I will be honest - normally when I see the book that employs the trope that reminds me of "Bachellor/s" reality shows I give this book a side eye and keep walking past it. But this was Megan Derr's book and I rarely pass her longer works and reviews by my buddies seemed to be positive, so I clicked. It was very entertaining, so I am glad I did. Yes, the premise for this book that once every seventy five years this kingdom conducts a Tournament which gives poor a chance to compete for marrying lots of nobles in order to add fresh blood to high classes - there are like seventy or more chances to get oneself married (barrons, dukes, and even royal family participates). Legend says that one of the previous Queens (Regent Charles) established the tournament in honor of peasant woman who saved the kingdom when it fell on bad times and Queen fell in love with her.
Of course the obvious question I had what happens if noble families do not have marriage age candidates when the tournament year comes, but I handwaved it and moved along.
Our main character Rath (aka Rathatayen but unsurprisingly he prefers to go by Rath) just wants peace and quiet. He works all kinds of jobs for very little money in order to survive but he also has a no good father whom he constantly needs to save from the situations man gets himself into. Now his father owes a lot of money which he cannot pay back. Rath's attempts to get that much money is not quite successful. Till friend suggests he tries participating in the Tournament because if he gets in the second round he will get a stipend which maybe enough money to save his father again, for a little bit anyway.
Rath is not eager to participate at all - he may have dreamed about the Tournament when he was much younger (he is thirty three when the story begins ), but now he thinks Tournament is rigged throughout and nobles usually make sure that winners are those whom they want their sons and daughters to marry anyway. Rath ends up signing up however because he does not think he has a choice - whether you would find that convincing I do not know. I could have come up with more choices for him, but once again it was easy enough for me to believe in this development.
For the most part I really enjoyed the Tournament - the challenges and how participating in those challenges made our hero shine. We see street smarts and a noble heart of somebody who may have gotten beaten up by life, but who surely was not as cynical as he pretended to be when push came to shove.
I will let you to find how well Rath did in the Tournament and what reward he got if any, but I will tell you that at the same time as our hero is playing in the Tournament, surprisingly he is finding out that one of his casual hook ups may be somebody he may want to give his heart too - it is a lovely slow burn romance and I enjoyed how the writer managed to move this storyline along together with the Tournament one. Once again, I will let you find out the end result on your own .
I thought the world building was not detailed, but for the purpose of this story it was enough for me. Once again I liked how the author put matter of fact touches here and there in the story which shows for example that none of the main characters are white. I loved that "intersex goddess" is casually mentioned, men and women fall in love with each other without anybody blinking an eye as it should be. I liked that world even if I may want to learn more about it.