“A flower is made more beautiful by its thorns.”
Notsah Mevoot, in her young age, has already experienced her share of suffering. Sold at an auction following her parent’s imprisonment, Notsah is currently serving as a kitchen slag in the Royal House of Bydelay. After five years of service, she is determined to run away and in turn steals a loaf of bread from the kitchen for her journey. Notsah’s former lover and now the leader of the guard, Erekon Kosem has discovered her thievery and is hot on her heels to catch and present her to the King for her crime. In trying to escape, Notsah rushes into a hidden room and into the presence of Jarron Bydelay, prince and heir to the throne, while he is in a compromising position. Notsah pleads for mercy from the prince seconds before she is found. Once the guards rush the room, Erekon grabs Notsah to take her for punishment, but Prince Jarron intervenes and orders Erekon to immediately take her to the King, so that Jarron can speak to his father on Notsah’s behalf. Ten years have passed and Jarron is now King of the Second Province. Notsah, now called Sister Redemption “Demi”, is a sister of the Order of Solace.
Demi has just been sent to court to provide pleasure and purpose as the personal Handmaiden to King Jarron. Jarron suffers from a disease known as Trystan’s Pox which is hereditary and passed only from male to male. It manifests itself in two ways – random, painful breakouts of blisters all over his body or eventual madness like his father now faces. Jarron believes that due to his illness and his position as King, he could never find a woman who would be accepting of him as a man and look beyond his title. Likewise, he has no intention of taking a wife or bearing children since he would most likely pass his illness on to his offspring. He is further convinced that any woman would be repulsed at his sickness and he could not withstand the pity or disgust she would exhibit.
Demi has loved Jarron from afar since that faithful night she begged for his mercy for stealing bread. Being well aware of his illness, she still longed for him, believing she would never be of worth of his affections. Now, Demi is fulfilling her greatest desire in serving Jarron, for she knows this is the only way she can be this close to him, exhibit her love for him and provide solace to his every need and desire. What Demi doesn’t count on is Erekon’s jealousy of her service as Handmaiden to Jarron. Using blackmail, Erekon demands that Demi use her influence in advising Jarron with regard to the political choices he believes are best in order to avoid war between the Provinces. In return, he vows to keep the secret of her true identity.
Megan Hart pens a poignant story of irrefutable love between two characters in this fourth installment of the Order of Solace series. Her rich allure of characters and descriptive detail of the King’s court provides a beautiful and intriguing fantasy/historical setting. Ms. Hart has an uncanny ability draw readers into the story so that they feel deeply connected to her characters. At times, my stomach churned, my body tensed and my head pounded right alongside Jarron’s during all the stress he endured.
And while, part of his stress was of his own making, Jarron had a kind heart and enduring soul which caused me to ache for his happiness. Demi’s turmoil was all-consuming as well because she has loved Jarron for so long and wants him to love her back as a woman, not a Handmaiden, regardless of his illness. Jarron and Demi’s chemistry was immediate, powerful and captivated me more than all the prior novels in the series. Whether in an intense act of sexual voyeurism or deeply felt moments of adoration, both had an absolute need for the other and that raw emotion poured off the pages. Their touch, be it to soothe anxiety or to savor ecstasy, was a dominant element of their relationship which provided strength and self-confidence for Jarron as well as joy and contentment to Demi. The strength of this story is its message of love and how it is not found in perfection but usually discovered in the most flawed of human beings.
“Demi drew a harsh, shuddering breath. She tried to speak, but her voice broke on the words. He didn’t care. He wanted her broken and unable to speak, able only to cry out in wordless ecstasy. He wanted her undone at his touch.”