on Jan. 5, 2012 :
First things first – for the purposes of this review, Lovers and Beloveds: (An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom, by MeiLin Miranda, will be henceforth referred to as LAB. Perhaps not the most glib of monikers, but it gets the job done, and typing out that whole title over and over would eventually kill me.
I find LAB extremely hard to describe or categorize, but I’m going to give it my best shot. While a large part of the novel in some way is devoted to sex and sexuality, I would not classify it as primarily “erotic fiction.” Those words always make me think of a thinly veiled, somewhat pornographic venture in which the main goal is to either turn one on or provide spank-bank fodder. LAB strikes me as something more contemplative, almost anthropological. When boiled down to its bare-bones, one might summarize it as a fantasy novel that details a young prince’s passage into adulthood, nobility, and sexuality. I will state that it is not appropriate for minors or for those who are less than comfortable with some of the more “alternative” forms of sexuality. I don’t want to get too far into the details with that one, so let me say this: if the idea of “alternative” sexuality makes you uncomfortable, then you may want to research this book further before purchase.
I should also state, for those still on the fence about a possible purchase, that while the book isn’t without its issues, I found it interesting, unique, well-written, and thought-provoking – the last of which is a characteristic you rarely find in a fantasy work. We’ve become very used to just having a great story told to us, but sometimes it’s also important to think about what you are hearing (er, reading).
So, as is always my style, let me begin with what didn’t work for me.
My biggest issue, by FAR, involves the way the author handles describing a scene. I think this is definitely a novel that would have benefited greatly from “rose-trimming”; visual descriptions are often jam-packed with someone redundant adjectives that leave little to the reader’s imagination and stretch sentences to mammoth lengths. This clunkiness especially applies to clothing and outdoor scenes. I know that many readers have a particular love for clothes and period costumes, so we may not be in agreement here, but there are only so many descriptions of a ruffled collar that I can take before I start skipping pages. Here’s an example of the style I mean:
“On the tracks, the royal train awaited, a great black locomotive at its head, its details picked out in gold, the platform round it and its coal tender behind painted the deep red called Tremontine red: the color of garnet, of a pomegranate, of a thick pool of blood.”
In and of itself, it’s not that bad, but when sandwiched between a description of the station and a description of the engine handrails, it kind of gave me a headache, and I found it really interrupted the flow of the story.
Happily, this tendency to over-describe seemed to peter out during the course of the novel – or maybe I just got inured to it. Either way, the novel seemed to flow better after the first 15%. It VERY quickly became a novel I didn’t want to put down, and not because of a few steamy passages either.
The only other major complaint I had was with the opening itself. It felt rough, abrupt, and didn’t match the rest of the book well. We find out later that it has a very good reason for being there, but I feel like the transition needed to be handled better; I spent the first ten to fiteen percent of the book upset and somewhat confused as to its purpose, only to have an a-ha moment later. So, if you read the beginning and go, whoa, I don’t like that – hang in there just a little bit. This novel just blooms, expanding in both scope and emotional pull until it’s another creature entirely.
So, moving on to the good, and the stuff that I really want to talk about.
First off, the mythology is great. While not completely original in structure, the take is fresh, inventive, and well-crafted. To me, it echoed the pantheons held by the Greeks and Romans. People pledge to the temples of different Gods, each of which has influence in different spheres. Additionally, we see the use of “embodiments” – gods coming to earth to possess living beings for certain amounts of time. One of my absolute favorite details it the way people treat their own religion, in the novel, just as in real life, people believe and worship in differing degrees – some not at all.
Adding further flavor is a back-story that adds in strips of magic. Magic is difficult; give people too little power, and it has no reason for being there, but too much power, and it overwhelms everything else. I found the author’s system to be a real winner, powerful without being overly invasive or cutting into the integrity of the non-magicked. I was especially fascinated by Teacher and his powers – without giving away too many details, I will say that I avidly follow the way authors examine the spatial/communicative restrictions present in a world without internet, airplanes, and radios.
