Timy reviews A Rake of His Own, the fifth (standalone) book in A.J. Lancaster‘s Fantasy Romance series, Stariel.
|Series:||Stariel #5 / standalone|
|Genre:||Fantasy, Romance, Mystery|
|Date of Publishing:||October 28, 2022|
|Trigger Warnings:||death, sex, violence|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- Are You Gonna Be My Girl
- Have a Little Faith
Marius Valstar doesn’t know which is worse: the dead body in his greenhouse or the naked fae prince on his desk.
The only rakes of interest to Marius are garden tools. Not fae princes. Certainly not the arrogant, selfish fae prince he has the misfortune to have a history with.
But when Prince Rakken turns up naked and bleeding in Marius’s college the same day a body appears in his greenhouse, scruples must take second place to solving a murder that could unravel the delicate balance between humans and fae.
Marius’s own developing magical powers are more hindrance than help – as is Rakken’s bloodied past. Forced to work together, they must forge an uneasy alliance if they are to track down the killer. But how can Marius trust the man who represents everything he’s trying to avoid?
A Rake of His Own is a steamy m/m gaslamp fantasy featuring a melodramatic fae prince, a beleaguered botanist, and an enemies-to-lovers romance. It occurs chronologically after the events of The Stariel Quartet, but can be read as a standalone.
While I picked Jess Glynne songs for the rest of the Stariel series, Come With Me Now by KONGOS seemed a much better fit.
After finishing The King of Faerie (the fourth book in the Stariel series), I was super hyped for this 5th book, A Rake of His Own, which also works as a standalone. I would have been super disappointed if I couldn’t find out what happens with Marius and Prince Rakken. I daresay I was more invested in them than Hetta and Wyn. Sure, they are cute, and I loved their story, but boy did I need more of Marius and Rake. So, the first chance I got, I put my hands on the audiobook version, which is narrated by Nicholas Boulton, who did an excellent job on this one.
We are a couple of months after the events concluded in The King of Faerie, and Marius is back at the University, minding his own business, far away from politics, and that damned insufferable fae prince, Rake. When said prince shows up out of the blue, injured. And if that wasn’t enough trouble, on the same night a murder happens in Marius’ greenhouse. Which turns out to be a double murder as both a human and a low fae die. There is nothing else for it, Rake and Marius have to work together to find out who is behind the murders and try not to strangle each other while they are at it.
Their relationship is… shall we say, complicated. While in some ways they are polar opposites, in other ways they are very similar. Rake has all of the self-confidence, grace, charm, and ruthlessness when it comes to dealing with problems. Marius is more of an introvert, he is more interested in studying and research, has no self-confidence, and has a gentle heart. But they both are intelligent, curious, have trust issues, and feel like outsiders at times in their families. Especially their siblings got elevated over them and while they don’t exactly resent that turn of fate, they still have to come to terms with it. And they also have sharp tongues they are not afraid to use on each other – as it turns out, both figuratively and metaphorically.
I certainly expected and wanted a romance plotline, but I did not see all the steamyness coming. Which is certainly not a complaint, I might add. I apparently did need some good M/M romance in my reading life and who would have thought that? Looks like I have to revisit my choices, methinks. On the other hand, I really shouldn’t be surprised, since one of my favorite bookish couples is Diago and Miquel from T. Frohock‘s Los Nefilim series. And that’s not even a romance series. Anyway. I loved the dynamics between Rake and Marius, their interactions, and how they found a way to each other. I also enjoyed their banter and had a very hard time keeping a straight face while listening in public. These two made me laugh with their sharp wit, and snort in frustration when they did something stupid. And they also kept me awake way longer into the night than I (and my beauty sleep time) would have liked.
But besides the romance, there is also a mystery plotline, balancing each other well. Probably would have liked a bit more meat on the mystery bits, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. The romance while prominent, doesn’t get in the way of the investigation, and it’s fun to chase after clues (both in Mortal and Faerie) while we get a deeper look into both Marius and Raken, getting to know them better and have a better understanding of their characters, which I really appreciated. That, and the little snippets we’ve got about how Hetta and Wyn were doing since we’ve last seen them.
All in all, I think A Rake of His Own was my favorite book in the series. These two grew on me more than I could have imagined and I’m 100% sure I’ll reread this one repeatedly whenever I’ll need a bit of lift me up. I will also make sure to keep an eye out for any upcoming books from A.J. Lancaster, who just got herself on my favorite authors’ list. The Stariel series had been the perfect escape and warm hug I needed this year. And while the first Stariel book, The Lord of Stariel filled a Downton Abbey-shaped hole in my heart, the fifth book, A Rake of His Own left a Marius and Rake-shaped one in its place.
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