Book Title: Luck of the Draw
Author: Addison Albright
Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs
Release Date: July 22, 2023
Genres: M/M Light Fantasy Romance, Gay/Bisexual
Tropes: Peace Treaty, Arranged Marriage
Themes: Accepting Fate, Dark Secrets, Forgiveness
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 25 700 words
It is a standalone book and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Drawing the short straw is bad luck…isn’t it?
A treaty between three warring realms calls for a mass wedding ceremony amongst their eligible princes and princesses to solidify the peace. But since the number of males and females differ, one of the marriages must be between two of the princes.
Prince Obren of Canna draws the short straw, sealing his fate, and Prince Dukan of Butari volunteers to be the other half of the nontraditional marriage. The two princes fought nobly in the years-long war and are willing to do whatever it takes to finalize the treaty, ending the conflict that took the lives of their loved ones…Obren’s brother and Dukan’s lover.
Each harbors a dark secret, and King Rogan of Canna has long nurtured a deep hatred of Obren, blaming him for bringing home the deadly virus responsible for the untimely death of his much-adored wife. Obren and Dukan can’t deny their chemistry, but can they overcome the ugly truths complicating their path to a friendly, respectful, and—dare they hope—loving relationship? Will King Rogan stop at nothing to dash Obren’s chance at happiness, or does that short straw represent good luck, after all?
Available in #KindleUnlimited
Chapter 1: Drawing Straws
Obren, a prince of Canna, had drawn straws many times in the past, but never had the stakes been so high. This time it was not about who would go first or last either in childhood games of years gone by, or in sexual liaisons from more recent years. It was not about who would help pitch the army tents versus dig the holes for the latrine. Or fill them in, later, when breaking camp.
This time, the rest of his life was at stake. Not life or death itself, but the direction his life would follow and its potential to bring him happiness.
Obren’s stomach twisted into a knot as his father, King Rogan of Canna, offered his closed fist. Obren drew in a deep breath, understanding, to the marrow of his bones, that any plea to avoid this choice was pointless. A straw must be drawn, and as the older of the two brothers, he would draw first.
Not that the order of drawing mattered. Whether or not he drew the short straw would be down to luck. The luck of the draw would decide his life’s path. His hand twitched as he checked a nervous impulse to smooth down his already neatly styled blond hair.
Obren closed his eyes, shut out the sounds of his father’s heavy breathing, and focused on preventing the quiver building in his gut from reaching his hand as he lifted it. He paused and opened his eyes. Was there any possible stratagem he could employ to boost his chances?
“Just pick one,” Lale hissed. “Let’s get this over with.” Lale, being Obren’s younger brother, was as invested in the outcome as was Obren.
Obren swallowed, squared his shoulders, and snatched one of the two straws sticking up from Father’s fist. He stepped back and stared at the stick, but it gave him no information.
No useful information, anyway. Length could be both absolute and relative. He could see that the absolute length of his straw was about six knuckles long. But it was the length relative to the straw remaining in Father’s hand that would give the answer.
Lale strode swiftly forward and grabbed the remaining straw. The brothers stood staring at one another for ten solid beats before slowly raising their hands to compare straws.
Obren stared blankly at them, but it was the slow grin spreading across Lale’s face that came into focus first. Lale held the longer of the two.
Heat suffused Obren’s face as he snapped his straw in half and let the two pieces drop to the floor.
“Enough of that.” The king used his regal tone, usually reserved for court. “You will do your duty, and you will do it without displays that should have been left behind when you graduated out of the nursery.”
Obren clenched his jaw. He shouldn’t say anything more, but his mouth ran on unheeded. “I’m older. It wouldn’t have been out of order for you to have decided based upon our ages.”
“Your sisters are older still. You’re not even the spare, let alone the heir. You don’t matter.”
Lale snorted, and Obren shot a glare in his direction. But Lale was looking at their father with an unwise expression of disgust. The snort hadn’t been directed at Obren; it had been in response to Father’s unkind remark about both of their worth.
Obren softened his own expression, and when Lale returned his gaze to Obren, Lale swallowed, and said, “Obren’s right. Neither of us wants this, of course, but it should be me.”
The two brothers had never been the best of friends. Their personalities didn’t align well for that. But they’d always felt the bond of brotherhood, and here, Lale probably felt a sense of duty to repay Obren for saving his life amidst a fierce battle in the final year of the war.
Obren wasn’t entirely sure if his conscience would have allowed him to let Lale take this burden upon himself after winning the draw—probably not, impulsive comment notwithstanding—but that option wasn’t on the table. “Nonsense. The selection was fairly made,” the king said with a glare of his own directed at Obren. “I expect you to behave like a rational adult at both the reunion dinner this evening and the ball tomorrow night.”
Obren held in his retort and gave a curt nod before turning on his heel and striding, with as much dignity as he could muster, from the room.
Anger roiled through his belly as he raced through the castle hallways to his suite of rooms. His footsteps clicked on the stone floor and echoed through the empty passages. A lingering whiff of the sausages they’d eaten at breakfast still hung in the air.
It was an understatement to say that Father preferred Lale. Had done since Obren had been a schoolboy. In fact, Obren wouldn’t be surprised to learn if Father had somehow manipulated the straws to ensure Obren picked the shorter of the two.
Father had never forgiven him for his mother’s death. As if Obren had deliberately caught the jumping spotty fever. He certainly hadn’t been aware enough during the height of his illness to influence his mother to stay away from him. She’d nursed him, as a loving mother would do, and she’d become ill herself, succumbing to the disease whereas Obren had recovered.
Once in his suite, he flopped face down onto the bed and screamed into his pillow.
4 out of 5 (very good)
LUCK OF THE DRAW is a light fantasy novella about warring kingdoms and arranged marriages to help seal the peace treaty. Obren is happy with male or female partners, but when he finds out who he is to marry, he has reservations. After all, he did kill the prince's previous partner on the battlefield! But it was war and maybe Dukan has his own secrets.
This was a great read that I read in one sitting. The characters were well-fleshed out given it was a novella, and the world-building made complete sense. I was happy with how the arranged marriages worked out as no one felt forced apart from the situation. Obren and Dukan, obviously, were my favourites and I loved the interplay between them as they took the time to learn about each other.
I would love to return to this world and learn more about the marriages and the kingdoms they live in. And if we managed to catch up with Obren and Dukan, then so much the better!
A brilliant novella that I thoroughly enjoyed, although I would have obviously loved it to be longer! A great read and definitely recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book; the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Rainbow Award winning author Addison Albright lives smack dab in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a dash of drama/angst, and a sprinkle of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, French fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.