The book very much centers around sexuality, and as such, would probably be considered by many to be a work of erotic fiction. Note: I do not read erotic fiction, but I still found LAB to be captivating – almost like an anthropological study of sex, identify, gender, relationships, power, fetish, etc. Unlike your normal smut novel or porn piece, the sex is heart-breakingly realistic, full of warts and rough edges. People are attracted to individuals that fall outside of their mold – without really knowing why – and are uncomfortable with it. People have sex, not just because they are “in love” or “horny”, but for many of the reasons they do in real life – loneliness, compensation for a bruised ego, the need to feel included or cared for. One motivation touched on is power – the need to possess it, to punish, or conversely, the need to yield to it, to be forgiven. We are shown a full spectrum of relationships that crosses lines of age, of gender, of occupation. At the same time, it isn’t romanticized – Tremontine sex has as many consequences as in real-life. One of my favorite moments was the reaction of a mother whose husband had engaged in a few too many dalliances, and as a result, sired a daughter. The author could have presented the situation in many ways, but I think that with anyone, there’s a definite wish to give your opinion on the matter – to either condemn or condone – but instead, Miranda was adept enough to instead offer us the observer’s window into both the wife’s anger and resentment, and the husbands confused mixture of pride, apathy, even reminiscence – without making us feel pushed into either judging or forgiving. Without a skilled hand or a perceptive eye, the scene wouldn’t have worked; Miranda pulls it off beautifully.
As I mentioned before, the book gets better as you go through it. Descriptions improve, to the point where some of them are just wonderful -
Her screams sent fat bubbles up through the foulness until her lungs contained nothing but water.
- but I think another part of it involves the general structure. Each passing chapter peels back further layers of intrigue, moving us from the “more normal” to the “more fantastic”, including a story-within-a-story that just really well done. There is enough action to keep things exciting, but not so much we are overwhelmed.
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars. Thought-provoking, well-written, emotionally powerful – but definitely not for the kiddies!
(reviewed 20 days after purchase)
Sift Book Reviews
on July 25, 2011 :
The story is well-written and reasonably complex, displaying the politics of the Kingdom very well. As with any good new-world novel, it introduces the reader to the world gently, explaining new terms and concepts when it's necessary, with nary an info-dump or awkward explanation to be found. It's largely thanks to the main character, who's relatively ignorant of much of the world, so as he learns, the reader does.
See the in-depth review at Sift: http://www.siftreviews.com/2011/07/lovers-and-beloveds-intimate-history-of.html
Review by: John of Sift Book Reviews
Sift Book Reviews received a free copy for review from the author. This has, in no way, affected the reviewer's opinion.
(reviewed 76 days after purchase)
on June 10, 2011 :
Let me rave and rave and rave about this book! I had the same out of body experience when I finished Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. In some ways this book is similar, but it's different.
There are two strong interconnected story lines. First is Prince Temmin and his coming of age and personal development. Second is a fairytalish story of prophecies and enchantments, good prince vs. bad prince and magic, which is a secret history of Temmin's ancestors.
Temmin's Teacher is some sort of Merlin that has been helping and advising the ruling dynasty for a thousand years. His way of teaching young and naive prince is to let him read this secret history, where he literally lives through everything that happens to the enchanted Princess.
After each session Temmin comes out changed a little bit, his perception of the world and people around him changes as well. The Prince is spoiled and ignorant, but he's got a good heart, he helps people around him.
When during one or the society balls he sees the twins Allis and Issak who serve as The Embodiments of gods Neya and Nerr in a religious structure similar to the one of Carey's world, Temmin is smitten. Allis and Issak in turn see some potential in him as well and suggest that he becomes a Supplicant of their Temple.
The rest of the book is Temmin's struggle to make his choice and his father desperate attempts to stop him by way of intrigues and threats.
The characters are amazing, the development, the tension between Temmin, Allis and Issak is something magical. This is an erotic story in alternative reality very much like Victorian England of the 19th century, but it's not steampunk.
