A DECEPTIVE ALLIANCE by Sydney Blackburn (BOOK REVIEW)
This book is so sweet. I’m always trying to fill a particular gap on my shelves: light-hearted, character-centric fantasy that just makes you smile. Oh, and if it features queer romance, then so much the better! A Deceptive Alliance fits perfectly into this niche – it had me beaming throughout as the story unfolded in such a lovely way. This is a story that plays heavily with tropes – arranged royal marriage that turns out to be a love match, twins disguised as each other, royalty playing at being commoners – but it feels fresh and fun, and I think this is due to the warmth with which our POV character, Kel, is written.
Kel’s only trying to help his twin sister out, but somehow, in covering for her pre-wedding jitters, he finds himself dressed as her and taking part in her pre-marriage vows. Then, before he knows it, he’s on the road, travelling to his new kingdom, where he’ll meet his new husband – who’s expecting Isabel, not Kel. Sure, they look alike. But how is this going to work? Well, there’s a whole lot of awkward, and a whole lot of romance, as Kel starts to fall for a dashing young man in the travelling company…
Oh, it’s so wonderful to read about Kel and how comfortable he is with his sexuality! Same-sex relationships aren’t really accepted in his kingdom, but he still seems confident in who he is, and has very little angst about his preference for men. Most people seem to know about it on the downlow, and still accept him, because he’s a kind and nice guy. He’s willing to wear Isabel’s clothes to help her out, but he certainly doesn’t prefer them – I thought, upon reading the blurb, that it might turn out that he preferred to identify as a woman, but that’s not the case. Kel is definitely cis. This obviously creates some conflict, because it would be a lot easier for him if he could just stay in feminine clothing all the time and pretend to be Isabel!
Dare, the chap that catches his eye (and whom, spoilers, you can instantly tell is also in disguise), is so charming and fun to read about. I loved his snark, and I loved that he really seemed to understand Kel from the get-go, even before he realised he was a man. I loved the scene where he explained that he’d been trying really hard to fall for ‘Isabel’ because if she wasn’t a woman she’d be perfect for him, so the revelation of Kel being a man was such a relief. So cute. Watching their relationship blossom is adorable, and I was rooting for them so hard! They’re just utterly shippable and cute together. The ending actually made me squee out loud, when they actually manage to pull their Happy Ever After off! This is true fairy tale romance right here. It’s just adorable. I’m actually smiling writing this review, is how lovely this book is.
Look, gay relationships in literature are so often fraught with misery and angst, and it’s wonderful to read fluffy, fun, happy stories, especially in the genre I love. Oh, this book just made me so happy. Go read it, okay?