I knew that my good reading streak had to end. I know I haven’t read a ton of books this year, but before Assassin’s Gambit, I was averaging 4.5-5 stars a read. Unfortunately, my first romance read ended up being a disappointment for me, despite the gorgeous cover that first lured me in and the promising premise.
Read on to see why Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby missed the mark for me.
Publisher: Berkley Romance | Release Date: April 2013 | Pages: 400
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Romance | Format: Mass Market | Source: Bought
Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.
As the ruler of a country on the brink of war and the son of a deposed emperor, Lucien must constantly be wary of an attempt on his life. But he’s drawn to the stunning Caturanga player visiting the palace. Vitala may be able to distract him from his woes for a while—and fulfill other needs, as well.
Lucien’s quick mind and considerable skills awaken unexpected desires in Vitala, weakening her resolve to finish her mission. An assassin cannot fall for her prey, but Vitala’s gut is telling her to protect this sexy, sensitive man. Now she must decide where her heart and loyalties lie and navigate the dangerous war of politics before her gambit causes her to lose both Lucien and her heart for good.
On the Page
- Body modifications
- Hate crimes
- Indentured servitude
- Intrusive thoughts
- Knife violence
- Loss of limb
- Panic attacks
- Sex work
- Flogging and whipping
- Forced and coerced marriage
- Slut shaming
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- The premise: An assassin who falls in love with her mark, coming from two different warring realms and political stances? Yeah, that was one of the main reasons this story piqued my interest.
- The Caturanga element: Caturanga was a game that both Lucia and Vitala played and I thought it was a really fun worldbuilding element.
- Disabled main character: Lucian lost part of his leg during an accident and thus uses a cane and a fake wooden leg. It was refreshing to see a disabled main character who is still respected and even in a position of power.
- Lack of realistic character chemistry: The romance felt ingenuine and unrealistic, which was the biggest reason I struggled with this book. I don’t think Lucian and Vitala truly got to know one another and Lucian felt super instant love, where Vitala didn’t feel genuine at all in her feelings.
- Romance pacing: Also, “traditional” pacing in romance novels, it’s a slow build until the characters finally have sex (it’s like a reward, when we get to that point). The pacing felt all off in this book, which, paired with the lack of chemistry, made it hard to invest in this story and give me something to look forward to, as a reader.
- Rape scene: Do we need these? Answer: no, we do not.
When I read romance, chemistry is really important to me. The lack of realistic chemistry between Lucian and Vitala was a major issue. Their “love” felt instant on Lucian’s part and reluctant on Vitala’s, which made it hard for me to get on board and invested in their romance.
Overall, Assassin’s Gambit was a promising romance that excelled in creativity, yet faltered in execution–particularly in keep elements that make a romance read a romance read for me. Others might enjoy this more, but it was my first disappointing read of the year. Was it so disappointing that I’d never read a book by Raby again? Absolutely not! I could see myself checking it the second book in this series someday.
But, for now, I’m hoping my next romance read will be much more enjoyable.