I don't even know what it is, but it's something special, mystical and touching. I loved it, and I can't wait for the next book which hopefully comes out by the end of 2011.
The story starts slow, but you get so involved anyway and it picks up after first 100 pages so much, that you just can't put it down until the end. I know, because I finished reading it last night at 4am and went straight to Paypal to donate some money for my free copy to the author. :)
I have to say that the book is an indie which had a unique funding. Basically 48 fans got together and collected $2500 to sponsor fantastic cover and beautiful editing. I hear second book is being created much the same way. You can go on author's website and read about it.
I can't recommend it enough, but if you loved Jacqueline Carey, you would love this!
Favorite scene: Allis, Issak and Temmin in the garden.
Kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on May 19, 2011 :
“If the women were so important, why aren’t they in the histories?” -Prince Temmin
If George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series captures the gritty realism of medieval history, Lovers and Beloveds reveals the intimate and personal dynamics of power in aristocracies. It weaves together a rich multi-layered story that explores how sex and power shape history and individual destiny—sharing a perspective that’s beyond the “men, swords, and thrones” (capital H) history that’s often seen in fantasy.
It follows Temmin coming of age as he gains a fuller understanding of the responsibilities that he holds with his privilege. He learns about intimacy and dominance from court servants, religious figures, and an ancestor’s curse. What is coercion, trust, and consent? How would he rule differently from previous rulers?
The prose is lush and beautiful, which perfectly reflects the aristocratic steampunk world that Temmin lives in. The setting is fascinating and could be described as a fusion of Victorian England with Classical Greece. The narrative draws you in quickly and immerses you in life in the royal court. The characters of various classes are fleshed out with interactions that are full of wit and colour. Since sex is an important theme in the work, it’s heavy on the erotica, but it’s woven well into the plot and setting that none of it feels excessive. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have plenty of fetish fuel to go around.
Since most of the conflict revolves around Temmin’s personal development, it does follow a spoiled royal heir for over 400 pages, which understandably may not be for everyone. But I found him to be so well characterized and endearing that none of that mattered to me. I find it refreshing to see characters that are such a clear product of their upbringing and personal history. Regarding the world-building, there are some words mentioned that’s only explained in a glossary, but it’s a minor nitpick that wouldn’t affect your enjoyment of this book.
This is an intelligent, insightful, and beautiful fantasy novel. I highly recommend Lovers and Beloveds. The term “fantasy erotica” can’t describe the depth of this work. Even if you don’t think this subgenre is for you, I urge you to read the sample anyway and see if it draws you in. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Note: a free review copy was provided by the author.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)
on May 15, 2011 :
Rating = 4 (I Really Liked It)
Temmin is Prince of Tremont and Heir to the throne. He has grown up with his mother, the Queen, far from the King's residence in a sheltered environment. Now that he is turning eighteen, he must return to court and start his training to one day become the next King.
Once there, he meets Issak and Allis Obby, the Embodiments of the God Nerr and Goddess Neya of the Lover's Temple. He is infatuated with them and wants to become a Supplicant to the Lover's Temple. Not so much out of piety but because he wants Issak and Allis. This plan is not popular with the King due to the prophecy that says if this were to happen, prosperity would come to the people. Sounds good, eh? Well, not when the King believes that prosperity for commoners means downfall for the royal line. Should Temmin follow his desire or his duty?
While Temmin struggles with his choices, he has to adjust to his new, more formal life at The Keep, dodge assassins, avoid the annoying prat, Lord Fennows, who has come to live at The Keep, deal with the servants' love lives, and escape the machinations of the King to keep him out of the Lovers Temple. He gets an unexpected ally in Teacher, the immortal advisor and tutor to all the Kings of Tremont. Teacher shows him the Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom. This is a story within the story that has parallels to Temmin's experiences.
Temmin starts out a bit whiny and spoiled, but you see him grow through his experiences and the choices he has to make. Though he could act a little naive at times, he also showed a tendency toward compassion, protectiveness, and loyalty. He loves his sisters and is protective of them even though they do annoy him at times. He also shows kindness to the servants. These qualities made Temmin a very likable character to me. He seemed to be good at heart and wanted to do the right thing. There are a number of interesting secondary characters too.
