Release Reviews: His Royal Secret: Lilah Pace

His Royal Secret (His Royal Secret #1)
Lilah Pace
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Released July 19, 2016
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The first in an enchanting new male/male romantic duology from Lilah Pace, author of Asking for More and Begging for It....

James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he's keeping a king-sized secret...James, next in line for the throne, is gay.

He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.

While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James's eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.

But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth...

It’s not often anymore that the premise exposed in the blurb for a M/M romance novel really grabs my attention. Sure, there are certain tropes that I gravitate to—sports romances, for example, are almost always a shoe-in to find their way onto my to-be-read list—but it’s unusual for me to run across something I haven’t seen before that really looks interesting. So when I read the blurb for Lilah Pace’s His Royal Secret and saw it was a story about a gay Prince of Wales? Yep, it caught my attention right quick.

Set in the modern day, James is the Prince of Wales, grandson of the current king and next in line for the throne. He’s gay and closeted, not so much because he fears the repercussions on himself for being open but because he knows that if he needs to remove himself from the line of succession, the role would fall to his younger sister, whose anxiety issues concern him enough to believe the pressure would destroy her. Unfortunately, his decision to live the lie as one of the most visible public figures in the world means forming an intimate relationship with a man is nearly impossible. But while on vacation in Kenya, James meets and unexpectedly hooks up with Benjamin Dahan, a journalist whose past has convinced him that being unattached is the only way to be happy. In spite of the unlikely pairing, what starts as a one-time fling turns into more when Ben is transferred to London, and eventually, the well-defined boundaries protecting their friends-with-benefits arrangement become blurred, and both men will have to decide how much they are willing to risk to be together.

First things first, there is a possible trigger that you should be aware of before you read His Royal Secret: if the mention and aftermath of “cutting” are a problem for you, it does play a role in the story—there are no active scenes but close. Next thing you should know: this is not a standalone novel but the first of a two-book series. While there is no specific cliffhanger—and better yet, no ugly, messy heartrending cliffhanger—there are way too many unfinished plot lines that makes the ending unsatisfactory if you were expecting only to read this book by itself. Fortunately, the second half of the story, His Royal Favorite, is slated for release only four weeks later, in mid-August. And yes, I’ll be reviewing it in time for its release as well.

Honestly, if I didn’t have so many other books in my reviewing queue, I would read the sequel immediately, because there was a lot that I liked about His Royal Secret. I must admit, however, I struggled to get into the story at first. In spite of the setting being the present, the British royal family, as depicted in this novel, is entirely fictional from top to bottom, as if by some twist of fate centuries ago, the House of Windsor never came to rule. Because of this, a solid suspension of disbelief is required just to buy the idea that the characters here are the royals (and yeah, if you watch the TV show The Royals, the same thing can be said.) Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for me for about the first half of the novel. It felt like an American author writing in an American style about a fictitious Brit, so I had trouble feeling that part of the illusion. My interest in the novel’s premise, however, saved the day, as it kept me reading, and eventually I grew to accept James as a plausible Prince of Wales. I wonder had the author chosen to use something even as small as British English and spellings if it would have pushed me into belief sooner…

Once I got there, though, I was pulled deeply into the story line. And it was about the time the relationship between James and Ben started blurring the lines, and they started fighting individually their growing feelings for one another. In other book reviews, I’ve mentioned the creative-writing adage known as “show don’t tell”—show me what’s happening and make me feel it instead of just telling me what happens. I’m going to guess that there will be some reviewers of this novel who find the first half in particular to be more “tell” instead of “show.” I wondered about that too, especially since I wasn’t even finding the sex scenes between James and Ben to be as hot as I probably should have been, but as things heated up with the pair, I started to view it as a good use of the technique as a method for keeping the impression of distance between them, to keep the reader from feeling emotions for the pair before she wanted the feelings to be present for them. Whether or not this was her intent, it worked for me at least.

Outside the romantic pairing, the background plot forms nearly the entire dramatic element of the story, and it’s a compelling plot. I’m certainly not royalty, but the way the conflicts are described in the novel made me believe the issues would be real if this weren’t fiction. It’s also this background plot that forms the vast majority of the unfinished story upon completion of this novel. I suspect before James and Ben make it to their happily-ever-after that the resolution of these issues will strongly test their resolve both individually and as a couple.

Overall, I’m pleased by my first exposure to Lilah Pace’s writing. The slow start of His Royal Secret notwithstanding, by the time I was reading the final third, I didn’t want to put it down and was certainly loving the feels she was giving me. The anticipation of how James and Ben will handle the troubles to come is enough for me to look forward to the second book with bated breath.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of His Royal Secret in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Two men find themselves playing a game or secrets and omissions. One knows the score, while one is unknowingly vulnerable. One passionate encounter is followed by an unraveling and secrets and mistrust. James, The Prince of Wales, let down his guard but he is now exposed to a reporter, Ben Dahan. Their encounter was brief, risky, and could have serious consequences.

James' life is not his own. Duty calls. His public image must remain intact. And during a turbulent time for him and his country, James is vulnerable. But what are Ben's true intentions? Can he be trusted?

James is smart, loyal, charming, and deep in the closet to the point of having his best friend acting as his long time beard. Ben is interesting, inquisitive, bold, and out. And once they are both living in London, it opens up new opportunities to see each other again.

Their lives in London lead to a "non-relationship" of forbidden and secret trysts. They set firm boundaries due to their issues. Ben does not want to be tied to anyone permanently. And James' life prevents him from having a relationship with a man. They also both have other past history that makes them guarded and fearful of feelings. Discreet, no-strings sex equals the perfect arrangement for them both.  But can these two men keep feelings out of it when they feel such a connection and passion?

They take risks and push boundaries. They try to keep their walls up, but cracks begin to form. They have power exchanges and alternating displays of the more dominant role. I found James to be sweet, endearing, lost, and self sacrificing. He had a big heart and an intelligent mind. He understood that any of his choices could have ramifications for himself, Ben, his family, and even his country. Ben was a bit harder to crack. He was closed off, stubborn, and so determined to avoid feeling anything. But they learn to trust each other with their secrets, understand each other's needs, and try to hide their fears.

James lives under public scrutiny. There is no privacy, questionable loyalty, and he has been living a well crafted lie. His best friend, Cass, has been there for him for years, but he knows it is unfair to keep asking her to be shredded by the press and public. He has tried hard to protect his sister and make her feel safe, but it is still a fragile situation.

But eventually James will have to choose the course he wants to take, and Ben will will also have to decide if he can handle being a continued dirty little secret or risk being in the public eye himself.

This is the first part of a duet, but does not end on a big relationship cliffhanger. But there is definitely more story to tell. I was really intrigued by the premise and I enjoy reading about royals. I think she did a good job conveying the pressure and isolation of being a Prince in England with a big secret, and I did enjoy James sense of wonder at some of the simpler things in life. It was a slow build and sometimes slow paced, and was told in dual points of view.  For some reason, I had a disconnect with the characters until later in the book, but then I realized that they had slowly grown on me and I was more invested. Although there were quite a lot of sexy scenes, I can't say I found them particularly hot or intense. I wanted to feel them more during their intimate scenes. But by the end, I was more invested in them as a couple and began to actually feel their emotional connection rather than it just being described to me.

There was added chaos and tension in the royal family that was interspersed throughout the story especially with his sister, Indigo, and Uncle Richard. But I did feel that one important scene I was looking forward to was left out, so there was a missed opportunity for some shock and drama. But I am interested enough to see how all of the pieces fall in the next book His Royal Favorite.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

His Royal Favorite (His Royal Secret #2)
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Expected August 16, 2016
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James, Prince of Wales, is making history. He's decided to come out to his subjects—and the world. However, telling the truth means exposing his relationship with lone-wolf reporter Benjamin Dahan. Although Ben never wanted commitment, the unexpected depth of his feelings leads him to join James in the media's harsh spotlight.

When the news story explodes across the globe, Ben can endure the mockery and dirty jokes. But after his tragic past is cruelly revealed, his life begins to implode. Can even his love for James be worth this?

James has it no easier. His revelation divides the country and sparks turmoil within the royal family. He must struggle to defend not only himself and Ben, but also his younger sister, who hovers on the brink of a breakdown that could endanger her life.

Is Ben strong enough to survive the onslaught and stand by James' side? And will James have to make a choice between Ben and the crown?

Lilah Pace
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Lilah Pace is a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author, so she can’t give away too much about herself here, but she has lived everywhere from Italy to the United Kingdom before putting down roots in the American South.

She’s addicted to Diet Coke, loves her dog, and daydreams about several British movie stars (though usually no more than two at a time).

And while it took her a long while to get up the courage to write books, now she hopes she’ll never stop.


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