|Velvet by Xavier Axelson|
Virago is extraordinarily talented and serves in court as royal tailor, a skill and position he inherited from his now deceased father. His loyalty, love and bonds of brotherhood to Prince Duir are unquestionable, after all they were raised together as children. Virago has enjoyed all that privilege since childhood, but things begin to unravel when Duir inherits the kingdom and Virago discovers a new fabric sent to his household from foreign lands, an amazing cloth that oozes sensuality called "velvet."
Virago becomes obsessed with this velvet. The sensuality of it calls to him and to forbidden, secret and unfulfilled yearnings until he meets Seton, a master lute player. His music is entrancing enough to capture Duir's attention, but the magnificent Seton also captures Virago's heart and when his feelings are returned danger lurks at every corner for the lovers. When the soon-to-be king also becomes obsessed with velvet and the bloody laws of sumptuary threaten to take effect, darkness begins to gather, peacocks become the harbingers of doom, brotherhood is tested, and the truth of loyalty and real love come to light.
Virago is portrayed as the man who can see but has been blind to the real faults of those around him, and it takes the discovery of velvet and his love for the well-grounded Seton to awaken his sensuality as well as his other senses. On the other hand, Virago's brother, the physically blind Silvain, serves as the anchor to reality and the one who has always "seen" the men in their lives for whom they really are: as true, loving and loyal or as superficial, spoiled and cruel men with a sense of entitlement and with little understanding of honor and loyalty. The road is not easy as Virago experiences a forbidden love and battles betrayal, entitlement, prejudice, and ignorance.
Velvet is Axelson's first full-length novel and a historical romance set in medieval times in a fictional kingdom. Historical medieval elements are achieved with the consistent use of language, fashion, music and beliefs of those times, yet throughout subtle flavors that reminded me of a fantasy play also permeate the atmosphere. This medieval setting combined with those other elements set a rather distinct tone as background for the romance. Axelson, however, also infuses touches of reality to keep his characters grounded and readers connected. It's an interesting combination.
Common men play the heroes in Velvet: a tailor and a musician. Well . . . that is if you don't consider artistic or creative talent as extraordinary. Personally, I consider Virago and his lover Seton, as well as Virago's brother Silvain, as extraordinary or uncommon men. Not necessarily because of their individual talents, but because under dire circumstances they choose to follow their hearts and a difficult path. Brothers Virago and Silvain are the best drawn characters with Seton playing the true, passionate, and knowledgeable lover whose past is not entirely disclosed. Secondary characters play their roles rather well by adding to the overall story line.
Velvet by Xavier Axelson is really a wonderful story with a little bit of everything: yearning, angst, music, fashion, decadence, sex, violence, betrayal, love, romance, intrigue, and even a couple of sword and knife fights! I read it in one sitting. The characters, plot and action certainly kept my attention.
Category: LGBT/Gay Historical Romance
Publisher/Release Date: Seventh Window Publications/October 29, 2012
Source: eARC for review
Visit Xavier Axelson here.