There is magic in this world, but it has been diminished. The magic that was once wielded by the King and his line is now mostly in the hands of Teacher. The reason for this was explained briefly, but I would like to have learned a little more about how this occurred. When Teacher shows Temmin the Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom (and I do mean show...falling into a book takes on a more literal meaning with Teacher) we see the magic of the past. This story unfolds slowly throughout the book.
The ending seemed a bit abrupt to me. I turned the page and was surprised that it had ended. There are definitely open story lines to be continued, so don't expect everything to be neatly tied up at the end. I don't know how many books are planned for this series but I get the sense that it will be a fairly long saga. There was at least one story thread that seemed to disappear -- the assassins and their attempts to kill Temmin -- that I suspect will come back into play in upcoming books.
Miranda has created an interesting world that is not bogged down in excessive world-building details. There are enough similarities to our own world to make a connection, but also enough differences to give you that "we're not in Kansas anymore" feeling. I've noticed this book is tagged as steampunk, but other than it taking place in a pre-industrial age and a steam engine being one of the primary modes of travel, I don't really see anything steampunk about this story. This world is also polytheistic; there are several gods and goddesses that people can choose to worship. Each one has its own Temple, with the Lover's Temple being the one of choice for Temmin. You can probably guess what goes on in this Temple.
This book is often compared to Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series. I haven't read that series so I can't say for sure, but I understand the gist of it and I think it may be a good comparison. Like Carey's books, there is a significant erotic element to this story. Lovers and Beloveds is not a romance and you won't get an HEA. I would consider it more an alternate world fantasy with strong erotic elements. I don't feel the sex is gratuitous. It supports the story rather than the other way around. However, some of the erotic elements may be uncomfortable for some readers. Be prepared for dubious consent/rape, menage, anal, m/m, light bdsm and elements of incest.
The beginning of the book was a wee bit slow for me but it didn't take long to pick up. I thought the narrative and dialogue flowed well. It was also edited well, which made it a delightfully smooth read. This book was crowd funded, which means enough people enjoyed the initial drafts and believed in the author's ability to deliver a good story that they were willing to donate money so the author could get it professionally polished with editing and cover art. If you are inclined to read a fantasy saga with a strong erotic theme, I would recommend giving this book a try. I look forward to Temmin's continuing saga.
(reviewed 7 months after purchase)
Sea of Neptune
on Jan. 3, 2011 :
I was recently given the chance to be able to review this book. This was my very first e-book that I have read and it really made me wish that I had an e-book reader to carry it around on because all I had to read the book was my laptop and I couldn't always carry that around with me.
I didn't really have any prior expectations before reading this book, I just heard that it was very good from a friend of mine - so I agreed to give it a try. At first I felt that the story was a little rough in the beginning when I was trying to get into it. There was so much detail behind the story and characters, I guess that I felt it was a little hard to wrap my mind around. As the story went on and began to flesh out more - I began to enjoy it a lot more.
The book is pretty much like erotica with a great plot. A good deal of plot as well. So if you don't want only sex scenes but great plot as well, then this is the book for you. The book is fantasy based and focuses around Temmin, who is preparing to become king one day. He delves into politics and even the religion of the world. Along the way, he is able to learn about sexuality as well.
The sex scenes will grab you as well, I don't think that I found a single one of them boring.
It's a really great read and perfect for lovers of fantasy and erotica. I am very glad to have gotten the chance to review this book.
(reviewed 56 days after purchase)
on Dec. 28, 2010 :
A while back an email popped up in my inbox requesting I read Lovers and Beloveds for review. I did my usual routine of checking the book out, looking at it's reviews, reading the back page copy, and bits and pieces of text. It looked good. My initial impression was steampunk erotic fantasy. It sounded right up my alley.
