The Henchmen of Zenda

The Henchmen of Zenda
K.J. Charles, 2018

Premise: Romance and danger abound for hired blades when everyone has their own agenda and a throne is on the line. A retelling of The Prisoner of Zenda.

At this point, a new book from KJ Charles is an auto-buy for me, although I did pause before reading to quickly catch up on the source material.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) is a pulp adventure in grand old style, with a humorous if stuffy British protagonist who gets swept up in a scheme to save the king of a tiny fictional European country... by pretending to be him. Ironically, I had already read and enjoyed Double Star, which is a sci-fi retelling of the same. The language is fun and the characters largely enjoyable in their over-the-top melodramatics.

The Henchmen of Zenda is the same story as told by one of the villain's hired soldiers-of-fortune, and it alleges that said British protagonist was a liar in several respects. It makes the politics more complicated and bloodthirsty and gives more characters base and believable motivations.

Plus, there's sex.

Jasper and Rupert each come into the Duke's service for their own reasons and with their own secrets, and the ever-present threat of violent death if you trust the wrong person rather complicates their sexual tension. I loved their romance.

I could have used a tiny bit more struggle on the part of the characters by the end - a few things seemed a bit easy or too-good-to-be-true. Ironically, I've seen some comments from other readers that the romance wasn't quite romance-y or maybe eternal-happy-ever-after enough for them. However, the blend of action and romance was almost perfect for my taste as a romance dabbler.

Also, I love the little Easter eggs that the author sneaks in referencing characters from other contemporary works.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


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