Sparks Fly in Spicy New Romances

Romantasy loves to gild its protagonists with royal lineage and awe-inspiring powers, but sometimes we find books that take the ground-up view rather than the crown-down one. Rebecca Ross’s DIVINE RIVALS (Wednesday Books, 357 pp., $18.99) and RUTHLESS VOWS (Wednesday Books, 420 pp., $20) is just such a duology, starring a pair of prickly young reporters who banter and flirt against the backdrop of a war between newly awakened gods.

Iris Winnow’s brother enlisted and then went missing, causing their mother to take to drink and Iris to scrabble for a columnist job at the local paper. Her rival for the position is Roman Kitt, snobbish and wealthy and irksomely handsome — a stark contrast to the mysterious stranger whose gorgeously heartfelt letters keep magically appearing in Iris’s wardrobe. (If you guessed Roman is also the letter writer, give yourself a prize.)

When Roman wins the columnist position — partly thanks to help from Iris — she rashly takes a job as a war correspondent for the rival newspaper. To her surprise, Roman joins her on the front lines, helping tend to wounded soldiers and venturing into the trenches at Iris’s side. This is a WWI-inflected fantasy, with all the brutality that entails. Roman and Iris’s sparring dissolves in the face of so much horror, and a vibrant passion takes its place.

The war may be chaos, but the symmetries of these books are exquisite. Iris flees, Roman follows; her brother disappears and reappears; sharp words are uttered in public and soft confessions whispered in private. And, aah, those letters — they are a feast and a delight; they bridge our lovers’ long physical separation in ways that keep the tension thrumming while offering love an opportunity to overcome the malice of the war.

Related Articles

Back to top button