Then another interesting factoid hit my radar; it was groupfunded, a major plus. If that term means nothing to you, prepare to learn. Groupfunding is a technique where you get a bunch of people to give you money to pay for you to do your project. Call it modern day patronage. On a practical level that means this book was good enough, in the bits and pieces released by the author, to get total strangers to give her money to hire an editor, artist, etc. While total money generated is not a definitive ruler for a book's quality, I've waded through a lot of self-published fiction that no one in their right mind would buy, let alone decide to patronize. I was thrilled to get into this book.
It turns out my initial impressions of Lovers and Beloveds was off, but not in a bad way. It is a coming of age tale wrapped around a story of sexual domination (a story within the story writing technique is used to good effect in this book) exploring how the one story furthers the other. It's a tale of a young man preparing for his eventual kinghood and the paths he may take to get there.
It is set in a fantasy land with an 1890's-1910ish technology level. But the technology is just in the background. To call it steampunk would be similar to calling Sherlock Holmes steampunk, sure it's the right era, but to do so misses the point of steampunk.
It is erotica: coming of age, realpolitik, intelligently crafted with layers and story lines beyond the sex, and wrapped up in the sexual politics of what it means to be a man or a woman erotica. As such, if you don't happen to enjoy reading explicit sex or sexual violence, just put the book down and head for the next one on your list. Assuming such reading does not bother you, go get a copy, you'll be well rewarded.
Lovers and Beloveds uses erotic sex as a vehicle to explore the paths of power and the relationships of dominance and privilege. All things a boy needs to learn to become a man who will be a king. The sex is well written, very hot, and it's easy to see why the main character, Temmin, finds himself aroused and dismayed by that arousal when seeing the main character of the inner story raped.
I think calling this book fantasy might be a bit misleading. There is magic in this world, but it's use is minimal. My guess is that in later books in the series it will become important, (perhaps there will be a magical coming of age in the next book?) but for the opening book it's just sort of there. Really, this reads more like historical fiction than fantasy. Take out the few brief magic bits, and this could very easily be set in a fictionalized 1890's Colonial India or Hong Kong.
Temmin reads as a genuine young man. He's spoiled but trying to be a good person. He can be self-absorbed and whiny, but he's an eighteen-year-old who just had his world turned upside down. He's earned his whininess, and there's something wrong with a person who isn't self absorbed when his entire reality shifts. Basically, the fact that he is annoying on occasion is entirely in character and should the annoying bits be removed, he wouldn't read true.
The writing is tight. Scenes flow from one to the next with no major issues. If there were grammar errors, I didn't notice them. Dialog and voice may not be exceptional, but they were more than competent and worked with the characters. I never found myself thinking, "There's no way Temmin (or any other character) would say that!" There are bits where as a reader I found myself wondering why we were meeting certain characters and plot lines, but the quality of the rest of the story and knowing this is book one of a series makes me think they are the seeds of future plot points. The story within the story may have been a bit longer than strictly necessary, but that's my own personal taste (I tend to skim epic battle scenes), and for all I know in the next book the bits I thought were long may be vitally important.
I look forward to seeing how Temmin will mature into his future.
(reviewed 56 days after purchase)
on Dec. 17, 2010 :
This is my first experience with reading an erotic fantasy, and I was a little hesitant as to whether I would enjoy it. At first, I found it a bit hard to get into...but after the first couple chapters, it was as though I was sucked in. I actually read it twice before reviewing it because I liked it so much! The book is very well written, and definitely left some cliffhangers for the second book.
Loves and Beloveds has just the right amount of erotic events to make it tasteful but not trashy. The plot is very interesting, and intertwined with sex in a way that makes it more of a regular fantasy book than straight erotica.
The book was easy to read once I was able to get into the story. I could have read it in one day if I had had enough time. I definitely recommend it to others looking for well written erotic stories.
