Parker Swift’s Royal Affair is a contemporary, royal romance that’s perfect for a sexy, summer read!
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
Don’t you just love a good royal romance? Typically I reserve my flails over the aristocracy and their exploits for historical fiction, but Parker Swift‘s Royal Scandal series provides a contemporary context for us to engage in the fun. While I have a few reservations about issues of agency in the hero’s and heroine’s sexual relationship, I find Royal Affair (Book 1 in the series) to be a very entertaining story and perfect summer read.
Lydia Bell is two weeks away from changing her whole life. After graduating from NYU and an internship at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she’s been spending the three months of the summer as a nanny for a wealthy family (the Franklins) as they travel. She’s exhausted, but in just two weeks, she’ll be on her way to London for a new job as the second assistant to Hannah Rogan, one of the hottest new names on the fashion scene. The last stop on her trip with the Franklins is a beautiful estate on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. This lavish lifestyle isn’t one that Hannah is used to, and Hannah is craving adult interaction, but she’s determined to have a fun experience. And interestingly, that adult interaction comes in the form of Dylan Hale, Marquess of Abingdon. What’s a British aristocrat doing in Canada? His family owns the estate that the Franklins are renting and he’s in town for a brief visit. But when Hannah and Dylan come face-to-face, it’s hot, chemistry, lust at first sight. And who wouldn’t be attracted to him? Dylan is an architect prodigy, wealthy in his own right, and sexy as hell. But it’s clear that he has some hang-ups, including concerns about public displays. Before Lydia and Dylan part ways, he gives her his number so they can link up when she gets across the pond.
At first Lydia is hesitant about contacting Dylan–this time in London should be about developing herself, her career, and healing after a recent loss. With encouragement from her best friend, Daphne, Lydia decides to make the plunge. Dylan recognizes their mutual attraction and wants to capitalize on it. He promises incredible, passionate sex, but with three conditions: first, he doesn’t do relationships, this is just sex. Second, he’s in total control of their encounters, and things will get kinky. Third, no one can know about their arrangement. No telling friends, no public outings or acknowledgment, nothing. Lydia has some reservations, especially about the total secrecy, but she agrees. And hell to the yes, the sex is phenomenal! But as they get to know one another, Lydia and Dylan’s feelings get involved, and their secrecy/sex-only pledge might not be tenable.
OK, I need to say this right of the bat, I am a big Fifty Shades of Grey fan and have adored the series for a long time. So I say this without meaning any shade, but the similarities between Royal Affair and FSoG are uncanny. Perhaps it’s indicative of how tropey the BDSM Billionaire romance sub-genre is becoming. But, I there are several times while reading Royal Affair that I had to take a long pause–heroine in a major internship, hero’s kind and avuncular driver, hero’s predilection and knowledge of fine wine and art, the sassy texting, “master of his universe”…
…with that said, I really couldn’t put Royal Affair down once I started. I find the story engaging and fun, the drama is pretty compelling without feeling contrived, and the sexy times are insanely juicy.
I really like Lydia and find her gumption endearing. She wants to make a life for herself in London and in the fashion world. She’s knowledgeable and willing to put in the work to make her dreams come true. Lydia isn’t afraid to assert herself, which is important when it comes to Dylan.
Dylan… Dylan, Dylan, Dylan. This man is beyond sexy. He’s confident and supremely competent. Dylan doesn’t just inhabit his world, he directs it. He definitely has hard edges, but when it comes to Lydia, he is so sweet and attentive. These descriptors sound familiar, I know, but I find Dylan incredibly attractive. It might be the Marquess thing because you know how much I love an aristocratic hero (though I usually meet them in historical romances). But Dylan swoons me right off my feet, repeatedly. And the sexy times? Forget about it!
“You should know that it’s…it’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve…”
I stared down at my hand, afraid to look him in the eye. He didn’t need to know that a while was actually nearly six years. But he just stood there, quiet, thoughtful. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking at all. Was my inexperience a turnoff? Was he now afraid that I couldn’t handle our casual fling? I was beginning to get that embarrassed pit in my stomach, which had the unfortunate side effect of pushing all the delectable turned-on feelings aside. The air between us suddenly felt cold and empty, where just a moment before it had been hot and thick with potential. I was getting ready to get up and admit this wasn’t going to happen when he leaned into me. He put his hands behind my back, skin on skin, and pulled me off the stool and into his arms.
“Well, baby,” he said, “don’t you think we should remedy that?”…
He rolled to my side, keeping his fingers on me while propping himself up and sliding his knee beneath my thighs, spreading me. He looked down at me in appreciation, sighing as he sank into me with his deft fingers. He alternated between teasing my clit with his thumb and applying perfect pressure inside me. As soon as one move would have me trembling, about to come, he’d slow and shift his attentions. I gripped the sides of the pillow beneath my head and attempted to close my legs, trying to counter him and maintain control over the mounting pleasure, but he shook his head.
“Open, Lydia. I want to see you spread out for me,” he ordered, and my knees fell back down in compliance.
I began to moan with pleasure and with frustration.
“Please. Oh god, please, Dylan,” I cried his name. He was making this all about me, and it was clear he could read my body like a book.
“Your body is incredible, Lydia. Look what I can do to you.”
