A Ruin of Roses
by K.F. Breene
Book 1 in the Deliciously Dark Fairytales
I could save him, but he would ruin me.
The creature that stalks the forbidden wood.
The dragon prince.
He has suffered a fate worse than death. We all have. A curse put upon us by the mad king.
We are a kingdom locked in time. Shifters unable to feel our animals. Stuck here by a deal between the late king and a demon who seeks our destruction.
The only one keeping this kingdom alive is Nyfain, the golden prince to a stolen throne. The last dragon shifter.
He’s our hope.
He’s my nightmare.
When he catches me trespassing in the forbidden wood, he doesn’t punish me with death, as he’s entitled.
He takes me, instead. Forces me back to the castle as his prisoner. Seeks to use me.
Apparently, I can save him. I can save the whole forgotten kingdom, locked away by the demon king’s power.
But it would mean taming the monster beneath his skin. It would mean giving myself to him.
It would mean my ruin.
A Ruin of Roses is the first book in K.F. Breene's Deliciously Dark Fairytales series. Trapped in kingdom locked in time, the people do their best to get by, while staying clear of the woods, where the beast prowls to kill any trespassers. But there is a mysterious wasting illness spreading through the kingdom, slowly killing off citizens. Finley, a twenty-something year old woman, has managed to create a tonic that slows the disease, and eases the symptoms - but the most important ingredient is in the woods. After already losing her grandmother, and mother to the illness, Finley is determined to save her dying father. She needs to go to the woods. This time, she isn't so lucky. The beast captures her, and brings her to his home - all she asks is she is able to craft the tonic for her father. While Finley is captive, she learns that the beast is Nyfain, the infamous prince who didn't want the throne, and that he is the only one keeping the kingdom together. But the curse is taking its toll. Finley can save him - save the kingdom - but she may need to sacrifice her heart to do it.
This book started out real strong for me. I love a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so I was excited. I enjoyed Finley. Strong-willed and intelligent, and yet wild and funny enough to be entertaining. Nyfain was okay. Hadriel saved this book for me. I just feel like K.F. Breene got lost admits writing this, because after the first third of the book, it goes off the rails. I think the problem is that K.F. Breene wanted a book with lots of smut - and it didn't work. It may have if she was able to write the tension and sex in naturally. Interwoven in the story. But instead it was very much forced, and out of place. It just felt ... meh. Finley's dirty talk was cringey as hell, too. It made me laugh, which I don't think was the desired effect. And I had no interest in continuing this story.
While this Beauty and the Beast retelling didn't work for me, if may for you. Have you read A Ruin of Roses? What are your thoughts?
Our mad king had used the demon king’s sly magic to settle a personal grudge, and we were all suffering the consequences. Actually, he wasn’t. He’d died and left us to rot. What a peach. They hadn’t said what he’d died from, but I hoped it was gangrene of the dick. Hannon: “You read too much.”
Finley: “Is there such a thing?”
Hannon: “You daydream too much, then.”
Finley: “That is probably true.” Apparently in his eyes, and in the eyes of most of the people in the village, a proper wife didn’t hunt better than her husband, or at all. She didn’t tan hides, play with knives, and wear trousers. Nor did she look after villagers ailing from the curse’s sickness more than she would tend to her husband’s less-than-dire needs. This was because she would’ve (apparently incorrectly) assumed her husband was an adult and didn’t need a nursemaid to wipe his mouth and assure him he was the master of the universe. Silly her. Rita: “Well, hello, Miss Finley. Bed any demons lately? I hear the demon king likes virgins in particular.”
Finley: “Oh yeah? Dang. I’m not a virgin. Unless assholes count?” Rita: "I hear he was looking for you earlier. Very handsome, that Jedrek, isn’t he? And quite the hunter. He owns his own home, and his wife will want for nothing.”
Finley: “Except affection, her own free will, orgasms she didn’t facilitate herself…” Jedrek: “Now, Finley, we both know we’re the match of the village.”
He adjusted his britches, looking around at our audience. Apparently everyone had known this was coming but me. Super.
Finley: “And why would I know that, Jedrek?”
I adjusted my sack so it covered more of my person. He gave a flawless smile as he stepped a little closer.
Jedrek: “Because we are the most desirable people in this village. It’s only natural that we mate.”