(reviewed 36 days after purchase)
on Dec. 16, 2010 :
This book surprised me. I didn't expect to be drawn into an erotic fantastical story like this one, but I was. When it ended, I wanted to know more ... What happened during Temmin's two years and two days as a Supplicant? What was the result of Teacher finally knowing that 'it was time?' What happened to Mattie and the guy that helped her when she twisted her ankle? There's so many questions that I have that I want to read the second book in the series (hint hint MeiLin!!!). =)
Reading Lovers and Beloveds brought to mind all of the mythology stories I've read over the years. This story has the same type of vibe to it. There were gods the mortals worshipped, presented gifts and sacrifices to and the gods sometimes possessed the bodies of mortals.
There were definitely some erotic situations in this story. If you like that sort of thing, which I do on occasion, then this book is for you ... Just make sure you have your sweetie around for when you're finished reading for the night! =)
(reviewed 39 days after purchase)
on Nov. 23, 2010 :
Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom Book One is more than just erotic fantasy. It is very well written and awesome storyline. I must say I am very picky when it comes to erotic fantasy books but this book is the best I have read in the genre I have read in a very long time. If you are into this kind of book then I really reconmend that you read it.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Nov. 23, 2010 :
Temmin has grown up sheltered from the world, living a blissful life in the idyllic countryside at Whithorse Estates with his mother and his faithful servant. But all good things must come to an end; Tremmin is heir to the Tremontine throne, and must move to the Keep to learn his father's ways and prepare himself for his inevitable future. It is at the Keep where Temmin begins to question who he is and who he will become. Is he a ruthless ruler, like his father, who will stop at nothing to get what -and who- he wants? Or is he a caring man who will make thoughtful choices and begin to harness some of the long-forgotten magic of the kingdom? Helping him on his journey of self- discovery is Teacher, a mentor to the royal family who has hundreds of years of experience under his belt, and has long since given up on any heir displaying magical ability. Slowly, Temmin finds himself pulled in two directions. He must decide whether to follow his father's footsteps and become the man his father expects, or if he should let himself be drawn into the seductive ways of the temple of enlightenment. He's discovering that his future truly isn't preordained, and that he alone is responsible for his choices.
Beautifully written and edited, MeiLin Miranda has created a rich fantasy world where magic still exists for the rare few, and sex is a cherished and godly endeavor. Although I do enjoy many types of fantasy, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of fantasy with heavy erotic content, as a rule. That being said, the details and the flow of this story were superb. With fluid writing and nicely-developed characters, the story shines through. Sex becomes an integral part of the conflict of the story; the struggle of power- longing and restraint, duty and desire.
The author cleverly uses a legend from the Tremont family history to mirror Temmin's own sexual awakening. Teacher uses this story in pieces as part of the teaching process, and the author uses this story to mirror Tremmin's own emotions, and help move his journey along. Vividly drawn details show this fantasy world to be a land on the verge of exciting, and unalterable, change. The relationships between the characters are complex and intricately woven, and they pull you right along with Temmin.
If you are a fan of well-written fantasy stories with a strong sexual element, then this book comes strongly recommended. Some may find the erotic details a little too much, but the fluid and intriguing story makes it worth the read.
4.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Nov. 3, 2010 :
There is really no proper way to describe this short of "Fantastic". Sincerely. This is easily my most favorite erotic novel now. And believe me, I've read quite a few of them. I'll admit that I was really wary of the story when I read the description - the description just honestly sounded a little dry. I promise, though, it really isn't.
It's available in tons of formats in different places. The price difference is huge between paperback and ebook, and really, the e-book format is easy enough to read. I read it in Kindle format, and it was extremely easy to read - nothing wrong with the formatting. However, since I finished the book, I actually want to purchase the print edition just to collect - it was honestly that amazing. I'm dying for book two.
The story is a bit soft on the sex but huge on the plot. It's basically like reading a "normal" book - except the entire point of the book happens to focus on sex and a sexual universe. A lot of the sexual action would be considered "bisexual" since the main character likes both men and women, and most characters in the novel seem to be sexually open as well.
