by Kayleigh Jamison
Historical/ (m/f), (f/f), (f/f/m)
Ebook-Tease Publishing LLC
Buy it ARe, Amazon (paper), B&N (paper), Fictionwise
Trapped within a life where she has always been an outsider, Karina dutifully follows the wishes of her father by day, and secretly pursues her dreams by night. Raised within the strict, patriarchal society of the Rom at a time when discrimination and fear are at their peak, she is forced to hide both her love of music and her passion for those who encourage her dreams.
She seeks comfort in the arms of her dearest friend and mentor, who shows her that love and lust rarely confine themselves to the ill-conceived notions of normalcy.
When a lie, spoken in a moment of desperation, threatens to shatter everything Karina holds dear, she must choose between those she loves and her own reputation. Will the truth set her free or destroy her? Does she have the courage to follow her own heart?
Damn, I really enjoyed this book. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has interesting and complex characters with an engrossing, and actual, plot. Set in the colorful world of gypsies, the characters are forced into crisis and action by their passions, cultural restrictions, and past wounds, which I have to say, totally turned me on.
Long review ahead, sorry. This was a hard review to write for me though since there was so much that grabbed me about this story.
It’s the 1700’s in Hungary and Romanian gypsy tribes have banded together and are on the run, hiding from the Empress Maria Theresa’s people who are clamping down on gypsies and their lifestyle. In the midst of all of this, Karina, the daughter of the leader of the Argintari tribe, gets caught in a web of current and past passions and deceits. She is different from the rest of her clan, having blond hair and being a 23 year old who isn’t married, which means she’s an outcast.
Fitting into the strict lifestyle Karina’s father has created for her is not her cuppa and she sneaks off to the Lautari camp every night for fun. Unlike the Argintari, the Lautari are more easy going and love to party, drinking, dancing and playing music well into the night. Karina hangs out with her best friend since childhood, Papusza, and has caught the eye of Brishen, also a Lautari and a well liked man who is a virtuoso with the violin.
Although Karina and Papusza have a sexual relationship, Karina is both attracted and fearful of Brishen, who shows unabashed desire for her. Unfortunately, even though Karina and Brishen fall in love and become betrothed to each other, several factors come into play that could destroy their love:
• Karina still loves Papusza; still wants to be physical with her and this causes rage and jealousy in Brishen. And Papusza is jealous of Brishen.
• Although Karina’s father has agreed to this marriage, he hates the Lautari and the bad blood between he and Vesh, the Lautari leader and Papusza’s uncle threatens their love.
• One night just before marriage, something happens between Karina, Papusza and Brishen that causes Brishen to be banished from the tribe.
Does this sound a bit like a soap opera? Well, it did feel a bit like that. However, Kayleigh Jamison did a fantastic job of creating a passionate, realistic, juicy story that didn’t go overboard. This is, however, mainly a love story between Brishen and Karina.
First I’d like to say that Ms. Jamison did an incredible job of describing the gypsy world, social conditioning's and lifestyle during those times. I know nothing about gypsies, but the way it’s written, it’s all very clear and without a lot of info dumping. In the beginning there is a small amount of explanation but quickly gets on track with the characters taking center stage within this world.
I loved that the impetus for character interaction was caused just as much from social mores as from normal, and sometimes stupid, human reactions.
Papusza seduces Karina first. What they are doing is severely frowned upon by their society, but they don’t seem to care or be too worried about it. I didn’t understand this really since these communities seemed very tight knit. Karina just seemed to go along with being seduced by Papusza without thinking about it too much. I didn’t feel that what they had was really a love story, but it is clear that Papusza is more in love with Karina. Their sexual relationship came across as more of a convenience and an extension of their friendship, both needing some comfort from their miserable lives.
Since Karina and Papusza’s relationship was not as well developed as Karina and Brishen’s, it was clear that they are weren’t going to be a focus of this story even though their interactions are cause of what happens. This did disappoint me a bit. I would have liked if their relationship wouldn’t have been treated as second class. But that’s how it’s written and in the end it is what it is.
Fairly quickly, Karina falls really hard for Brishen. On the eve of their wedding announcement, Karina does something really stupid, which catapults these three people into a huge tangled mess that will be hard to get out of. I did wonder what Karina was thinking. It seemed a rather stupid and callous thing to do, but there was a running theme of characters acting out of their own jealousies and passions with ill regard for others’ feelings initially.
Ms. Jamison did a great job of showing that Karina and Brishen really love each other, even though there was no tension or build up to their relationship other than eyeing each other here and there. Their first sexual encounter is beautifully written, including a realistic portrayal of Karina’s loss of virginity. There’s no orgasm upon first entry or lack of pain, which is so common in romance. Nope, it’s painful, but Brishen is very loving with Karina and doesn’t rough shod over her in his own need. Another common trope. This created a very deep intimacy between them, I thought.
I also enjoyed the very realistic attitude of Brishen in his jealousy. He flies into a rage over Karina and Papusza being together. He feels threatened by Papusza and trash talks her to Karina before he and Karina even get together. After Brishen is accused of a heinous crime though, things change drastically in all their relationship dynamics.
This situation causes a deep rift between Karina and Papusza, which pains Papusza, but not Karina so much. Because of what’s happened, Karina is forced to take sides until she owns up to her part in what’s happened and gets the other two to own up to their part as well.
All three do work things out and finally come to an agreement. At this point, Brishen becomes that typical male agreeing to Karina and Papusza being together if he can watch. Yeah, that didn’t sit well with me. It felt a bit skeevy since Papusza had no interest in Brishen, nor Brishen in Papusza. I felt it was a bit weird that she agreed to have sex with Karina in front of Brishen.
Although, I will say that the sexual encounter with all three didn’t come across as written just for titillation, but was very loving. And outside of that reaction, I really liked Brishen as a character. He’s an all around good, honorable guy who really only has eyes and love for his woman.
Outside of these three main characters, there are some interesting characters who’s actions and reactions enter in prominently. Nicolae, Karina’s father and leader of the Argantari and Vesh, have some old, unsettled business with each other, which has a huge impact on all three main characters. When the truth finally does come out, it’s both painful and relieving for both Brishen and Karina.
I will say that some things got a bit glossed over or forgiven a little too easily to finish this story in an upbeat way. What Nicolae did was truly awful and he got an unrealistic pass from Karina who forgave him a little too easily for my taste. He and some other characters, like Vesh’s wife, act against their characterization at the end as well, which, felt a bit too to pat for me.
I have no idea of the reality of gypsy life, but everyone was sneaking into each other’s tents all the time without other members of the tribe knowing. This bothered me throughout the whole book because I would think that a community as close knit as a gypsy tribe would be aware of who was coming and going in other’s tents, especially since things could be heard and these characters were people who were outcasts and probably would have had extra attention on themselves.
I also had mixed feelings about Papusza’s ending in this. I won’t say much since it will give info away, but how things panned out with all three made me wonder why Papusza was even a made a factor in this story.
At any rate, this is a well written, engaging story. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone because it’s a passionate love story even if the story between Karina and Papusza was lacking.
Sex rating: Orgasmic- graphically written and frequent sexual scenarios. f/f, m/f, f/f/m, minor anal.