City of Kings by Bree M. Lewandowski

We have also reviewed August Nights and Chevalier by Bree.
Lovers once. Enemies now.
How hot does hurt and hatred burn before the flames consume everything?

She was the ruin of his heart, the reason he swore he’d never come back to Illinois. Yet when a commanding officer sends Judah Grane on obligatory guard-detail to Chicago for the Quarterly Council of Kings, nightmares from that past come back to haunt him.

And God has a funny sense of humor…
Maive Greene has worked hard for the life she has. There’s been no one along the way to help. Now, engaged to Chicago’s City King, she can finally see her future and everything she hopes to accomplish.
Until the man she once loved appears.
Betrayed by each other years ago, yet suddenly thrown together in a strange twist of fate, neither can see how this will end…
Scandal threatens and hearts never healed might break anew! Get lost in this wildfire dystopian second chances romance!

Sherry Terry’s Review: 3.0-stars

I like the cover for City of Kings, and I think it represents romance well. I would have liked to see a little more of a dystopian look about it, but overall I felt it gives me what I expected. I’ve read all three of her books she submitted to us and enjoyed August Nights and Chevalier, but City of Kings falls a little short for me.

The first chapter of City of Kings drew me into the story with it’s gritty writing style that I found appealing. I thought Bree did a good job of bringing out the military and world building — at first. We start with our hero, Judah in trouble, being accused of some pretty serious offenses, but then the story wanders around and gets lost. We veer away from Judah into a lot of world building and backstoy that I feel could have been worked into the story better.

Chapter two opens with more history and world building with a brief mention of the heroine, Maive. Once the story got back on track with the characters, things got more interesting, and Bree did a great job making me care about Maive.

This story could do with an edit. Some sentences could be trimmed and stronger, and this is very backstory heavy. Just when the things get interesting, we are thrown back into the past for more explanation of stuff. I found myself skimming a lot to get back to the “here and now” story of Judah and Maive.

The story jumps from present to past, from the story as it’s taking place into the past of what’s already happened. I was disappointed somewhat to be reading along in a good, action packed scene to turn the page and find myself finishing the scene in the next day from the past because it already happened. This takes all the action out of the whole thing, in my opinion.

This is a love story with betrayal, intrigue, mystery and sex. Overall, I did like the love story between Judah and Maive.

Diane Anderson’s Review: 3.8-Stars

The prologue opens with geographic coordinates, a stark time stamp of “March of 2024” and the military time “zero one-hundred” and apparently some cataclysmic event. Not the best way to invite this reader into a story world by far. Is there a reason I should care after trying to wrap my head around all those strange numbers? Is this a math book? A science textbook? Or a story? I almost wanted to bail, preferring to escape into a fictional world where it all comes into full view and gives me characters to care about.

This was not it. Perhaps this is one reason some readers skip prologues. I can certainly see why. If stories are too much work to fall into, it is not looking good for the long haul. In layman’s terms, here’s what the prologue was trying to say: a volcanic eruption of biblical proportions, completely destroyed what we know as the United States and from the ashes rose the new nation of Unitum Civitatem (or the United City). So, why didn’t the author just say so, at least in a way that invites us in?

There were so many literary devices a creative fiction writer could use here to make the reader want to care and keep turning pages. Fortunately, we’re not left to ponder longitude and latitude and number problems for long. There are actually characters! Yeah! Judah and Maive, two small-town kids from a futuristic Central Illinois plantation who reconnect in the city of Chicago, now run by a King, as are the other 49 cities across Unitum Civitatem.

The problem is, Judah, now a soldier was sent there by his commanding officer to serve at King Cal’s bidding. Maive, once an innocent farm girl in love with Judah, is now an exotic dancer — and Cal’s favorite mistress he plans to make his queen. Judah’s first assignment by King Cal is to follow his former fiancée and learn her mysterious whereabouts each night. Judah reluctantly obeys, but soon finds himself caught between his duty to the Crown and the love he still harbors for the girl he left behind years before, now involved in a political game that could destroy them all.

Filled with action, political intrigue and a dystopian world that combines horse-drawn carriages and imperial palaces with a glitzy high-tech city-state, City of Kings is not a bad read but could be so much better with a little more effort and word crafting. There are allusions to biblical references throughout and even the premise and characterizations brought to mind the story of Esther in the Old Testament who also became a queen, caught in a dangerous political game.

Whether this was intentional or not on the author’s part, is unclear. There are uncanny similarities. Esther was displaced from her home, exiled to the land of Persia after war destroyed her homeland. Like Maive, she was plucked from obscurity to enter a beauty pageant to be the king’s next wife. While there are distinct differences in the plot from there forward, I found it intriguing that this seemingly straightforward dystopian romance could actually be more beneath the surface — a modern retelling of an ancient story of bravery, love and sacrifice — or I’m just overthinking to literary proportions that were never meant to be. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The provocative cover design promises nothing more than a spicy dystopian romance and perhaps there’s nothing wrong with reading it at either level. For those who do enjoy this genre at its most basic level, it’s definitely worth packing along for a read at the beach or on an afternoon’s diversion. There are enough good points to overcome some weaknesses in the writing overall. Were it not for that, I’d have warranted it a full 4.0 stars but as is, it could’ve used better thought in word choices and more care in trimming redundancies.

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