Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Shea Godfrey's Nightshade is a strong entry to the fantasy genre.
Princess Jessa of Lyoness is sent to her country's arch enemy Arravan to see if the crown prince will accept her as his bride and bring peace between the countries. From the beginning though Jessa suspects that something else is going on because Prince Malcolm doesn't show much interest in her. Jessa suspects that her brother and Malcolm are plotting something else with her as the pawn in the game, but she's enjoying her time with the Durand family too much to care, especially the time she gets to spend with Princess Darrius. Darry is the king's youngest child and, in the language of her people, "backward" because she loves women. Darry also serves in the army as an officer, which shocks polite society. Darry knows she must hide her interests to protect her father's throne, but the friendship that grows between Darry and Jessa threatens that attitude. The women share more than one secret in that both of them are gifted with special forms of majik. Responding to their natural feelings could cause their deaths and war between their countries.
This book is rich in detail and feels like it should be actual history, though it isn't. It's fantasy that reads like reality. The story gradually draws the reader in with extremely appealing characters and interesting events. It's the type of book that is hard to put down and the reader is allowed to develop a relationship with the major characters as their situation develops at a very acceptable pace.
The irony of this book is that it falls apart in the last chapter. The end is suddenly rushed and the book concludes with a number of plot lines unresolved. It seems as if the story is just cut off with more to come. If this is the beginning of a series, then leaving the plot lines open is understandable. If there is no series, then the reader is probably going to be irritated. The book shouldn't have been left hanging though no matter what the future plan is. A skillful editor could have helped Godfrey craft something that would be more satisfying to the reader.
Nightshade is an excellent story right up until the end. The reader should give it a try and then hope that Godfrey intends to provide another book.