The Queen: Guinevere must save Camelot. Ever since Arthur died, the evil Scarecrow has been trying to marry her and gain the crown. If she and her daughter are going to survive his mad schemes, Gwen needs to find Merlyn’s wand. Fast. Unfortunately, the only man strong enough to help her on her quest is Kingpin Midas, a flashy, uneducated mobster dealing with a curse. Gwen is a logical, rational woman, though, and she can draft one hell of a contract. She’s pretty sure she can come up with an offer not even the kingdom’s greatest villain can refuse. The Kingpin: Anything Midas touches turns to gold. Literally. The curse has helped him to rule Camelot’s underworld with an iron fist. He has more money and more power than anyone else in the kingdom. He’s convinced there’s nothing he can’t buy. One look at Gwen and Midas knows that he’s about to make his most brilliant purchase, yet. He’s about to own the one woman in the world he would give anything to possess. All he has to do to claim her is somehow win a war against the smartest man in Camelot, hide his growing feelings from Gwen, deal with his overprotective bodyguard’s paranoia about the queen’s hidden motivations, and adjust to a five year old demanding bedtime stories from a gangster. Simple, right? The Contract: Gwen’s deal is simple: If Midas marries her, she’ll make him King of Camelot. It’s a fair bargain. Midas will keep her enemies away and she’ll give him the respectability that money can’t buy. She never expects Midas to agree so quickly. Or for their practical business arrangement to feel so… complicated. Midas isn’t the tawdry, feral animal that Arthur railed against. He’s a kind and gentle man, who clearly needs Gwen’s help just as much as she needs his. In fact, the longer she’s around Midas the more Gwen realizes that their “fake marriage” might be more real than she ever imagined.
Dear Cassandra Gannon,
Ilona Andrews recommended this book on her blog and while not every recommendation of hers worked for me, the quotes she chose sounded hilarious and the whole story sounded worth trying especially on Kindle Unlimited. I certainly do not regret reading it and even though the story occupies over ten thousand locations on my kindle I tore through the pages for the most part of it.
Readers just so you understand, I enjoy re-imaginings/retellings of the myths and fairy tales, but there are some myths I am very attached to and tend to dislike when the author twists the original stories and characters too much to suit the needs of their stories. Arthurian mythos is one of them. I feel bad for betrayed Arthur (obviously when I say original I mean Arthur from the story as we know it) and cannot stand Guinevere. So it should tell you a lot when I say that I absolutely didn’t care that Arthur in this book was a bastard, I was too entertained to think much about the origins of this story.
Since Ilona Andrews mentioned it in her blog entry, I knew that it was the third book in the series and I also knew that it could easily be read as a stand- alone. I was not confused at all, occasionally the other kingdoms are mentioned and at some point the heroine from the other book ( I guessed that she had her own book and I was right) renders some help to our couple, but that’s about it.
The world building is basically a mish mash of modern technology and magic and magical characters. Computers, TV, castles, wizards and knights all coexist rather peacefully (well, not so peacefully at the moment but it all made sense to me). Galahad for example was Queen’s bodyguard and also had his own TV reality show. Midas of this book still has everything that he touches turn to gold because Lady of the lake cursed him, but he is also a businessman who rules his criminal Empire with the iron fist.
The book started with the bang. Gwen saved her daughter and herself from evil Scarecrow’s clutches and run straight to Midas hoping to convince him to enter into contract with her. As the blurb tells you Gwen thinks she is really good at negotiations (and she is, kind of). Gwen wants Midas’ help and protection while she is going to take the throne back for herself and for her daughter and she would make Midas’ the King of Camelot.
I started laughing almost from the moment Gwen and Midas met and I laughed or giggled a lot while I read this book. You see Gwen thinks that Midas needs to be convinced to help her and Midas thinks that Gwen walking in his home is a gift to him he would have never expected to have. Midas had a crash on Gwen for years; he is also convinced that Gwen is his one True Love. Of course there is no way he is going to tell Gwen that and he lets her think that she needs to work really hard at convincing him.
