Book Review – Duking It Out by E.J. Russell


Royal Powers #1
Publisher: Indie
Pages: 141
Characters: Sander/Tarik
POV: 3rd
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Shared World

Blurb:
Royal dukes from rival countries, shipwrecked on a deserted island. The grudge match of the century—or a love story of super-heroic proportions?

Sander Fiala, Duke of Roses, is fourth in line to the South Abarran throne, even though his rogue power earned him the nickname “The Monster of Roses” and got him banished from the Castle. But right before he’s about to set off on his annual birthday sailing trip, the Queen asks him to meet with the notoriously volatile North Abarran Duke of Arles.

Tarik Jaso, Duke of Arles, expects the worst from people because—let’s face it—people are the worst. His superpower bombards him with any and all electronic transmissions, which…yeah, people suck. So when he’s attacked and wakes up in the cabin of a stranded boat, he knows he’s royally screwed. Because the man looming over him—the man he’d gone toe-to-toe with right before the attack—is the infamous Monster of Roses.

Tarik is positive the Monster is behind his kidnapping. Sander is sure the whole thing is Tarik’s fault. As they work toward rescue, Tarik realizes that the disturbingly hot Sander is no monster, and Sander discovers that Tarik’s temper masks a caring soul wrapped in a cantankerous (though undeniably sexy) body.

For their burgeoning connection to endure, they’ll have to duke it out with political factions, dark conspiracies, and centuries of traditions that keep them on opposite sides of the border.

But first? They have to get off this damn island.

Duking It Out is a 46,000-word M/M enemies to lovers, opposites attract, superhero rom-com, featuring Only One Bed, a grumpy duke who should know better than to jump to conclusions, a self-doubting duke who’s good with his hands (heh), gossipy seagulls, competent assistants, a guaranteed HEA, and (unfortunately) capes.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BQZDQWC/

Review:
I loved the mix of royalty and superpowers. The Incredibles cape reference was totally the icing on the cake. As a long time reader of anything superhero I loved that the powers were a little different as well. The characters are interesting and layered, and I liked that the story also dealt with the downside of having powers.

I liked this not quite usual take on the forced proximity trope, and loved Sander and Tarik’s attraction to each other, and realisation as to who each other really is underneath the stories told about them. I liked how they both struggle with their powers, and complement each other, not just in personality but in the powers too. Sander’s power is very cool, and cleverly thought out, and I loved seeing him come into his own. The scene is with wine barrels is very sweet.

I enjoyed how, while this story is about Sander and Tarik, it’s also about their two countries, and the politics that come with that. I liked Bastien, Tarik’s cousin, and hope to see more of him.

The world building is fabulous. I loved the idea of powers and royalty, and the Ministry of Powers sound like a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t want to do much in the way of work. I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in this world.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at https://annebarwell.wordpress.com
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