Series: Legends of Lobe den Herren
Time to read: 2h21m
Date read: Wed 13 Apr 2022
Just put a ring on it…
I’ve gone through a string of alright-but-not-great books recently as I’ve read through most of my favourite authors’ back catalogues (just waiting on all those new releases!) and was searching for something new. But then I realised that, while I have read many of A.J. Sherwood’s books, I hadn’t read all of them!
I’m not sure why I’d put off reading Fourth Point of Contact before, but I think it was partially down to the cover not drawing me in and also because for some reason I thought the series was supposed to be more than two books? Yeah, I don’t know where that thought came from, either.
Regardless – I’m glad I read this because I loved it! I read the blurb before downloading it, of course, but didn’t re-read it before I started the book, so I was a little fuzzy as to the premise. Ren is one of our two protagonists, an ex-general who follows his friend and fellow general, Arman Brahms, to Aart, his country, after the war has ended. In the five years that follow, Ren becomes warden of a castle, while Arman is deployed to fortify a fortress elsewhere. And, while they’re best friends, they’re not and have never been lovers – people in Aart just don’t know what same-sex relationships are. Only, maybe Arman’s feelings have changed and maybe Ren just got his heart broken and maybe they’ll end up together, but only if Arman can get the damn words out of his mouth.
While the book definitely gets off to a slower start than you might expect, I think the overall pacing still works; Ren and Arman have plenty of time to explore their relationship, even though they don’t see each other in person again until around a quarter of the way through the book.
And I guess it’s because 1) the story before they meet again is pretty compelling on its own and 2) it all ties in to the overall plot – we need to meet some of those characters for later developments to make sense.
Of course, too, Ren and Arman are absolutely adorable, which is not the word I thought I’d use for the relationship between a general and castle warden but – they ARE. Just, the cutest.
A right cast of characters
As I write these reviews, I’m definitely noticing a theme in the books I enjoy: I like a good cast of characters. Enough good characters will cover most plot holes (not that I’m saying I particularly noticed any in this book), and Sherwood is good at writing people who are interesting and compelling and, importantly, funny.
Arman and Ren are, obviously, my favourites, but there’s also Queen Eloise (always down to fight); Princess Roslyn (inherited the same attitude from her mother); Robert, who just needs Arman to tell Ren how he feels, God, please; Harriet, so gracious and low-key vengeful; and, of course, Willa, who very easily keeps her husband in tow. Plus all the rest of the Brahms, Galvath… the list goes on. You’ll definitely find a character to love – though maybe not the bad guys.
Speaking of the bad guys…
Oh yeah, there’s a whole mystery plot going on in here – and by the end of the book, there’s still a bit more mystery to solve! I know I’ve written before that I don’t care that much about a mystery in a romance book, but this one weaves in with the romance plot pretty well. Events jump up as a foil for Arman’s plans, giving a reason for him to delay them beyond the usual ‘miscommunication’ or ‘getting cold feet’.
I think I got a little confused at the end about some of the people involved (there are a lot of names going on!) but mostly, it’s pretty straightforward – except for the parts we don’t know yet, of course!
What about the deets?
Best-friends-to-lovers is a tried and true trope, and I enjoy it, but sometimes it can feel a bit slow and stale. It can be difficult to write in the excitement that comes with a new relationship, though it does allow for more of an exploration of how relationships (including just friendships) change and all the things that come along with that.
However, the structure of this book’s timeline allows for a little more leeway. As the readers, we don’t meet Brahms much until about 20% of the way through – and he’s fuming about Giles anyway, which is honestly a great look. We still get some good, believable pacing for Arman having explored his own feelings and figured them out and for he and Ren both truly being well on the way to being in love with each other, meaning that when it’s said, it doesn’t feel rushed, even if it’s within weeks of their sudden wedding.
Oh, and as someone who silently thinks through all their life-changing decisions for weeks or months before even letting a hint of what they’ve been contemplating slip, I can 100% relate to Arman dropping a proposal on Ren like that. Of COURSE it makes perfect sense to him that they marry when he knows he’s in love with Ren and wants to be with him and make him happy. It’s Ren’s fault for not reading his mind, right? /s
What a dork, I love him.
This book’s getting five fancy rings: 💍💍💍💍💍
An adorable low fantasy romance with the friends-to-lovers story I’m sure we all wish we could have. The world building is interesting, the characters are fantastic, and there’s a mystery subplot that really keeps events moving at a good clip. Oh, and I’m excited to start the second book later this week!