MeiLin Miranda’s Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom holds a special place in my heart for being among the first webfiction I ever read, and for inspiring me to begin writing my own online stories. Thus it was with a mixture of curiosity and anticipated pleasure that I began reading Lovers and Beloveds, a newly released professional revision of what has become known as the ‘Crappy First Draft’.
Lovers and Beloveds is an erotic historical fantasy which follows the beginnings of Prince Temmin’s transition from naïve, spoilt Heir to a man worthy of being King. Taken from his childhood home to live with his father, Temmin is initially innocent to the political, religious and sexual intrigues at court—but unless he wants to remain his father’s puppet forever, he will have to be a fast study. It doesn’t help that his formal training with the mysterious immortal Teacher leaves him with more questions than answers, nor that the lure of the Lover’s Temple is increasingly hard to resist. Which path will Temmin choose? Will he follow in his father’s footsteps and make the same mistakes his ancestors have made time and time again, or will he reach beyond them and lead his kingdom to glory?
Prophecies, magic, curses and Gods — Lovers and Beloveds has all the trappings of a strong coming-of-age fantasy novel. It offers an impressive depth and breadth in terms of world-building, mixing hints of Victorian aristocracy with Ancient Greek religion to create a compelling, evocative setting. But most of all it offers an intimate view into the daily lives of those who have shaped and will shape the Kingdom of Tremont, intertwining the history of Temmin’s ancestors with his current experiences at court.
This dual narrative — jumping between present times and Temmin’s ancestors – is part of what makes the story so addictive. Lovers and Beloveds is in part a character study of Temmin and his formal training as Heir, but there is a larger story at play, too, which only becomes evident through the parallels between Temmin’s behaviour and his ancestor’s mistakes. Much of this revolves around religious, moral and sexual themes, in which Temmin is largely innocent and ignorant — and while the sex is often explicit and occasionally non-consensual, it is handled gracefully and is crucial to the plot.
But what is perhaps most striking is that both setting and cast have received equal care and attention; the Prince and his companions are as vivid in my mind as the city itself. Temmin is a believable teenager, awkward, petulant, trying hard to do what is right but often distracted by what is tempting. The strong bench of supporting characters are also well-developed, with histories of their own. My personal favourite is Teacher, a dark mysterious figure bound by magic to obey the King’s commands.
Perhaps my only nitpick is that the beginning is a little slow, but certainly history buffs would enjoy the scene-setting, and as soon as Prince Temmin arrives in the royal capital, the novel becomes highly engrossing.
In sum, even if you’ve read the first draft, it is worth reading this revision. The story is highly polished and delightfully told — if you love history and strong characters, and aren’t afraid of sex, then this is a book for you.
For more information about this book, click here.
This book is one of my 100+ Reading Challenge!