Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince #2) by C. S. Pacat
Publication: July 7th, 2015
Genre: M/M Fantasy
With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.
Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow . . .
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Prince’s Gambit is a phenomenal follow-up sequel to Captive Prince. My mind was completely blown. This book is increasingly less raw and harsh regarding the trigger warnings from book one and much more political. But there are still some mentions of the harshness in the books. I don’t know how much I can say that I love this book and this series in general. The political intrigue and the scandal of the royal courts are deliciously seductive and vindictive. I can’t get enough of the malevolent nature that seems to be in many of the people in the story and with the despair of the brink of war coming the stakes are higher than ever. Also, again I don’t know what anyone is talking about when they say this book is overly sexual. There is ONE kiss that we FINALLY get and then a sex scene. Both happen literally within the last 100 pages of the book. If and only if you get the version I got, you get an extra chapter that is just an extension of the sex scene that Laurent mentions in the regular version of the book.
The book begins where book one ended. Damen and Laurent are traveling with a few of Laurent’s men but also many of the Regent’s men to the border to uncover and sinister plot set in motion by the Regent. Damen and Laurent can’t trust anyone because there are too many lurking eyes and hidden meanings about things. Secrets begin to unfold that are completely shocking and twisted. The Regent has so many people under his thumb and they may be closer than Damen and Laurent even know. They go on many wild adventures in this book together that starts to bring them closer. Damen is keeping his identity sealed but Laurent is someone he can’t quite figure out. They continue to learn more about each other and sense how wrong they were about the other. The war between Vere and Akielos is drawing closer and the impending war with the Regent is looming over them. More secrets, lies, betrayals, and plans are unfolded through an intricate weave that C. S. Pacat slowly lets us see until an explosive ending where Damen’s identity is revealed.
Damen is still as tough and brute as ever but he is learning the way of politics via Laurent. I would not say he is any better at it lol but he is learning the twisted ways Veretians think. We get to see the more warrior side of Damen in this book and less of the man trying to escape since he is out in the field with Laurent. I enjoy that because I feel each book is a different side of Damen. Book one is the slave/desperate man. Book two is the slave/warrior man. And book three is the King/free man which I will talk about in the final review. He is still a slave but he gets to speak more openly and is a bit freer because of the growing relationship between him and Laurent. So, we get to see a slightly funnier, wittier, and outspoken Damen. The trust builds and he gives Laurent good council and Laurent even begins to seek it out more. I have to just say I love how even though he has every right to hate Laurent Damen never partook in the vulgar and demeaning things people said about Laurent and denied everything. He only spoke highly of him when the time came for that and he protected him.
Laurent is just as ruthless and cunning as before but we see it less directed at Damen this time. The book is not in his point of view but we still see the changes in him. Laurent begins to see that Damen is not his enemy and really one of the only truthful people on his side even though they have every reason to hate each other. He doesn’t make excuses for his actions but we come to understand them. Laurent begins to open up more to Damen and shares things we never would have thought possible with how he was in book one. I love it because you see a softer/younger side to him. He is only 20 but we get to see a side of him that would have been had he not had to deal with the death of his brother and a cold and heartless uncle who raised him. He is still cold with many people but Damen brings out a side of him that even Laurent gets scared of because he didn’t think anyone could bring that out. I still love when we get to see him rip into a man with just his words though NOT GOING TO LIE lol. Also, I just want to mention how sad it is that he has to continually prove himself since he is so beautiful and people say such vulgar and demeaning things about him.
My heart broke at the death of Nicaise because we learn how close him and Laurent were and how he tried to protect him from the Regent. Jord finds a beautiful love that ends in a betrayal I did not see coming. We get to meet Nikandros by the end and I could not wait to see more of him in book three.
I really appreciate how the author wrote the relationship in this book. It felt like a blossoming flower. Flowers take long to bloom and so did these two but it was so worth it. With the way, they clash I could not handle how tender and careful the scene was honestly. The author did not make this cringe in the slightest. It was written with such care and attention to detail my heart was aching. In the midst of battle, I had tears. Also, political talk and battle strategy can be a bore but Pacat somehow drew me in and had me on the edge of my seat.
‘What makes you think Kastor is the weaker man? You don’t know him.’ ‘But, I’m coming to know you,’ said Laurent.
‘You remind me of him. He was the best man I have ever known. You deserve to know that, as you deserve at least a fair…In Arles, I treated you with malice and cruelty. I will not insult you by attempting to atone for deeds with words, but I would not treat you that way again.
‘My scorn and contempt,’ said Laurent, ‘are not in need of your leniency. Lord Touars, you face me in my own kingdom, you inhabit my lands, and you breathe at my pleasure. Make your own choice.
They are surely gods who speak to him
With steady voices
A glance from him drives men to their knees
His sigh brings cities to ruins
I wonder if he dreams of surrender
On a bed of white flowers
Or is that the mistaken hope
Of every would-be conqueror?
The world was not made for beauty like his
‘Friends,’ said Laurent. ‘Is that what we are?’…Damen said, with helpless honesty, ‘Laurent, I am your slave.’
Damen’s palm slid over Laurent’s warm nape; slowly, very slowly, making his height an offering, not a threat, Damen leaned in and kissed Laurent on the mouth.
It didn’t matter that he was leaving tomorrow. He felt remade with the desire to give Laurent this: to give him all he would allow and to ask for nothing, this careful threshold something to be savored because it was all Laurent would let himself have.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Your servants brought me to the wrong rooms.’ ‘No, they didn’t,’ said Laurent.
‘No, I don’t care. Tomorrow you leave. But you’re mine now. You’re still my slave tonight.’
‘I see you are everywhere in proportion.’ Damen said, ‘You’ve seen me roused before.’ ‘And I remember what you like.’
‘You liked this too, with Ancel.’ ‘That wasn’t Ancel,’ said Damen, the words coming out raw and honest. ‘That was all you, and you know it.’
He was caught unexpectedly in Laurent’s eyes, and it hit, in a tangled burst, Laurent fully clothed above him, a prince in full panoply, his shiny boots alongside Damen’s thighs. Even as Damen felt the first tremor rolling up his body, the moment was transforming, too much communicated between them. He felt suddenly that he should look away, that he should stop or turn back. He couldn’t. Laurent’s eyes were dark, wide, and for a moment looked nowhere but at him.
‘I…find it difficult to let go of control.’ ‘No kidding,’ said Damen. There was a drawn-out pause. And then: ‘You want to take me, as a man takes a boy.’ ‘As a man takes a man,’ said Damen. ‘I want to take pleasure in you, and to please your body with mine.’ He said it with soft honesty. ‘I want to come inside you.’ The words rose, like this feeling within him. ‘I want you to come in my arms.’
‘Contrary aren’t you,’ said Damen softly, thumbing over Laurent’s cheek. ‘F*** me,’ said Laurent. ‘I want to,’ said Damen. ‘Can you let me?’
Laurent was going to let him in. Inside him. That thought came over him anew. Then it was happening, and he couldn’t think of anything but the slow press forward into Laurent’s body.
He had a sudden splintering image of how it might be, if this was a world where they had time. There would be no urgency and no endpoint, just a sweet string of days spent together, long, languorous lovemaking where he could spend hours inside.
They were gazing at one another. He held himself still as Laurent reached out and touched the plane of his chest. Despite the rising sun, they were kissing, slow, fantastic kisses, the wonderful drift of hands. Their legs tangled together.
‘I want you,’ said Damen. ‘You’ve had me,’ said Laurent. ‘Twice. I can still feel the…sensation of it.’
‘I can’t,’ said Damen. ‘I can’t have this for just one night.’ ‘One night and one morning.’ said Laurent, and this time it was Damen who found himself pushed down onto the bed.
‘We have all night,’ said Damen, though it was not long, now. ‘We have until morning.’…Order me to stay he wanted to say, and couldn’t….’Until morning,’ said Laurent. After a moment he felt Laurent’s fingers lift and come to rest on his arm, curling there slightly.