Raised to rule, bred to lead and weaned on a diet of ruthless ambition. In a world of haves and have nots, my family has it all, and I want nothing to do with it.
My path takes me far from home and paints me as the black sheep. At odds with my father, I’m determined to build my own empire. I have rules, but Lennix Hunter is the exception to every one of them. From the moment we meet, something sparks between us. But my family stole from hers and my father is the man she hates most. I lied to have her, and would do anything to keep her. Though she tries to hate me, too, the inexorable pull between us will not be denied.
My face remains unchanged in the mirror, but my eyes are older.
enjoyable/easy to read:
The Kingmaker digs surprisingly deeply into some pretty heavy topics for a spicy romance read. Sometimes, this is done very well, making the emotions feel heightened and more developed than time would allow. Unfortunately, it does backfire at times; trying to simplify complex systemic and global problems into bite-size conversation topics (especially as foreplay) isn’t always going to work well.
It often feels like Ryan decided to assign climate change to Maxim and marginalised and vulnerable communities to Lennix and then sent them off into the world to fix everything on their own. I can take the bluster and naivety of a new grad in her early 20s ready to take on the world, but by the time we’re getting to know Maxim, he’s much too old to be speaking the way he does. It would be different if he spoke in specifics with an actual plan rather than in generalities, but last time I checked, it takes more than one person to study every ecosystem in the world; there’s a reason that scientists tend to have specialties rather than just ‘climate change in general’. And I’m sorry, I don’t care how open and dedicated you are to pursuing new technology and greener systems, the ability to go from ‘I spent the last of my money on a few windmills’ to billionaire ten years later is a little too unbelievable, even with my love for fantasy.
Before we move past the unnecessarily complex backstory of these characters, I think it's important to address Lennix. Ryan's decision to write an Indigenous protagonist could be interpreted in many ways, so I think it was smart for her to preface The Kingmaker with her reasoning and sources behind this decision. Lennix is not appropriating my culture or my experience, so I can only address this point as an outsider, but it made me more open to accepting her perspective and her story. I love to read stories that come from an author who can speak as a member of a community, but I think that when authors are transparent with their motivation, gather appropriate information, and do thorough research, it can only help to broaden the audience for often overlooked issues. Considering The Kingmaker was initially published four years ago, I found it surprisingly topical, and it has aged well. I think that proves how intentional Ryan was with her research and writing. Lennix’s connection to her culture, her people, and their lands feels honest, and it helps to ground the story when it becomes a little too far-fetched in other areas.
While I found Lennix to be grounded and captivating, I often found myself disappointed by Maxim. Lennix knows her mind and follows through in her actions, but Maxim often lets himself down. His mind is a much kinder and more generous version of himself, and he usually ends up saying what he’s thinking in the worst way possible. While he thinks about how he won’t try to interfere in a relationship in which Lennix is happy and plans to give her space and time so she doesn’t feel pressured, he alternates between ignoring her so she thinks he’s moved on and asking her probing questions about the relationship he’s vowed to let her pursue. When he thinks about how much he cares for her and how right everything feels with her, he blurts out caveman ideologies about her belonging to him and no one else. And when he thinks about how he’ll never be able to give up on what they could be together, he tells her that he always gets what he wants so she might as well give in. There seem to be two versions of Maxim, and I wish the one in his head would show up more than the one he presents to the world and Lennix.
The spice level was pretty good, but it’s not promising that it started to feel repetitive already with only a few encounters. Considering their obsession with each other, I hope there’s more variation in their interactions moving forward. I’m not super excited by how The Kingmaker ended - it seems like a lot of very unnecessary drama after only just resolving a decade of nonsense - but I’m hoping it’s cleared up quickly so we can move on to some actual character and relationship development. Because I don’t care how good the chemistry is, after fourteen years, you need more than a few hours in a holding cell, a few days in Amsterdam, a New Year's Eve party, and a short flight to build a believable and lasting relationship.