Finley: “Beauty fades, Jedrek. But faults remain, and I pride myself on having a lot of faults.” Finley: “Who has two fingers, a thumb, and nightly orgasms? This girl. I wouldn’t want to give that up for a boring ride on your tiny dick. Go peddle your shit somewhere else. This pail is full to the brim.” Nyfain: “Do you need to make this so difficult?”
Finley: “Do I need to make my execution difficult? Yeah, kinda. It’s not something I am looking forward to.” Nyfain: “You are trying to fight a battle that you cannot win.”
Finley: “Life is a battle we cannot win. The question becomes, do we want to go down peacefully, or fight until our last breath? I choose to fight.” He reached that crop toward my cheek. The goddess only knew where that thing had been. Whose sweaty ass it had spanked. No fucking thank you. Hadriel: “Holy fuck, you’re pretty.”
His expression turned grave.
Hadriel: “You’re not allowed out after dark anyway, but don’t go out after dark. No one here will force you—the punishment is death if anyone does that—but they’ll be like flies on shit, mark my words. You’re new and you’re pretty and everyone will want to shame-fuck you. Boys who like boys, girls who like girls, boys who like girls, girls who like boys—they’ll all want to shame-fuck the new hot girl. They will want to do things that you will need another decade at least to be comfortable even talking about. So just stick to your room. Read your books, fuck yourself with those vibrators, and pretend life is normal.”
Finley: “I don’t know how I can possibly pretend that.”
Hadriel: “Man, I wish I were you.”
He shook his head sadly. Finley: “Tell me about that—”
He groaned and leaned to the side, like he was wilting on the vine.
Hadriel: “No! I have to go get my nut off, then go to bed and sleep this off. I need there to be a point to dressing like this, otherwise it’s straight to shame-eating and then necessary dieting and— It’s a whole cycle. I just can’t handle any more dark situations in my life.” Hadriel: "We are a civilized fucking outfit here.”
He stared at me for a moment.
Hadriel:“I realize that comment would’ve gone over a lot better had I not been wearing a purple beast costume with my cock hanging out.” Hadriel: "Anyway, fuck off. I’m going to go shame-come. Then either pass out or cry myself to sleep.”
Finley: “Why choose? Do both.”
He opened the door and nodded.
Hadriel: “Yes, good point. Why not? Leala: “We don’t call him by his birth name. We call him master.”
Finley: “You can call him whatever you like. I’ll call him by his name, and if he doesn’t like that, I’ll call him a ballbag fuckbumper. I’ll let it be his choice.” Hadriel: "This is an emergency, love. My goal of the day is not shitting myself. If he punishes me for not following orders, I will definitely shit myself, and then everyone will make fun of me for, like, five years or something. This is essential. Please. I will do anything.”
He held his stomach as he said all of this with a straight face, and I couldn’t stop chuckling.
Hadriel: “It’s not funny. Do you have any idea how much I drank last night? That mead is not good for one’s stomach, and then I had a greasy breakfast. I only did those things because I thought I would be inside all day today with nothing but a puzzle to do. Now I have to venture out into a high-stress situation away from the privy and a washbasin. I’m not able for this, my darling. These are my professional pants. I don’t want to ruin them. I need you to do this for me.” Hadriel: “I had you pegged as the stubborn, unrelenting type. Which, let’s be honest, I absolutely love. There is nothing like a snarky jackass to color the day. I can’t take the women who always get their feelings hurt and then act passive-aggressive about it. Who has the time? But just for today, I need you pliant, yes? Just work with me today. Be your badass bitch self after today.” Hadriel: "I woke up with my head in the toilet and my pants around my knees. I would say that was an all-time low, but sadly, it isn’t even close.”
Hadriel: “Tell me about it.” Finley: "I need to make a morning tea, too. I devised it to give the kick like coffee, and I could’ve really used it this morning—”
He stopped and yanked me around to face him, utterly serious.
Hadriel: “Do not lie to me about a coffee replacement or I will pull your hair. All these years and I am still desperate for a cup of coffee in the morning.”
Finley: “It’s tea, but it apparently gets the job done.”
Hadriel: “Finley, you talented, smart, sparkling gift from the goddess, you. I could just kiss you.”
