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 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’ 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.
A GAY FAIRYTALE
RELEASE DATE: 02.28.18
COVER DESIGN: JAY AHEER/ Simply Defined Art
“Now you are all set,” Cassius remarked, slipping the national Evergreen sash over Merrick’s neck and adjusting it over his shoulder.
Merrick was entertaining the Duke of Cairn this morning for brunch. The king would be joining them this afternoon for ice fishing on the property. Apparently, the royal family of Cairn were avid fishermen, and when the king mentioned it a few weeks back on his visit, Merrick’s father told them about Evergreen’s abundance of freshwater trout. Merrick did not exactly enjoy the sport, but Cairn was Evergreen’s closest ally, and it was important to entertain them properly while they discussed pressing matters, including Merrick’s royal visit to their lovely countryside in the coming months.
“At breakfast I overheard the cooks going on about how handsome the duke is,” Cassius mentioned casually as he smoothed down Merrick’s coat and then picked at some lint on the lapel.
The change in topic threw Merrick, and when he did not respond, Cassius glanced up curiously at him. Merrick smirked as he wrapped his hands around Cassius’s waist and pulled him closer. “You are jealous.”
“Of course not!” he declared as his neck turned beet red. “I was only relaying the gossip in the castle.”
“Hmmm, that’s very peculiar since you’ve never seemed to be affected by gossip before,” Merrick remarked, backing him against the wardrobe, the innocent look in Cassius’s eyes completely charming.
“What are you doing?” Cassius asked, his gaze flashing toward the closed chamber door.
“I don’t give a flying fig whether the duke is handsome or not. I have never paid him any mind.” Merrick kissed his cheek. “What I do know is that a stunning man is standing before me, driving me completely mad. And I long to take his prick into my mouth.”
Cassius gasped and swayed toward him. Merrick wondered if Cassius felt just as feverish after spending such a sweet and intense moment in the woods the other day. He only dreamed to know more of him before it was too late.
“It is all I thought about last evening after you left me in the parlor room with the conservation committee,” Merrick added with a groan as he gripped the waistband of Cassius’s trousers. “I want you in my bed every night. In my arms. But I know it is an empty wish.”
“We…shouldn’t,” Cassius replied in a gruff voice even as he sank against Merrick, his prick already hard as the steel jousting stick on display in the Great Hall. “You make it quite difficult to properly concentrate on my duties.”
Merrick drew back immediately, searching Cassius’s eyes. “I am sorry. I do not want you to feel any sort of regret.”
“Never.” Cassius grasped Merrick’s hand and placed it against the bulge beneath his zipper. “But now I shall go around all day with the front of my pants uncomfortably tight while you socialize with the handsome duke.”
Merrick hissed and then promptly dropped to his knees before the valet.
Ever After is a sweet love story about Prince Merrick of Evergreen and his valet Cassius. The two find themselves wildly attracted to each other but neither can act on it due to their separate responsibilities. Merrick’s to the crown in producing an heir and Cassius to his family as the sole provider for his mother and sisters. Acting on their attraction can never lead to anything more, so why risk their reputations and futures?
While the writing is straightforward, this book made me think a bit. In Evergreen, men who desire other men are not considered criminals, but they aren’t given the same rights, respect and freedoms that heterosexuals get. And if they did, Merrick still has a duty to the crown by marrying a woman and producing an heir. But how does Merrick live with himself if he were to marry a woman knowing he can never truly love her the way a wife deserves to be loved, and therefore denies her the chance to find real marital happiness. If Merrick decides to be with a man, what happens to the line of succession? Cassius depends on his job, so there’s the weird master/servant power dynamic that can be just … icky. Is Cassius allowed to say “no”? What if they get together and then it sours? Cassius depends on his job to support his widowed mother and young sisters. So, there’s a lot of internal/external conflict going on here. These guys are dealing with a lot. I don’t generally search out m/m books that have these kind of conflicts, but when I find myself reading one, I do enjoy contemplating the implications and ramifications. I am also never bored seeing the various ways and the extent to which authors resolve these issues.
This book is told in third person, alternating between Merrick’s and Cassius’ POV. There were a few spots that the writing was confusing about who was doing what, and at one point the wrong name was used, but that didn’t bog me down or make me want to DNF. Cute read. I would try the authors again.
3 pieces of eye candy
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.
She loves reading, flawed characters, and hanging out with her husband and children, who she adores. She and her family live in Southern California, soaking up the sunshine while also missing seasons. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful she gets to wake up and do what she loves.
Life is good. Riley also writes young adult and new adult under the name Nyrae Dawn.
Once upon a time, I lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. I spent my days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at my favorite hangouts.
Now I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I’ve been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn’t until I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that I realized I could turn the fairytales inside my head into the reality of writing fiction.
I write Adult, New Adult, and M/M Contemporary Romance. I’m addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. I believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.