But before they get to discussing contract, Gwen is trying to fight off Scarecrow’s soldiers who followed her to Midas.
“I’ll try not to.” She missed his sarcasm. He could see her brain working, running scenarios. The woman clearly had a “Damn the torpedoes!” streak, because she wasn’t going to back down from the heavily-armed force headed towards her. “It’ll be alright.” She took a deep breath and looked up at him, again. “I’ll make sure they don’t hurt you.” That was either adorable or insane. Midas wasn’t sure which. Before he could make up his mind, she was handing him her sleeping daughter. “Here. Watch Avalon for a second.” She ordered. “Do not let her go.” “What? Wait…” But she didn’t wait and Midas was too shocked to do anything but grasp the girl when Gwen passed her to him. He’d never held a child before. She was too light. Too delicate. Shit! He tried to keep his fingers away from her tiny body, afraid his curse would kill her. The leather gloves he wore should protect her, but what if they somehow didn’t?"
And she never lets go of this motion that she has to protect Midas because deep inside he is kind and gentle soul and while she needs his help to win back the throne and protect her and her daughter, she doesn’t want to take advantage of him, especially since Gwen knows that she can be very blunt and very determined when she tries to achieve her goal.
"For a professional gangster, he was astonishingly, terrifyingly, hopelessly trusting. Gwen had sat across from him in appalled silence, as he signed whatever she put in front of him. Midas hadn’t seemed interested in negotiating anything. He impatiently accepted whatever deal she proposed, initialing all the spots she indicated on the Contract. “You should be more careful about what you sign.” She’d informed him for the tenth time, hoping he listened to her damn good advice. “I could be trying to rip you off, you know.” “I doubt you’d be repeatedly warning me of the possibility, if that was your plan.”
"“I’m certainly not telling you to change. I would hate for you to become cynical and hardened, like me. It’s wonderful that you’ve retained your innocence.” Midas’ eyes had flicked up to her, like that heartfelt assurance confused him. Then he’d honest-to-God looked over his shoulder to see if she was talking to someone else."
Of course Midas had been crushing on Gwen for years and the joke is that he thinks that he has an upper hand in their “business negotiations’ because he is getting the woman he wanted for years right there with him even if initially Gwen is going out of her way to be extra accommodating to him and make sure that he can get out of their deal any time he wants to. Midas doesn’t want to get out of their marriage; he wants it to last forever.
It was fun to watch how the characters’ perceptions of each other grew and changed and at the same time remained the same in many ways amongst all the action. Basically both of them were right and wrong about each other in some ways and the reader can see it right away, but of course the fun is to watch the characters figure it out?
Midas of course is not the only one who is keeping his feelings for Gwen secret for quite a long time in the book, Gwen also kept some of her cards close to her chest mostly because the secrets were about her adorable daughter.
Midas interacting with Avilon and attempting to stick to the contract (because yes, Gwen tried to write down how he should interact with her) were very amusing, but in some way Avi’s secrets (or I should say how long it was kept a secret) did not work for me. Without spoilering anything, it made perfect sense to me that both Gwen and Midas kept their cards close to the chest. Gwen is a mother protecting her daughter and Midas is scared to death, I definitely believed in how they were behaving. Avilon however was described as a child who was telling her secrets to *everyone* all the darn time, even in the past. We are shown how very fast Avi takes to Midas and his bodyguard Trystan and how much both Midas and Trystan love her. Avi talking about certain thing which had been upsetting Midas and stopping just before explaining it made no sense to me at some point, none. It felt artificial to increase the angst (when I say angst, I don’t mean prolonged angst since the story was moving at a fast pace, but it was clear that Midas was upset every time). I guess I should be grateful she finally said it at seventy percent of the story rather than 99 percent.
Having said it, even when I was irritated I still loved all the characters and was delighted when they got their happy ending.
Grade : B