A Second Chance, Enemies-to-Lovers Fantasy Romance
Robin D. Mahle and Elle Madison have done it again. They have made me want to reside in a place just like Lochlann, the medieval-like kingdom featured in what is now a third series of books. In addition to providing us with truly relatable characters and spicy, slow-burn romances, Mahle and Madison have built a world and a history that rival any other fantasy series out there.
Lochlann is a world of nail-biting political games between clan and family loyalties, a landscape of mountain passes and spellbinding forests, swoon-worthy stories of true love, and a bit of fae magic.
Let me start at the beginning. In the first set of stories, the four-part Lochlann Treaty series, Mahle and Madison tell the story of the unification of the Lochlann kingdom and its war with rival kingdom Socair through the love stories of Charlotte and Logan, Jocelyn and Oliver, and Isla and Finn. In the second series, the 4-part Lochlann Feuds books, we meet Rowan and Evander, the enemies-to-lovers duo that find the kind of love that you go to war for. By the end of these 8 books (which I actually discovered in reverse order, reading the Lochlann Feuds series first and then going back to the Lochlann Treaty series for more of the story), I nestled this world in my heart with a sigh and prepared to move on to another one of their excellent book series.
Little did I know that Mahle and Madison had more up their sleeve, and I couldn’t be happier. Lochlann’s royal family appears yet again in Hollow Court, this time with the story of Davin (the nephew to the king and queen and cousin to the queen of Socair) and Galina (a lady of the Socairan courts). This is another enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance; this time with the fake engagement trope. Davin and Galina have a past (a past with more than a little bit of lying and a whole lot of heartache), and they walked out of each other’s lives. However, in the beginning of Hollow Court, they each find themselves in the position of needing an engagement: Galina needs it in order to escape a horrible marriage arranged by her uncle, the Duke of Ram in the Kingdom of Socair, and Davin needs it for political stability in a struggle to keep possession of his lands in Lochlann, Lithlinglau. They agree to a 6-month engagement, affording each enough time to find a suitable solution to their separate problems and then walk back away from each other.
Meanwhile, the banter between them is just fun. Even Davin’s twin cousins, Gwyn and Gallagher (who play a larger role in this story after their introduction in the Lochlann Feuds), join in on the jabs at Davin’s reputation as an impulsive ladies’ man and Galina’s “resting Socairan face”. The problem is, in the midst of running circles around their feelings for each other, the solution that Davin and Galina both are searching for is right in front of them. I enjoyed seeing the main characters grow closer and more vulnerable with each other, especially in some of the darker moments of the story (like during a public execution of Lochlannian traitors and would-be assassins of the royal family). The begin to see each other — really see each other — slowly and tenderly not just as allies but as something more. Something they both needed all along.
“We made a mess of things,” he said.
“We did,” I agree. “And we’ve run in circles ever since. But I don’t want to keep living in those mistakes.”
I stepped closer to him until I was standing between his knees. He looked up at me, his cerulean gaze equal parts wariness and hope. “You’ll stay?”
I didn’t know if he meant tonight or forever, but my answer was the same. “I’ll stay.”
You may think I spoiled the story by including the above quote but – fear not – there is more to Davin and Galina’s story than what we can all guess is going to be a true love match. First, I know there’s more spice coming in this romance (it is indeed a slow burn!) and I’m certain it’s coming in the next book. Second (and more importantly), there’s a rebellion afoot in Lochlann and, by the end of Hollow Court, we are left with more questions than answers. The story ends in the type of cliffhanger that made me immediately open a browser to search for when the next book is coming out. The second book in the Davin and Galina duology, Fragile Oath, can’t get here soon enough. And I won’t make the same mistake again, Mahle and Madison. I’ll be expecting more stories of my favorite Lochlannian family after Davin and Galina’s story comes to what is sure to be a fantastic conclusion.
Trigger warning: There is some description and insinuation of domestic abuse in this story.
Celeste is a woman who is unwavering about certain things in life; three of those being books, cats, and cold brew coffee. If she can enjoy all three at the same time, it’s going to be a good day. Her favorite genres are fantasy or sci-fi romance, historical romance, and historical fiction but every few books she likes to mix it up with contemporary fiction, a good psychological thriller, or an inspiring memoir. She has a busy schedule working full-time for an online university but she makes sure to unwind each day with stories, either by reading to her elementary school-aged daughter or tucking herself in bed with her Kindle or the latest book she picked up at a local book store.