He started walking again.
Hadriel: “We’ll get you all the herbs you need, don’t you worry. I will literally cut someone to get them. I’ll cut them, I don’t care.” Nyfain: "You don’t know of which you speak. There are worse fates than death.”
Finley: “Like being disfigured?”
I met his stare.
Finley: “Like losing your wings? At least you can change into your animal. Most people long to do that and can’t. What woman would love a wingless, scarred dragon? A woman who doesn’t give a shit about appearances, that’s who. Why don’t you ask what you’re really afraid of—what woman would like you for you? You’re not a noble anymore. You’re not a dragon anymore. You’re just as fucked as the rest of us. Sure, you prance around this castle and patrol the royal grounds, but the demons run this place. You’re in make-believe land if you think otherwise. The demons run your life as surely as they control the rest of us. The lines between commoners and royals have been blurred. Now it’s just you and me and everyone else. So, no, you’re not worried about being disfigured—you’re worried about the ugliness of your personality being the only thing people have to judge you by.” Nyfain: “Stay away from me, Finley. I’m not a nice man. I will destroy you.”
He walked toward Hadriel.
Finley: “Stay away from— I wasn’t the one with my nipple in his mouth,”
I yelled, the sting of rejection tight in my chest. Hadriel: “I know what you’re doing.”
Hadriel held up a finger.
Hadriel: “You’re trying to rile me up so that I’ll get behind the paddle next time you want to be spanked. I’ll say it again, Leala, I am not into that kinda kink. I do not find spanking a tied-up girl a good time. It stresses me out. So stop coming at me about it.”
Leala: “But you really put your all into it. I can feel your passion.”
Hadriel: “That’s anger, Leala. It is anger, and I’m being very violent when I do it.” Inner beast: You need to allow me more room so you can access my power. That delicious alpha is letting me out of my cage. Use it until we can abuse it.
Finley: Yeah, except you clearly want to get in his pants. That’s a nope. He’s not a nice guy.
Inner beast: Fuck nice. I have a dark and damning need for that alpha. I want to take a running leap, wrap my legs around his head, and force-feed him my pussy. This bitch needs some cock. Wham, bam, call me ma’am.
Great goddess. What the hell kind of creature did I have inside of me? Inner Beast: Yummm. He took me prisoner.
Finley: He’s the enemy.
Inner Beast: That just makes it hotter. Nyfain: “It turns me on to see you in my clothes. It turns me on more when I strip you out of them.” Finley: Why are men so breakable?
I thought as my eyes drifted shut.
Inner Beast: Because it gives us room to swoop in and save the motherfucking day
She had a point.
Hadriel “Now, I warn you. One of them is very sweet. Very professional. And the other is a real shitbox. It’s hard to stand the awful bollocks. But he is amazing at what he does, and so we’ll have to suffer him. Try not to hurt him.” Finley: He warned me away. Repeatedly. Like…every time we were in each other’s presence, he warned me to piss off.
Inner Beast: Because he is trying to protect you. That’s what alphas do. It’s up to you to tell him that you’ll do what you want. And what you want is to fuck the living brains out of him. Then make babies and repopulate this kingdom.
Great goddess, that’s a bit much. Finley: “It makes sense, I promise. I just need to start working it out. It’s risky…but if I get it wrong, he was going to die anyway.”
Nyfain: “That’s the spirit,”
Nyfain murmured, running his hands up to clutch the pillow. A crooked grin worked up Sable’s face.
Sable: “I like him, Finley,”
Nyfain: “You’re the only one,” Finley: "That’s what mothers do—they guide. They strengthen. They support, and they never stop loving their children. Never. I doubt a rosebush would begrudge her son his wild spirit.” Nyfain: “You were meant for great things, Finley. Things this kingdom cannot provide you. One day you will see a crack in your cage, and you will fly.” Nyfain: "In the old days, it wouldn’t have mattered where you came from—with that skill, you would’ve stood out. You would’ve elevated the standing of your entire family.”
Finley: “In the old days, there would’ve been no reason for me to reason out the best elixirs. So no, I wouldn’t have stood out.”
He looked up as I poured water over his chest. He dipped his hands under my shirt and slid against the skin on my sides.
Nyfain: “You would stand out anywhere.”