The plot is pretty easy to describe without the seeming use of politics that the description gives: Basically, we follow a young boy (an Heir to the King) who just turned 18 and is now doing his official studies to be King. His mother has sheltered him, and he's also, surprisingly, a virgin - which is unheard of in the land. The boy meets some of the "sex gods" of the land and wants to be with them instantly - it turns out, the only way for them to be his first time is for him to pledge into the religion. The King is against the religion. This leads to some "thwarts" of getting the Prince devirginized. Also, the book's studies take him back in time to learn about his ancestors which is where most of the sexual action takes place.
While the plot doesn't sound amazing, I promise, it is. It's the universe that makes it so great. The friends the Prince makes/has, the betrayals, the slight politics behind it all, and following the Prince from an immature little boy to where he matures throughout the book to act more like a man. The sex is hot and usually includes two (or more) characters which is always a treat. One of my favorite scenes? The "ceremony" of their sex holiday is a holiday where the Gods personify two people and the two people have sex in public while others stand in a circle and watch - and it's considered a blessing to be in the circle. From there, everyone goes off in their own ways to "bliss" others. It's just an amazing ideal. Along with that, there's magic curses that cause uncontrollable sexual desires - it's just all-around an amazing story.
Would I recommend it? Yes, Yes, YES! The ebook costs less than a cup of coffee - this book (which took me over 7 hours to read, so it's easily worth the time) is well-written, captivating, light on the sex, but amazingly heavy on a gorgeous, sexual atmosphere, and just downright perfect. I'm dying for the next book. Dying. If you pick any book to introduce you the Kindle (or erotic literature), make it this one. Just download the Sample and see if you get hooked. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)
on Oct. 16, 2010 :
A couple of days ago, Meilin Miranda's Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom popped up for sale as an e-book. I've been intrigued by this one because the paperback version was crowdfunded completely, to the tune of several thousand dollars: enough to feed the author and hire (at respectable rates) her cover artist, an editor and a layout pro for the book block. That was a phenomenal achievement and I wanted to know what had inspired its fans to do so.
I picked it up thus, without even knowing what it was about (I know, I know), except that it was a fantasy novel. And it was, and I read it in two days.
What do I say? That I read it without a hitch, because it read like a book you'd pick up in a bookstore? It did. That the world-building was delightful and (unusually for fantasy, alas) dense and real? It was: I believed this was a world with a complicated political and magical history. That the main character, the Heir Temmin who starts the book at... 17 years old? Was written like a genuine teenager, complete with extreme self-absorption, and that his slow (and incomplete) transition to someone more adult felt real? Well, it did (and that's a hard one to pull off). That it handled a very broad cast of characters without dropping any of them or diffusing the narrative? Believe it or not... yes.
It reminded me of the Kushiel series, except not annoying because the people in it were real, normal human beings and not quasi-angelic perfections born of gods. It also reminded me of the best of Mercedes Lackey's coming-of-age stories, but with a lot more texture and a lot more sex. (Yes, there was a lot of sex, which I wasn't expecting, but almost none of it felt gratuitous, which is rather astonishing given my tastes.)
In short, had I paid $8 for it in a bookstore, I would have been satisfied. More than satisfied. It was excellent. My only complaint was that it's very obviously the first in the series, and though I spent ten minutes on the author's website I can't find any information on when the next book will be available.
So, in brief: great, complex fantasy with good characterization, dense cast handled adeptly, coming of age story liberally seasoned by romance, politics, magic and sex. Also, trains, corsets and tweed. Because when was the last time you read a magical fantasy with tweed caps and waistcoats? Go check it out if you're into that, you won't be disappointed.
(reviewed 37 days after purchase)
on Oct. 11, 2010 :
I read the original draft as soon as each section was released. So far, I've only read the prologue of this version, but I can already tell I'm going to love it!
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Oct. 5, 2010 :
Not at all what I expected, much better actually. I enjoyed this more than an unexpected box of Godiva pumpkin truffles.
