A Change of Season
When it comes to romance, I generally go all French. Chacun à son goût, right? Some readers prefer Regencies, some Contemporaries; some just like kisses in their novels and some…well…like bondage threesomes with two bird-winged twin brothers. For me, it is variety what makes romance such a great genre, or since I’m French for this review: Vive la différence! While I am proudly carrying the torch for generic laissez-faire, A Change of Season, Anya Bast’s fifth installment of her Seasons of Pleasure series, should nonetheless come with a bit of a warning. With sexually adventurous characters, a thoroughly liberal view on monogamy and sensual scenes straight out of the Kamasutra, this fantasy Romantica novel is not for the coy or generalist romance reader, but for the bold connoisseur with, let’s call them, selective tastes. Neatly compressed into 115 competently written pages, this makes for an intense read that, despite the occasionally rushed, confusing, and underdeveloped storyline, is reasonably entertaining.
Plagued by painful visions of Lord Cyric and Lord Dain d’Ange, supernaturally gifted hermit Moira ki Sienne decides to track down the roots of her psychic attacks. She travels to the Northern territory of Aeoli and seeks out Aviat Dain d’Ange, the owl-winged devourer of women whose “magick” is supposed to have killed his first wife Andreea after he found her in bed with Lord Cyric. Disgusted by his own dark powers, widower Dain has retreated from all social contact ever since and now lives a secluded life with only a few servants and his twin brother Killian to keep him company. When Moira shows up on Dain’s doorstep asking questions about his archenemy Cyric, he is keen to throw her out again. Yet, when the seasons opportunely change and snowed-in Moira suffers another psychic attack, Dain is forced to offer her refuge until spring.
Spending the winter with Dain and Killian, Moira soon finds means to keep her warm during the cold season. Yet, it is not the easy-going friendly Killian who takes her fancy, but the self-flagellating and torn Dain. Although Dain makes clear that he is too damaged to offer Moira anything but sexual fulfillment, Moira cannot keep her fingers from the forbidden fruit. Before long, she finds herself enthusiastically engaging in bondage, anal, voyeuristic, you-name-it-they-do-it sex plays with the well-endowed Dain. And, since Aeolians think little of sexual taboo, twin brother Killian is eventually invited in into the action. While Moira spends the winter exploring her own sexual fantasies sandwiched between the two brothers, she cannot help falling in love with Dain. Convinced that he could never return her feelings, she decides to leave for the city of Port of Paradise in order to find out more about the whereabouts of Cyric. Yet, Dain is not about to let the only woman who can rescue him from his own misery get away. Accompanied by Killian, he will follow Moira until the final showdown in the Southern territory of Sudhra will bring him face to face with his archrival Cyric.
Ok, let’s talk about sex! It’s steamy, it’s naughty and there’s lots of it. So much of it that once the novelty factor of “wow, I didn’t know you could do that in that position” wore off, it even got a bit tiresome occasionally. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously, any Romantica novel depends heavily on the quantity and quality of its sex scenes and without doubt, A Change of Season fares well on both accounts. Nonetheless, there are so many twosomes and threesomes going on here that the sex scenes sometimes risk being repetitive and they eventually take up so much space that there is little room left for plot development. As the novel unravels, the length of chapters gradually decreases – the last three chapters are barely three pages long each. This makes the storyline feel incredibly rushed towards the end, with Killian hurriedly cast aside and Moira and Dain joined in a hasty HEA.
This brings me to the question of romance. Threesomes are always difficult to pull off in any kind of romantic story. Admittedly, Romantica is a special case, but threesomes with bird-winged twin brothers, as titillating as they might be, might just prove a little too much for the more spiritual or romantically inclined reader, considering the pseudo-religious angel connotations and the incest implications. Even though the novel goes to lengths to distinguish between Dain and Killian, it is hard to tightrope between developing a believable and monogamous romance and delivering the sexy twin package. Besides, having sex with your future sister-in-law in order to bring your brother out of his shell is a rather cheeky excuse for a threesome, if you ask me. Having said that, Bast’s sex scenes are delivered with much gusto and verve and will satisfy even the most adventurous of readers.
Overall, A Change of Season is a gratifying addition to Bast’s series. Although newcomers will likely be confused by the eventful Nordanese-Sudhraian pre-history, connoisseurs of the series and Romantica aficionadas may find much to like in this novel, provided that they can turn a bit of a blind eye to its rushed execution and enjoy the slightly more daring pleasures that it has to offer.