Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Novel from Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Mage Yarroway L’Estrella decided the Battle of the Starlight Bridge when he summoned fire from the heavens. The blaze decimated much of the vineyard that has been in Alain Lamont’s family for nine generations. Mountain Shadow Winery may no longer be able to support Alain’s family or the dozens of others who call it home, but Alain vows not to fail all those depending on him.
Mercenary Fabrezio Orvina d’Caelus, Breeze to his friends, appreciates Alain taking him in when he’s badly wounded after the battle, but he has no intention of living the dull life of a farmer any longer than necessary. Though he likes the vintner, he sees Alain as soft and sheltered, hardly a man who can understand a warrior’s calling.
As they live and work together, Alain realizes Breeze isn’t exactly the amoral opportunist he suspected, and Breeze sees more strength in Alain than he thought possible of a simple winemaker. Life on the estate is richer and less boring than Breeze first imagined. With ingenuity, courage, and cooperation, they may devise a way to revitalize the vineyard and move beyond the pain and loss of their pasts.
Review: Life is good for Alain Lamont. He runs his family’s centuries-old winery with the help of his brother-in-law Boyce and the working people who call the vineyard home. Then a mage calls down fire from the sky to defeat an enemy, and the firestorm destroys half of Alain’s fields and all of his dreams. Many of the vineyard’s homes and people are lost, and Alain is left to comfort his niece and nephew and start to restore some kind of order. The dead are buried while the women prepare a meal for the remaining workers. Needing to be alone, Alain slips away during the wake to return to the cemetery and wander the fields.
While surveying his decimated fields he hears odd noises among the vines. He finds a warrior, terribly injured but still alive. He recognizes the man as a mercenary and debates whether or not to take such a dangerous person into his home. He decides to rescue the man, calling a healer to tend his wounds. She sets the man’s broken bones and teaches Alain how to care for the burns. The wounds start to heal, and the warrior eventually regains consciousness. He wakes with no idea where he is, his last memories being of smoke, fire and pain. Alain appears and, finding him finally awake, explains where he is and what has happened to him.
The warrior, Fabrezio Orvina d’Caelus, or Breeze as he is known to his fellow mercenaries, has only one goal. He wants to leave this sleepy farm and return to his home and occupation. Unfortunately, he has much more healing to do before he can even think to fight again, so he is stuck right where he is for the foreseeable future. He works to regain strength by helping Alain tend the crops and repair the damage to the homes of the workers. He is surprised to find the work much less boring than he imagined it would be. He also recognizes a growing attraction to Alain, but is unsure whether or not Alain feels the same. Alain, in the meantime, is dealing with worry for the future of the vineyard and trying not to depend too heavily on Breeze for support. Their friendship deepens, eventually they become lovers, but Breeze realizes he has to leave when the threat of exposure threatens Alain’s reputation and business.
Back in the mercenary settlement Breeze tries to pick up his old life, but it no longer affords him the satisfaction it once did. Octavian, Breeze’s leader and friend, realizes that Breeze is no longer satisfied with the life of a warrior. His counsel helps Breeze to make the decision that has been haunting him since Breeze walked away from Alain.
I’m so glad August Li decided to revisit the world he created in The Blessed Epoch. I really enjoyed the broader view beyond the doings of wizards and kings. It is less of a fantasy setting, the characters are very human, and the author made me feel Alain’s strength of character even in the face of devastating loss, grief, and self-doubt. Breeze is a kind and loving man who just needs a little time to get his priorities straight. The supporting characters are also very well developed, and I hope to see more of their stories in future books in this series. The writing is excellent, and I highly recommend this story. The fantasy element is very limited and I think it will be enjoyable whether or not you are a fantasy fan.