Author: Amy Rae Durreson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 52 Pages
At a Glance: A sweet and sentimental story of second chances for two men approaching their golden years.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Unlikely hero Lord Adem Heliodor saved his queen’s life during the Screaming, a magical attack on his city, but his broken nerves have forced him into an unwanted early retirement to his country estate. Adem thinks his life is over, but retirement holds some surprises. First, there’s his new librarian, who turns out to be not just the first love he thought was dead, but also someone surprisingly knowledgeable about political intrigue. Then there’s the assassin in the orchard and the discovery that the Screaming was just the first attack on the city.
Review: Amy Rae Durreson is one of “those” authors for me, those few authors we all have on our auto-read lists whose books we’ll pick up without even bothering to read the blurb. I first discovered her in 2013 when she wrote a short novel for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s free reading event, “Don’t Read in the Closet”. That story is called The Lodestar of Ys, and if you’re a member of the group, and someone who happens to love High Fantasy, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to read this book.
But, before I get too far off track, this is how Ms. Durreson’s contribution to the 2015 Daily Dose anthology ended up on my Kindle, and why I will continue to read her work, sight unseen.
Lord Heliodor’s Retirement is a sentimental story with bittersweet undertones. In a departure from the usual M/M fare, Adem Heliodor is not an oversexed twenty-something man, but a fifty-six year old servant of the crown who has been forced into retirement because, in his service to the queen, he has suffered a terrible blow that not only left him with post-traumatic stress but also unable to control his emotional outbursts.
When the queen was attacked by a magical curse called the Screaming, Lord Heliodor may have saved Her Majesty but in having done so, has suffered the consequences of his bravery. Involuntarily retired to his familial country estate, Adem is feeling unsure of himself and rather resentful of his unemployable status. But, it’s his arrival at Worldham that will set him on a new course and on a path to healing the psychological damage he’s suffered.
In a resurrection worthy of Lazarus, Corun Larkspur has returned from the dead. Or, at least he was reported dead during the war that separated him and Adem some thirty-plus years ago. Corun has now secured himself a place as the librarian at Worldham, cataloguing and organizing the rather impressive collection of books in the estate’s library, and though their initial meeting is less than auspicious, things do take a turn for the better for Adem and Cory. And here is where I must say that while the fact Cory is now a librarian might have been enough to make me love him immediately, Durreson makes him all the more loveable in his tenacity and patience, and obvious loving and generous nature toward Adem.
While decades have passed and both men have changed, neither having spent those thirty years stagnating in the muck of loss and regret, but neither having found a love like the first love they shared either, this story’s sentimentality is firmly rooted in lost time and opportunity and second chances—those years unable to be regained but the feelings still buried close enough to the surface to give a man hope that a new beginning may be possible.
The connection between Adem and Cory is rebuilt rather quickly, which is a necessity dictated by the length requirements for this anthology, and while I felt at least half as many more pages would have served to better flesh-out both the characters and their relationship with each other, their charm and the obvious attraction that still lingered each for the other was both evident and believable.
In a climax where the danger of magic returns once again to threaten queen and country, Adem has the opportunity to become not only his own hero in this story but Cory’s as well, which goes a long way toward his ability to overcome the psychological scars he’s carried for so long. Again, while the ending was satisfying and sweet and romantic, I felt things were resolved rather handily, but those niggles aside, Lord Heliodor’s Retirement is a lovely novella that shows us the truest and strongest magic is, yes, love.
You can buy Lord Heliodor’s Retirement here: