between their kingdoms. One thing I definitely liked about him was how he refused to address Katie as Sapphire after he found out her true name and kept calling her by it. He refused to acknowledge the name another man had given her and this scored big points with me. Wulf’s declaration of his love for Katie to his father literally made me cry, it was so beautiful.
The physical chemistry between Wulf and Sapphire is fierce. Their mutual desire sets this book on fire. Their passion leaps of the pages and in the midst of all the extremely hot love scenes, Dare delivers a plot that is unpredictable and fitting the characters and the romance.
Though Sapphire and Wulf and their courtship take center stage in this book, there is enough room for some intriguing and complementing secondary characters such as Gunther and Brenna, King and Queen of Sari. The despair in Brenna of loving someone who loves someone else is palpable in the scenes where Brenna, Sapphire and Gunther appear, especially in the beginning of the book. Other important secondary characters are Sapphire’s parents: Grave and Sasha Erikson. The warm relationship between Sapphire and her parents is a delight to read. Contrary to many novels portraying difficult, strained parent-child relationships this one oozes love and warmth. Wulf’s relatives, his father Anders and his brother Duncan, are a bit less warm and loving, both of them possessing this cruel, mean streak but in the end the bond between them turns out to be just as strong as Katie’s with her parents.
Sometimes it’s really great to go into a book unknown, unprepared and totally without expectations. This was one of those times and what I received was a book able to put erotic fantasy romance on my reading map. Combined with the Sci-Fi touch and feel I got a taste of a genre that I don’t read regularly. Although I’m not really a Sci-Fi kind of girl (at least not with my reading) I really liked it. It’s a nice mix of fantasy, futuristic and historical elements and the book totally caught me off guard. To be honest I am not an avid reader of fantasy, not even fantasy romance but I must admit I have to readjust that statement after reading IN THE FLESH. Maybe that is because it had all the elements I appreciate in other subgenres of romance. The writing was masterful, it was fast-paced, it had suspense, it had humor and it had a love story that was excellently told. And on top of all that it had elements I really wasn’t expecting.
Livia Dare’s approach of concubines is one that is rare in the romance world. They are prized, revered and respected. The way she combined this outlook with some scenes that made me think of the romances I read when I just discovered this genre made it a refreshing and original book. There were scenes where Wulf would portray a true conquering warrior with Sapphire as his captive. These scenes brought back memories of the romance novels from back when I was a young girl and read those books with a pounding heart and all flustered. Since then I’ve become an experienced enough romance reader to recognize and appreciate a great romance novel when I read one and this was definitely that. Furthermore IN THE FLESH was very erotic. Because I went into the book knowing only that it was a fantasy romance I wasn’t prepared for the rather explicit love scenes. They were a nice and unexpected treat and an addition to the intriguing and fast-paced plot. A lot happens in the book, keeping me entertained from the first to the last page. I was surprised in a good way with every chapter. I loved the characters, I loved the plot and I melted at the “kidnapping scene” where Wulf takes Sapphire to D’Ashier.
Livia Dare had a surprise for me at every turn. There were moments I thought I knew where she was going with the story but then she’d throw in something totally unpredictable. IN THE FLESH is a perfect mix of great characterization, action and old school romance. It is lush, emotionally gripping and definitely red hot. She has created an elaborate world that has a lot of potential for future books of this trilogy. I am glad I had the pleasure to review this book as an ARC for ROOB because with IN THE FLESH she has given me a very promising and intriguing first installment of a trilogy that is in a genre I would never have discovered on my own: erotic fantasy romance. I’m extremely curious as to where she is taking this trilogy. The end left me with a touching HEA but also with many unanswered questions about how things will proceed.
He sensed she was a kindred spirit, a primitive creature like himself in a world that had long ago evolved and been tamed.
Only when her hands fell to her sides and her legs hung limp over his shoulders did he desist and rest his cheek against her thigh with a breathless chuckle of masculine triumph. As her senses drifted back into awareness, Sapphire resigned herself to the truth. She was in deep trouble.