In a shadowy game where defeat can mean death, a deal with the enemy can change things forever.
In 1842, Captain Gabriel O’Riordan of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars is sent on a mission to Bukhara. His task—to try to free two of his compatriots from the clutches of a mentally unstable Emir. On his way, he encounters Valentin Yakolev, an officer in the Russian Army, who is also on a mission—to persuade the Emir that an alliance with Russia would be in his best interests. Gabriel, disguised as a holy man, is not happy to be the object of Yakolev’s intense scrutiny. After all, he’s working for the opposing team in the Great Game being played between their two nations. When Gabriel realises that his mission is little more than a forlorn hope, a game he has no chance of winning, he’s desperate enough to turn to Valentin to help and offer him anything in return. What he doesn’t expect is to have his plans to return to Calcutta scuppered by events.
Instead, he and Valentin flee north, fighting off bandits, their desire for each other and the hardship of desert travel. Their travails bring them closer together until a secret from Valentin’s past tears them apart.
Can they set the past behind them and move on together?
*I got an ARC of this book through Signal Boost Promotions in exchange for an honest review*
My first reaction after finishing this book was: “why the hell didn’t I read this sooner?” So I think that tells you what kind of review this is going to be.
I love historical romances, both with M/M and M/F pairings (I haven’t read any with an F/F pairing yet), but I’m always looking for something different within that genre, something unique. And Tournament of Shadows was just that. From the setting to the characters, everything in this book lighted a spark inside me, and once I got into the story I couldn’t stop reading.
I loved the fact that both MCs were spies for different countries but were not actively trying to deceive each other. I liked how they found companionship and a common ground to collaborate. I loved how they developed a friendship and finally something more.
We get Gabriel’s POV, and I loved looking into the spy’s head. I really liked seeing how tiring keeping his cover up was for him and being able to see the difference between the real him and the character he was playing. His attraction to Valentin and unwillingness to act on it at first was really well done, too.
The plot was fast paced, and reading through it was like going on an adventure with the MCs. I really liked how the romance intertwined with the events of the book and the dangers both characters had to face.
And that finally brings me to my favourite part of the book: the romance. It was one of those love stories that leaves me feeling warm all over and sighing once I close the book. I adored the interactions between the characters and all of them – the physical ones, the arguments, the talks… – felt real to me. And the HEA, I applaud how the author managed it in a time when it was really difficult for two men to be together.
I’ll be rereading this one, that’s for sure.