[REVIEW] Jeweled – Anya Bast

Anya Bast
Jeweled
Penguin Berkley Heat (US & CA: 2nd November 2010; AU: 1st December 2010)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Best suited for fans of Megan Hart’s Order of Solace series, Jeweled is an erotic fantasy romance – “fantasy” in that it feels like an historical, but is set in a fictional land.

The world-building intrigues: if the royalty likes them enough, the magicked join the privileged to bring magickal blood back into the royal family. Evangeline Bansdaughter’s emotional magick leads her to be Jeweled, her back pierced to mark her as the royals’ magickal property. She’s also tattooed to mark her as the sexual property of a royal.

Then comes the revolution, with the beheading of royalty/nobility. Evangeline rescues Anatol Nicolison, one of her fellow Jeweled, and they disguise as lower-class folk. They’re soon discovered, though – not because of the jewel or tattoo, but rather Evangeline’s demeanour.

Really, I expected someone to tear out her jewel, either to help her assimilate with the lower class, or as an attack by the revolutionaries. But after the piercing heals, the jewel remains and is barely mentioned again. That tattoo never comes into play, either. So why all the big deal about them at the start to not become an issue later on?

Anyhoo, Evangeline and Anatol make a friend in a brothel owner who helps them acquire accommodation, but they soon move in with the leader of the revolution. But Gregorio Vikhin never wanted the beheadings, didn’t want the violence. Too bad; they happened anyway. He doesn’t hate the Jeweled, so he’s quite friendly with his new housemates – and new bedfellows. Evangeline wants both men, and they both want her. They don’t want each other, but are willing to share in order to both keep her. Therefore, Evangeline has the power, and this doesn’t sit well with me. Romantic relationships should be absolutely equal – even when three or more are involved. That and the fact that m/m scenes totally float my boat. But Anatol and Gregorio don’t act that way, though they both do Evangeline at the same time (different orifices).

For a tale including a revolution, there’s little direct violence and danger to the trio. You’d expect maximum external conflict to strike leading up to the third act; instead, it comes in the final thirty pages. There’s a capture, and fake bladder weakness is used as a ruse to escape/injure a captor, who totally falls for it. I think you know my opinion of that.

But Jeweled isn’t plot-driven; it’s really about the characters, but I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for them. Partially – okay, mostly – because there’s opportunity for m/m action, and it never happens. If Evangeline had been poor and hideous, would Anatol and Gregorio still love her? Maybe they’d still want to screw her, but they go on about how beautiful she is, lalala… It’s difficult to care about a character with whom you can’t identify. She freaks out about her new acquisition of emotions, and the men treat her special because of that, and you know what? I’m just getting fed up with Special Snowflake characters. People who are beautiful, smart, skilled, talented, beloved, adored, worshipped… I just want characters to whom I can relate. Relationships I can believe. (Which is probably why I shouldn’t read romance, though I’m totally fine with erotica.)

I hoped for heavier political and exterior plot meat. I hoped for less shagging, and more chatting and having a sense of humour. And yes, I hoped for m/m action.

But what this novel did for me is help identify my reading preferences. And getting all ranty means I see the potential in this story, even if the execution doesn’t work. That’s better than feeling “meh” about it, right? It at least sparked some emotion. And isn’t that why we read in the first place? To be engaged enough to give a toss either way? To feel feelings? If so, then Jeweled, indeed, achieves that goal.

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