Author: E.E. Ottoman
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Pages/Word Count: 105 Pages
At a Glance: A decent entry to a series set in an interesting world, but this story is filled with overused elements.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: Lord Marcel de la Mont de Anges, the Marquis de Montespan is a brilliant mathematician, member of the mechanical animation movement and all around dandy. He’s been in love with shy, quiet entomologist and youngest member of the royal family, Prince Gilbert André XVI, since they were children. The Emperor’s plans to arrange a marriage between Marcel and Gilbert should have been the answer to all his secret fantasies.
But Gilbert is still reeling from a nasty breakup, and he cannot picture the man he regards as a brother becoming his lover. The order to marry has thrown their relationship into disorder, and if they cannot sort out the changes there may not even be a friendship left for them to save…
Review: If you haven’t read the other books in this series, you don’t need to in order to understand this series. Each book has its own characters and storylines, though Winter’s Bees does mention characters that appear in the other stories. Maybe their mention will make you want to read the others if you haven’t already.
I enjoy E.E. Ottoman’s writing, and this book is no different, though I did find the characters to be tedious at times. Perhaps it was just that the elements of the story are common enough to be overused, and I wanted something more.
For example, Marcel is beautiful, and he is in love with his childhood friend, Gilbert. Gilbert, on the other hand, is not in love with Marcel, and he doesn’t want to marry him out of convenience, for his father’s sake. But, of course, what the Emperor wants, the Emperor gets. And, well, Marcel is happy with the situation. What follows is some angst and miscommunication between the two men. They don’t discuss things, which would clear things up really fast. But, then, I guess there wouldn’t be a story.
What is different about this book is the nature of the characters. They’re not your typical heroes, and that’s one of the reasons I love Ottoman’s stories. Gilbert is short, stocky, and not entirely attractive. And it’s not just him saying that about himself, but everyone says it. He’s also an entomologist. He studies BUGS. A prince that studies bugs? You have to admit that’s kind of cool. And then there’s Marcel. Marcel has a disability, but this doesn’t get in his way of life, and people still consider him beautiful, which is refreshing. And he’s not just a dandy who exists to look pretty, but a brilliant mathematician as well.
The world also embraces same-sex relationships, so this isn’t a problem. Gilbert’s father understands he’s attracted to men, so he plans his betrothal accordingly rather than going against his wishes. That’s fairly unique as well. Too often I’ve read stories where, yes, same-sex marriage is accepted, but if you’re a member of the royal family, “sorry, you need to suck it up for the sake of the bloodlines.”
Plus, there is the twisted steampunk elements. It’s not quite Victorian, but it seems close to it, and it’s not completely steampunk, but it’s there. Maybe as a bridge for those who want to test the genre out?
Overall, I would say this was an enjoyable story. While some of the elements are commonly used in other books, if you can look past this, you’ll read about a fascinating world and atypical heroes.
You can buy Winter’s Bees here: