Title: The Henchmen of Zenda
Author: K.J. Charles
Publication date: May 15, 2018
Genre: M/M romance/Historical/Adventure/Retelling
Length: 232 pages
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Review Summary: An adorably fun, swashbuckling adventure with hot swordplay, retelling The Prisoner of Zenda.
This is a retelling of a classic swashbuckling story from the 19th century, The Prisoner of Zenda, told in the same timeframe and following the same events, but from a different point of view which makes the heroes of one the villains of the other.
There’s a struggle for the throne of Ruritania in Eastern Europe. Jasper Detchard is hired as one of six henchmen by the king’s half-brother Michael who imprisons the king (in Michael’s castle at Zenda, hence title) and aims to take the throne. Jasper has his own reasons for taking on this job, but finds himself distracted by another of the six, the handsome and reckless Rupert of Hentzau.
The Henchmen of Zenda Review
The original Prisoner of Zenda is a short, easy read. I think it was aimed at children of the 19th century who (if they had enough time and schooling to read for pleasure at all) tended to have a higher reading ability and greater powers of concentration than today’s kids, due to having zero screentime.
So, while the sentence structure may be more complex than the average Harlequin romance, it’s much simpler than something like Dickens (and way shorter). I say that because I think it’s worth reading the original first, and I wouldn’t want someone to be put off just because it was written in 1880 or whatever. I found it a lot of fun, and it’s only like 150 pages and very fast-moving.
So then the first thing I will say is that if you hate the Prisoner, you may not like the Henchmen, because despite the fact that Jasper and Rupert are hot and lovely, the main focus is on the adventure, not on the romance. Also, for me, a lot of the fun of reading it came from seeing how K.J. Charles had turned things around, making the heroes the villains and reinterpreting events.
The whole thing she did with the French woman was just brilliant. Also the Princess. The female characters have a lot more life and power in Charles’s version. In fact, the characters are all round better developed and less stereotyped, while still saying and doing most of the same things. And I’m sure I’d still have loved it if I hadn’t read the Prisoner, so that’s not a requirement. It just added a little something.
But be warned, this isn’t a soft fluffy read with a conventional ending. Jasper and Rupert are both strongwilled, adventurous guys and while that leads to some hot sex, it also leads to a fair bit of conflict, including murders. They don’t kill each other, but they may come close.
It’s heavy on plot and sassy humor, light on hearts and flowers. For me that’s the perfect gay “romance” so I adored it.