With her bodyguard-turned-lover at her side and a few magical tricks up her sleeve, a princess embarks on a quest to earn the right to rule her patriarchal society in the fifth installment of Mansfield’s (Touched by Magic, 2012, etc.) Academy Series.
This fantasy romance centers on “barbarian warrior and well-known womanizer” Talon Starkweather and his best friend Zander’s younger sister, the beautiful, pampered princess Mia Hammerstrike. Zander has given up the throne to marry a human, leaving Mia to inherit the crown someday. But as a woman, this will simply mean choosing a husband to rule—unless she can conquer Queen Adrina’s Challenge, a dangerous three-part quest that’s been completed just once in 900 years. Mia’s reasons are pure: she loves her people and doesn’t want to risk choosing a king who doesn’t care as much as she does. But nobody believes that she can overcome the challenge—not even her own brother. He sends Talon to accompany Mia on her quest and keep her safe, even if it means lying to her and sabotaging her efforts. But Mia and Talon quickly become close. With an entourage that includes a dragon, a family of kinky gnomes, and Talon’s old nemesis (who also once broke Mia’s heart), Talon and Mia set out to tackle the necessary tasks. They face ferocious creatures, tough decisions, and a growing romance that cannot be, for Talon is the descendent of a terrible traitor. In the end, readers will find that most of Mia’s quest isn’t all that difficult. Mia, with her magical gifts and knack for diplomacy, quickly—and anticlimactically—resolves everything thrown at her. Instead, the sex scenes take center stage in Mansfield’s quick-paced fantasy romance. The play-by-play descriptions are engaging, but also overwrought (with lots of “plundering” and “devouring”) and accompanied by contrived dialogue. However, although this book is part of a series, readers won’t have trouble following this story on its own.
Pleasant adventure takes a back seat to eroticism in this fantasy romance.