Quench the Day (Red Wolf Trilogy 1) by Shari Branning
The Three Sentence Description: Beautiful, fiery Rowan is of marrying age, but has moved from her parents’ home in the city to her uncle’s house in the country to escape overly-eager suitors. When the (basically, evil) King Ormand sees her at a party and wishes to make her his wife, Rowan elopes with Aaro—a virtual stranger with a crush on her who is preferable to the king. Realizing he’s been tricked, the spurned king gets his revenge by razing Aaro’s estate and leaving him for dead, but not before he kidnaps Rowan and casts a spell on her.
Genre: Fantasy, Romantic Suspense
Primary Tropes: Alpha Heroine, Regency, Fake Romance, Retribution/Revenge
Secondary Tropes: Family Drama, Man/Woman in Peril
What Makes it Stand Out: Quench the Day starts out with the strong concept, and the strong writing, of a Jane Austen novel turned on its head. Unable to choose her own path in life because of social expectations, our utterly likable heroine is a victim of her time. In place of preoccupying herself with finding a desirable or prestigious suitor, the high-born and independent Rowan is repulsed by what lesser women aspire to—being desired by the king. The basic story setup could have worked as a historical romance, but author Shari Branning goes the fantasy route. This already-strong story gets so much more interesting when the king has his magician cast Rowan with a punitive spell.
What You’ll Love About It: Branning is an amazing world-builder. The setting in the early part of the story is vivid and enjoyable to read. When the plot pivots and finds Rowan in a different life, the reader gets to enter yet another skillfully-crafted world, one that involves magical people and otherworldly things. Apart from the external worlds in which characters exist, Branning does a fantastic job of describing inner worlds without making it so that the prose feels tedious (easier said than done when the characters are oftentimes loners who don’t necessarily converse freely with other people).
Truisms, Complexities, and Other Themes: I loved the plight of Rowan’s beauty—it’s an issue that I think a lot of attractive women can identify with. Beauty is usually portrayed as either a towering advantage, or a source of resigned bitterness. Yet, Branning exposes its complexities. Rowan enjoys people and likes having friends, yet many friendships are complicated by her looks. I thought this book did a realistic job of showing the simmering tension that results from being so universally desired.
The Standout Side Character: This book was full of amazing secondary characters, but my favorite was Sorrel, Rowan’s friend who wishes-he-was-more and who, because he is in love with her, becomes way more invested than he should be in her story. He was a great character and their relationship is tragically beautiful.
Our Prediction: I hope that Branning submits this book for contests and prizes. It certainly deserves them. I will be waiting (::cough::stalking::cough) for the next installment. I hope she won’t make us wait for long.