Reviewed by Dan
SERIES: Order of the Black Knights – Book One
AUTHOR: Ashe Barker
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 199 Pages
RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2016
Order of the Black Knights
Gideon Maybury enjoys a life of wealth and privilege, not to mention the advantages his position offers him in his career as a merchant banker and his less public life as a high-class, skilled, and very well-paid assassin for Her Majesty’s government. When his brother dies unexpectedly, he becomes the Duke of Westmoreland.
Michael Mathison has hated Gideon since they were at university together. He’s convinced Gideon had a hand in the death of Michael’s college lover, Christopher, and that he had something to do with the death of his own brother. So he gets a job as Gideon’s driver, enabling him to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the elder Maybury sibling. At first his suspicions seem to be confirmed, but clues emerge that suggest all is not as it appears at Maybury Hall.
As the mystery deepens, so does the attraction between the two implacable enemies, as does the feeling that they have met before—under dark and terrible circumstances. Each has reasons not to trust the other, but neither is averse to a bit of kinky play. Gideon and Michael end up owing each other their lives, and it results in consequences neither could have imagined.
Well, this one was a little different than I thought it would be. Not in a totally bad way, but in a way that wasn’t in the blurb…like…at all! There were also some things that really didn’t work for me, which I’ll discuss below.
First off, when I started reading the book, the prologue threw me off completely. World War 1 and the trenches? A cruel sadistic murdering British officer? This didn’t seem like the story in the blurb. Who was this guy? All I knew was that I didn’t like him…at all! It turns out there is a background story on Gideon. He has been living and dying, over and over again, because of a deal he made with an evil being sometime back in the middle ages.
Kind of cool background, albeit bloody and unpleasant to read, but then it jumped to today and although the background kind of provided the reason for Gideon being such a psychopath, it didn’t help the story in my opinion. In the present day, we have Gideon’s latest reincarnation, this time as Gideon Maybury, who has just become the Duke of Westmoreland because his older brother unexpectedly died of something he should not have.
Gideon isn’t a nice person. We learn that at an early age, I believe it was 7, he attempted to kill his friend by closing the automatic pool cover while the other kid was swimming. He then proceeded to insects (I’m picturing the kid who pulled wings off flies), and then to small animals. Now he is a shadowy contract killer for the British government…taking care of those things around the world that need cleaning up.
We also hear about a man named Christopher, and Christopher’s college lover, Michael Mathison. Michael becomes the second MC in the story. Michael has been convinced that Gideon pushed Christopher off a balcony to his death years ago and got away with it. When he sees that Gideon’s brother has died unexpectedly, he believes that Gideon is behind it.
When circumstances dictate that Gideon get a driver, Michael goes undercover and applies for and gets the position. Now he can see what is really going on with Gideon Maybury. This was a huge didn’t work for me part of the story. I found it implausible. I’ll admit that it might be my post 9/11 American point of view, but to get the job Michael uses an assumed name, which of course doesn’t match his official documents. His references check out as impeccable although we never learn who those references are, or more importantly who buys into Michael’s theory enough to lie to provide them. Michael is a doctor…posing as a driver, with impeccable references. Then, shortly after Michael takes the job, he travels to Italy with Gideon. It doesn’t say anything about him buying his own ticket, so Gideon must have arranged the travel. So we have a ticket in the assumed name, and a passport in another. Here in the US they have to match identically, including middle name or initial if they are on your driver’s license or passport that you are using to travel with. I double checked with Dani to see if it was different in the UK and the rest of Europe, but learned it is the same. So the whole hidden identity thing fell apart for me.
Then there were inconsistencies. The biggest one that I noticed was that Gideon is at first described as a total top with a reference to the fact that he never bottoms, or very rarely. Then he cheerfully become versatile with Michael. Then we discover he has a drawer full of butt plugs??? Seriously? I don’t know many “total tops” who have a drawer full of butt plugs for their own use.
Overall, I would rate the story as Good/Average. While it read well enough, there were the discrepancies and items which didn’t work that threw me off. I believe those should have been caught during beta reading or during editing by the publisher. The whole supernatural, ancient evil thing caused me to not like the book as much as I might have. Not so much for that in itself…if the book had carried on with the supernatural part, I think I would have liked it a lot more. I also didn’t like that the MC is a psychopath who up to mid-way through the book is planning to kill Michael and dispose of his body…but then they jump in bed…everything is all better…they solve who the killer is…then live happily ever after.
There was a tie back to the prologue at the end, which seemed more like an after thought or “how do I wrap this up.” Overall, I would say I liked the story. It was a good read if you looked past the oddities I mentioned above. I’ll admit I figured out who the killer was before the big reveal, so that was slightly anti-climatic. I see there is a second book in the series, but it is by another author. I’m not sure at this point if I will be willing to invest time in that one or not, but that might be unfair to that second author, so I will see when it comes out.