My moans reached a fever pitch in confirmation, and he took me all the way, my body crumbling under his touch. Sensation and pleasure convulsed and converged, radiating outward. His breathing was harsh and quick—making me come was turning him on.
“Has anyone ever made you come like this, this hard, with their fingers, Lydia?” he whispered, almost grunting.
“Never. Not like this.” I groaned. The orgasm was still reverberating through my limbs, by far the most intense of my life, when I heard a drawer open and saw Dylan holding a condom. I closed my legs to gain some sense of relief and ran my sweaty palms down my still-shaking body, trying to both quell and savor the tingling sensitivity humming on my skin. He quickly shed his briefs and sheathed himself out of my field of vision. He tented himself over me, perching himself on his forearms, and he used his knees to swiftly separate my legs again. I felt him position himself, parting me gently. He slowly fed his huge cock into me and easily slid through my wet folds. The fullness radiated through my every limb, and I bucked my hips, wanting to feel all of him.
“Slow, baby. I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. He was holding himself back, going at a glacial pace, and it was agonizing. “You ok?” he asked, pausing.
“Yes. God, yes. Please. More.” I could barely breathe.
It was amazing to me that this half-dressed man sitting on the floor with me, telling me about a prank he’d pulled at boarding school, was a highly respected, aristocratic, and intimidating architect by day who scared the shit out of his assistants. It was also hard to believe that he couldn’t give me more than just sex because it felt like he was so close to giving me everything.
Without even realizing it, we fell into a deep sleep in his bed. I was so warm and so at home. I woke once in the night and found myself completely enveloped by Dylan, his leg resting over mine, and my whole back pressed firmly against his front. His arm tightened around me, and I drifted back into sleep. The next time I woke, the light was peeking through the drapes. I was on my back, and I found myself looking up into his very awake, very sexy face. His nose was inches from mine, and his legs were parting my own, spreading my thighs. His two-day-old stubble was better than any cup of coffee—between it and his cock pressing between my legs, I was instantly awake.
“Don’t worry—I’m wearing a condom,” was the only thing he actually managed to say to me before he thrust into me. Hard.
My knees flew up to help accommodate him. Apparently I woke up wet for him, because there was no doubting my readiness. He met no resistance. His elbows at my shoulders, his forearms framing my face, he kissed me hard and deep as he found his rhythm. His possessiveness and his neediness were written all over his body. This was not slow and gentle—he wasn’t working me up, he was going to come soon, and hard. He tilted back, changing his angle, and all of a sudden I felt him, right there, hitting me inside in the perfect place, and my body quickly caught up with his. I felt the now-familiar feeling pulse through me, as though a fist inside me began to pull all the strings taut, the rise of desire right at the base of my belly. And we came together, crying out each other’s names breathlessly. He stilled inside me, and I threw my head back, arching my chest into his, trying to capture and contain the remains of my orgasm. He returned down to me, kissing me softly on my lips and cheeks.
He was still in me when he kissed my nose and said, smiling, “Good morning.”
Knighty and his Damsel definitely keep things kinky and hot, hot, HOT.
But, I must admit that, when it comes to Lydia and Dylan’s relationship, sometimes difficult to suspend my disbelief. Let me preface by saying that everything I know about BDSM, I learned from novels, so my expectations are highly questionable. However, the fact that Dylan and Lydia engage in this type of bondage/play without even a cursory conversation about setting boundaries is something I can’t look past. Even if we’re talking light play and kink (which this is), and a situation where formal safe-words aren’t established, I would at least expect Dylan to express some consideration for Lydia’s limits and her freedom to stop the play. Instead, we’re in a situation where we just assume that Dylan is omniscient and just *knows* how far he can push his encounters with Lydia. And Lydia is wholly trusting. The book covers only three weeks, and I know this is fantasy, and the sex is HAWT HAWT HAWT, but as I said, I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief here.
What I find most compelling about this story is how both Lydia AND Dylan start to chafe against the rules he establishes from the outset. When we learn the reasons why Dylan wants to keep their relationship secret, they really do make sense. But what happens when they start to want more? Lydia feels very conflicted: she knows she agreed to Dylan’s stipulations, she even understands his justifications, but being a secret while Dylan is publicly linked to other women is torturous. She feels helpless in her anger, especially when she really doesn’t want to let Dylan go.
No spoilers, but Royal Affair brings us to an interesting HEA. Even though we feel confident about where Lydia and Dylan are, there’s an intriguing cliffhanger that hints at a bumpy (maybe even dangerous) road ahead.
*SIDENOTE* I just have to say how much I adore Lydia’s best friend, Daphne. She’s such a voice of reason in this story, and there are several times where she brings up points I haven’t thought of and has me nodding in (sometimes reluctant) agreement. Daphne is definitely a person I would go to for relationship and life advice!
I’ve seen the description that Royal Affair is Devil Wears Prada meets Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Royal We. I’d say, Devil Wears Prada comparison isn’t so accurate because Lydia’s work in fashion is really more of a backdrop. However, if you’re a fan of Fifty Shades and looking for something quite similar, I 100% recommend this, especially since it’s fun to think modern royals in this setting.
I’m super curious to see where Lydia and Dylan go next, so I’ll be starting the second (Royal Disaster) and third (Royal Treatment) books RIGHT NOW. Add Royal Affair on Goodreads and download your copy today!
Many thanks to the publisher for review copies.