Title: The Calyx Charm
Series: The Sacred Dark: Book Three
Author: May Peterson
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 286 Pages
Category: Transgender Romance, Romantic Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: There is plenty to feast on in the Sacred Dark series: the extraordinary world-building, the complex and diverse characters and the challenges they not only face but flourish through, as well as the authors lush and soulful voice. In short, The Calyx Charm is a lovely addition to the collection.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Second chances take many forms…
Violetta Benedetti knows how to hide things. She spent years concealing herself behind the persona her father expected of her. Now she hides in the dark corners of Vermagna’s underworld, lying low to keep her father from using her magic in his unending quest for power.
But her biggest secret is her love for her best friend, who only knew her as Mercurio Benedetti, not the woman she is today. Now he’s dead, and she’ll never be able to tell him the truth.
Tibario Gianbellicci was dead. And then…he wasn’t. Reborn as an immortal, he has powers he never imagined. Powers his crime boss mother wants to tap into to destroy their longtime rivals: House Benedetti.
But Tibario is hiding something, too: his best friend is a Benedetti—and the love of his life. With a second chance at life, he’ll have to risk revealing his heart.
Review: May Peterson creates an intimate connection to her characters in The Calyx Charm, through insightful exposition which serves as an emotional bond with her protagonists Violetta Benedetti and Tibario Gianbellici. There is an undeniable Romeo & Juliet aspect (but with a happy ending!) to Violetta and Tibario’s friends-to-lovers romance, as they slowly begin to embrace their yearning and love for each other, something they’d denied themselves due to the battle for dominance between Violetta’s father and Tibario’s mother—a deadly game in which they both find themselves pawns to their parents’ violence and avarice. But perhaps more significantly was that for years, Violetta existed as Mercurio, the Honored Child and son of the most powerful man in Vermagna. To say Violetta and Tibario’s relationship was complicated by both internal and external conflict is a bit of an understatement. To say they are given a second chance to right their relationship against all the odds is the truth.
You live like a woman defeated, Violetta.
Peterson weaves the delicate shadings of human complexity into this novel—the complicated sensibilities of the parent/child relationship and the manipulations and atrocities perpetrated by a parent on a child (CW: for discussions of rape and suicide), the owning and embracing of the Self and the awareness that grabbing on to love and hope, and holding on to both, are perhaps the ultimate leaps of faith and courage—then commingles them with the sublimely nuanced thoughts and emotions of her main character, a transgender woman who lost much but gained everything, including her freedom, in the process. To say that the author wrote the hell out of her heroine is nothing but a compliment. We’ve all heard some version of the axiom that writing is like opening a vein and bleeding, and whether the spirit of the saying is what transpired when May Peterson sat down to compose Violetta, I can’t say, but I can say that I felt every drop of emotion in every word the author poured into her character and, subsequently, the book as a whole.
Happy ending was just another way to say that a gentler story was being written now.
There, of course, can’t be light without darkness, and while Peterson leads her characters through some of the darkest of times—a looming apocalypse is a major catalyst—the light that comes from their happy ending is a potent reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the power of love in all its various forms. The Calyx Charm is not only a book about falling in love, it’s a book about embracing love, of loving and surviving in the midst of strife, of discovering one’s own power through the gift of perception and understanding, and is the story of a woman tapping into a deep well of power to reclaim herself.
There is plenty to feast on in the Sacred Dark series: the extraordinary world-building, the complex and diverse characters and the challenges they not only face but flourish through, as well as the authors lush and soulful voice. As a side note, this book is so closely tied to the first in the series, The Lord of the Last Heartbeat, that if someone were to ask my opinion, I’d recommend reading “Heartbeat” first to build a frame of reference and gain a bit of background on the two warring families at the center of this novel. In short, The Calyx Charm is a lovely addition to the collection.
You can buy The Calyx Charm here:
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