Review: Ever After by Riley Hart & Christina Lee

Note: This ARC was provided by the authors via Vibrant Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

“Me? Even if it were possible… I am nothing more than a simple—”
“No, Cassius. You are not simple.” Merrick shut his eyes, his lips trembling, his chest loosening in blissful relief as he let the words flow out of him. “You are pure and real and complicated. To someone like me, you might simply be everything.”

Le sigh. This book was just...everything. I call myself a cynical romantic, though that may sound rather harsh. Maybe realistic romantic will suffice. Basically, I'm the kind of person who gets into a romance but my cynical slash realistic slash snarky side keeps me anchored so I don't necessarily get swept away by aspects of a story that seem a wee bit too impossible to believe. Here's the clincher though: I happen to be a sucker for fairy tales. Maybe it's because I was a kid who fell in love with the story of Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip from Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty. I wanted my own charming prince to ride in on his steed and rescue me. Then I grew up, and life experiences have made me more wary and cautionary. However, I STILL love my fairy tales. They've just changed. And Riley Hart and Christina Lee's Ever After? Well, aside from it not being yet another modern take on Beauty and the Beast, it had the kind of changes that made this cynical romantic more romantic than cynic. This book is the kind of fairy tale that gives me hope that the romance genre in general is taking a hopeful yet strong step forward.

With a slight nod to the classic fairy tale Cinderella, everything else about Ever After felt refreshingly original. Even that small aspect from Cinderella was given a creative twist by Hart and Lee. We have two main characters who are burdened by responsibility--by what's expected of them as sons and brothers. In the case of Prince Merrick, there's the added pressure of needing to choose a bride and to produce an heir soon after. After all, in order for a monarchy to continue, it must have someone to pass everything down to. For Cassius, he sees royalty in general as nothing more than spoiled and wealthy, not having to work for what they have unlike commoners like himself. Working for the prince and his family is nothing more than a means to an end for him, but when he's recommended to become Prince Merrick's new valet, he finds himself amending his earlier impressions of the prince. One of those impressions, however, is strengthened further, because the prince is indeed even more captivating up close. But there's no possible way the prince could share Cas's preference and there?

Aaaaand le sigh again. Seriously, I'm having a major book hangover with this title. I've read all of Hart and Lee's past collaborations, and have read all of Lee's previous work as well as quite a few of Hart's, but I dare say that this has to be one of, if not THE most enchanting of all their novels. It truly did read like a fairy tale, and I appreciated that it wasn't set in more archaic times nor was it given a specific time period, although it's clear from the mention of certain advancements that it is set in more modern times. If I was forced to choose between Merrick and Cas as to which one was my favorite, I simply wouldn't be able to do it. Both of these young men stood out on their own merits. I loved that Cas had a defiant streak to him, that he wasn't some simpering servant who had no thought of his own. I also loved that Merrick wanted much more than a crown and a title and to do more than to marry and procreate. There was so much more to these two than being a prince and a valet. They were, at their very core, simply two men who found love and acceptance from the unlikeliest of partners, and had to learn to fight for it all.

I've made my love for Merrick and Cassius abundantly clear, but they're only part of the reason why I loved this novel. I simply cannot let this review go by without making mention of the supporting and peripheral characters. Two of my favorites had to be Merrick's younger sister, Princess Marjorie, and one of Cas's younger sister, Emily. These two were such pivotal players in Merrick and Cas's love story, especially when it came to them realizing that all hope was not lost for their fairy tale ending. I also want to commend the authors for touching upon fairy tales and how not every princess needs to be rescued. I wish I could enumerate every single thing about this book that made it the extraordinary piece of romantic literature that it is, but I'm afraid that would lead to spoilers. Suffice it to say, you will be seeing this title on my year-end list of top favorite reads. It's THAT good, and it's that worthy of a recommendation from me. My hope is that you'll take the time to experience this novel on your own, to see why it's been embraced by many of us who have read it. Take time to believe in Ever After this weekend. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 02 March 2018

Learn more about Riley Hart and Christina Lee.

Purchase Ever After on Amazon.