Title: The Only Option
Author: Megan Derr
Series: Dubious #4
Release Date: May 1st 2016
Genre: Gay Fantasy Shifter Romance
A desperate dragon. A lonely necromancer. A marriage neither wants.
When he is summoned to the royal castle, Rochus anticipates nothing more than a particularly difficult assignment. The bothersome journey is almost made worthwhile when he is propositioned by a young, beautiful dragon, Tilo, who seems untroubled by the fact that Rochus is a necromancer.
When Rochus arrives at the castle he is ordered to marry the very same dragon he spent the night with. Though Rochus would rather sign papers and return home, he is helpless against Tilo’s pleas for help, even if it means spending more time around a man he is desperately drawn to but who doesn’t seem to want him.
Rochus is a necromancer who, summoned to the castle of Queen Irmhild, stops at a tavern for rest. Whilst there he meets a dragon shifter named Tilo and experiences one of the most intense nights of sex in his life. Little does Rochus know that Tilo is the man that the Queen has promised him to, in order to repay her debt to the Landau family. Rochus is cantankerous but loyal and though he is displeased at this arrangement he agrees to the marriage and accompanying his new husband to his home in Rothenburg Kill.
Megan Derr takes elements that readers will have encountered in other fantasy novels and puts her own spin on them. Tilo is not how I imagined a dragon shifter to be. He is sexy, but Megan Derr portrays him as vulnerable and desperate for Rochus’ help. I liked that he offers a contrast to Rochus’ stoic character and brings Rochus out of his comfort zone.
The issue for Rochus in the world of The Only Option is not that he is gay, but that he is a necromancer and they are feared by society. Necromancers are considered to be “half-dead” and drink blood to replenish the spiritual energy they use through their magic. I have never come across this idea os Necromancers before and welcomed Megan Derr’s originality, especially when she describes Rochus’ appearance,
“In the dark room, with nothing but slips of moonlight to lend visibility, his hair appeared black. Better lighting would prove it to be blue, so too his nails and teeth. It was the teeth that always made people most uncomfortable – dark blue, some more pointed than they should be, all the more stark against his too-white skin.”
So, Rochus is not a young, physically perfect mage – he is 43 and his new husband is 20. This is another point of contention for Rochus who believes that Tilo wants to use him for his magic, rather than wanting him as a man. I enjoyed the latter part of the story in which Tilo shows his romantic side to convince Rochus of his feelings.
As The Only Option develops we understand that there is a mystery to solve in Rothenburg Kill and it takes all of Rochus’ expertise and magical strength to rescue the town from the dark cloud that has been hanging over it.
The Only Option is short and sexy; a fairy tale strictly for adults. The necromancer and his dragon find their happily ever after, but after overcoming issues, and the romance is set against a backdrop which includes a unicorn, reanimated corpses and 3 technically dead pets called Song, Silence, and Memory.
Rochus pulled off his spectacles and wiped them clean as the door of the tavern slammed shut behind him. Noise washed over him, along with the smell of cheap food and too many unwashed people, an undercurrent of smoke, and the faint tingle of magic. He stared through the large, open archway into the dining hall, the need for food warring with a need for solitude and a reluctance to endure the stares that would come when everyone realized what he was.
But he detested hiding in his room like he was something to be ashamed of, and hiding wouldn’t stop the rumors or whispers. So he slipped his spectacles back on and approached the counter, pushing back the hood of his cloak. He set two worn, gleaming coins on the counter, ignoring the wide eyes and gaping mouth of the man behind it. “A room, a bath, supper, and breakfast.”
“Supper and—” The man snapped his mouth shut. “Of course, magus. Um…” He picked up the coins, eyes flitting about nervously. So close to the royal castle, one would think they’d be more used to the likes of Rochus, but then again, most of his kind preferred to avoid undue attention, and the rest were spoiled brats who’d never settle at a cheap tavern when the royal castle was only a few more hours away.
Stifling a sigh, Rochus answered the question the man couldn’t quite get out. “Pig or cow blood will work fine, and chicken or some other fowl if that’s the best you can muster. A full pitcher of it, though merely a cup will suffice if more cannot be found. Not horse.” They were far too expensive to drain, and the taste wasn’t worth it.
“Y-yes, magus. Um.” The man licked his lips. “Will you want to see the room first or go straight to the dining hall?”
“The room, and I’ll take the bath after I’ve dined.”
The man murmured another affirmative, tucked the coins away, and slid a key across the counter. “Up the stairs, all the way at the very end of that first hall.”
“My thanks,” Rochus replied and resettled his saddlebags on his shoulder before heading up the dark, creaky steps and down the long hallway. It branched off in three places, but as promised, his was the room at the very back of the first, main hallway.
It smelled of dust and disuse, with a slight tingling-tang of old, faded magic. Powerful magic, likely wards or some other cage meant to keep something in. But the inn had once been a castle in its own right, before it had been torn down and rebuilt, changed to something less expensive and more profitable than an empty fortress. It wasn’t surprising remnants of the fortress remained in more than the old stones.
He dropped his saddlebags on the bed and quickly sent his heavy travel cloak after them. Removing his spectacles, he combed fingers through his short, sweat-damp hair. In the dark room, with nothing but slips of moonlight to lend visibility, his hair appeared black. Better lighting would prove it to be blue, so too his nails and teeth. It was the teeth that always made people most uncomfortable—dark blue, some more pointed than they should be, all the more stark against his too-white skin.
Rochus briefly considered changing into fresh clothes, but there was little point until after he’d had a bath—and no telling what would happen in the dining hall. It would hardly be the first time some country bumpkins or foreign nitwits wailed superstitious nonsense and tried to kill him, nevermind he reported directly to the crown.
He smoothed out his robes, frowning at a small tear in the right sleeve. He’d have to stitch it later after his bath.
For the moment, it was time for supper, and hopefully he’d get to enjoy it in peace.
Heading back downstairs, Rochus walked into and through the dining hall, keeping his head up even when the whispers started.
His lips curled briefly when he heard someone ask their companion if Rochus was a vampire. As though he was one of those needle-teethed, full-dead mongrels. He drank blood and his teeth were meant for hunting, but it wasn’t the same thing. His teeth were more like those of a wolf—teeth he did not use thus because he was a civilized, capable necromancer of forty-three, not some ravening monster.
About the Author
Megan Derr is a long time writer of LGBTQ romance and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.