RELEASE DAY REVIEW: 'The Henchmen of Zenda' by K.J. Charles
Title: The Henchmen of Zenda
Author: K.J. Charles
Published: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Self-Published/KJC Books
Genre: Erotic Romance; Historical Fiction
Length: 179 Pages
Tags: Gay; M/M; May/December; CW: Abduction, Violence
About The Henchmen of Zenda
Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that's Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.
Rupert of Hentzau is Michael's newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.
Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.
A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zenda from a very different point of view.
5 HEART READ
KJ Charles, the Maestra of Historical Romance, strikes a coup de main (a single sword-stroke kill) with The Henchmen of Zenda, a swashbuckling re-cast of Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda. His 1930's tale had been chivalrous, but evidenced outdated values, placing monarchy and inbreeding above love, honesty, or the welfare of average citizens. It must have been catnip for a historian like KJ to right/write this wrong.
The two novels are told by protagonists on opposite sides of a dilemma, but retain the same basic plot. On the eve before his coronation, Ruritania’s crown prince (Rudolf Elphberg) drinks wine drugged by his half-brother, Michael Elphberg. Duke Michael hopes to accede to the throne when it is discovered his brother is too drunk to arrive at his own inauguration. Coincidentally, Rudolph’s unknown English look-alike relative, Rudolf Rassendyll, is visiting. The king’s guard ask the Englishman to pose as king during the coronation, until such time as the drug wears off.
However, Michael’s men get wind and kidnap the real king. Now fake Rudolf can’t expose the king’s abduction, lest he be discovered as an imposter. Equally, Michael can’t expose imposter Rudolf’s ruse without showing he has abducted the king. While both sides struggle to end the stalemate, fake Rudolf continues to act as king, wooing Flavia, a blood cousin, who the king must marry to retain power.
KJ has often written tales of cross and double-cross, but the loyalties of these heroes must shift continuously, or all three will die.
The original Zenda, was narrated by fake Rudolph, who cast himself as a champion of the throne. Though Prisoner was a witty classic well worth a look-see, readers can enjoy The Henchmen of Zenda without its predecessor.
KJ’s Zenda, told by one of Duke Michael’s henchmen, Jasper Detchard, exposes the villainy of all royalty, while honoring Antoinette, Michael’s mistress, and Rupert Hentzau, a charming Ruritanian cad, hired to protect Michael alongside Jasper. Jasper falls in lust, harder than he recognizes. “Rupert lived as an active verb, and did it as hard as he could.”
As always, readers are treated to KJ’s witticisms. For example, when Rupert asks Jasper, “‘Can I be honest?’” Rupert replies, “‘I doubt it, but carry on.’”
KJ has often written tales of cross and double-cross, but the loyalties of these heroes must shift continuously, or all three will die. Her plot races to the finish like a cavalry of horses in hot pursuit, the reader both struggling to stay in our saddles, and bracing to avoid upcoming blows. We are fully engaged!
Henchmen’s twists and turns might leave a lesser author with little room to wax philosophical. Yet KJ manages to sneak in a few pithy observations. “The prospect of a burden lifting does tend to make one aware of quite how heavy it is,” Jasper notes to himself. He also observes his boss, Duke Michael, noting, “He trusted nobody, because nobody could possibly love him enough for his liking.” Gah! We all know politicians of this ilk.
Readers can bask in heroes who delight in every flaw we must hide as part of “civilized” society.
But sadly Jasper demonstrates little knowledge of his own nature. “Desire is nothing; even a dog can be trained to control its urges.” Ha! Will Jasper be undone by the exasperatingly gorgeous and immoderate Rupert? KJ’s love scenes sizzle in the heat of impending danger.
Damn! I adore KJ for giving us a gentle lesson in humility. Readers can bask in heroes who delight in every flaw we must hide as part of “civilized” society. Sometimes her scoundrels are better people than I.
For a jolly romp in the past, with dashing ne’er-do-wells stuck in sticky situations, and even dastardly villains with waxed, mustachios, delight in KJ Charles’ five-heart The Henchmen of Zenda.
A copy of The Henchmen of Zenda was provided to Kimmers’ Erotic Book Banter, by KJ Charles, at no cost and with no expectations in return. We offer our fair and honest opinion on behalf of our readers.
Meet the Author
After twenty years in UK publishing including a stint at Mills & Boon, KJ Charles is now a full-time writer. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.
KJ writes mostly historical romance, often with some fantasy or horror in there. Her paranormal romance Spectred Isle is a 2018 RITA® nominee.
For more from K.J. be sure and visit her website.