All the decadence of high fantasy tempered with a knowledge of how people really work. An unusual setting adds individuality to this work in a slightly overpopulated genre. The characters are believable, the plot is twisty enough to be mind catching without being exhausting, and the sex is well written and integral to the plot rather than a device to turn pages. More than worth the four dollars, Go Read It.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on Oct. 2, 2010 :
A remarkable book that manages to handle the topic of sex with respect while showing how all people affected by it, good and bad. The main character is a very believable young adult with flaws; who is likeable enough that I can’t wait to see to come into his own. There is also a very vast a well developed cast of side characters, not one of whom seems inconsequential. An engrossing read, I highly recommend it.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Sep. 28, 2010 :
Full disclosure: I am one of the individuals who crowdfunded the book and read the original draft.
Meilin's world is unlike any other fantasy world I've read. This is no swords and sorcery adventure tale, though the sorcery is present, and unlike many fantasy novels, actually seems rare, mysterious and powerful. It's a wonderfully built world, and she seems to have thought of everything - or is quick enough on her toes to convince you of that. Every character, including the gods, feels real and alive, a being with motivations and whims rather than a chess piece to be maneuvered through the plot. Temmin's conflict with his loving, but stern and domineering father is believable and relatable despite its extraordinary circumstances.
A disclaimer though - there is sex inside. Some of it is non-consensual. If that squicks you out, this book might not be for you. That said, there's explicit, wonderful, hot sex inside. There's no Ikea furniture assembly instruction sex here, only passion and desire fit to words.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Sep. 18, 2010 :
I highly recommend this book. It's both exceedingly engaging and entertaining. I can't wait for the rest of the series.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Sep. 17, 2010 :
I loved this book! I loved the first draft, and the finished product just blew me away. I found myself reading it whenever I had a spare moment, that includes stoplights! Since I've finished it I've been doing nothing but raving about it.
I can wholeheartedly say this is one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I'd highly recommend this book to anyone.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Sep. 17, 2010 :
Having really enjoyed the web serial which formed the draft of the book, I was naturally expecting great things after the Intimate History was formed and edited for publishing.
I wasn't disappointed. It's fantasy, but not as you know it.
'Lovers and Beloveds' follows the newly-come-of-age Prince Temmin as he leaves his childhood home to take up his duties as Heir to the throne, and the demands, influences and temptations that promptly crash down upon him.
I hesitate to call it 'low fantasy,' it just feels a little pejorative. This story certainly isn't overpowered with magic and defined by rigid ideologies. The world feels real and believable; flashy magic is a thing of the past and now (for the most part) forgotten. I particularly love how Meilin has declined to build a stock fantasy setting, you know, where the primary concerns are castles, swords, mud and world-ending cataclysm. Tremont is a sophisticated, pre-Industrial society which feels real and intricate from the very beginning.
The vividness of the Intimate History universe is all the more remarkable because of the character-driven nature of the story. Meilin builds her world seamlessly with the narrative; quite a break from the norm in the fantasy genre. Wordy world-building is hard to omit in fantasy, but Meilin avoids it with a refreshing (and characteristic!) ease, with no superfluous detail. Everything that the characters experience and the reader sees; all adds to the richness.
Sex and sexual encounters are prominent in the story but it never feels shoehorned in. In my opinion, sex takes its proper (and believable) place in the motivations of many characters, tied in as it is with power, influence and personal behaviour. It's even well written!
I expected that I would be hard to please with the rewrite of the drafts which I and others had come to love, and I worried that any big change would be too jarring for me to be able to enjoy it. This simply didn't happen; rather, seeing the History reborn brings me great pleasure and I really can't wait for the next instalment. 'Lovers and Beloveds' is a smashing book. For $3.99, I reckon you could forgo your next giant coffee and pick up a really satisfying and engaging read.
Finally, disclosure:, I'm proud to be one of the original crowdfunders of the book. The production of 'Lovers and Beloveds' has been entirely funded by we readers, which I think makes Meilin the very antithesis of vanity publishing!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Sep. 17, 2010 :
I really enjoyed this book, I really liked the narrative and the way that you can really identify with pretty much all the characters.
I'd strongly recommend this for anyone, whether they're looking for a romance or just something to read to pass the time.
(reviewed the day of purchase)