Title: A Rival Most Vial: Potioneering for Love and Profit
Series: Side Quest Row: Book One
Author: R.K. Ashwick
Length: 342 Pages
Category: Cozy Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: A Rival Most Vial is a soft little tale that was a simple joy to read.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Two potion shops, one heated rivalry…until hate bubbles over into something else.
Any adventurer worth their sword knows about Ambrose Beake. The proud, quiet half-elf sells the best, and only, potions in the city—until a handsome new shopkeeper named Eli opens another potion shop across the street, throwing Ambrose’s peace and ledgers far off balance.
Within weeks, they’re locked in a war of price tags and products—Ambrose’s expertise against Eli’s effortless charm. Toil leads to trouble, the safety gloves come off, and right as their rivalry reaches a boiling point…
The mayor commissions them to brew a potion together.
The task is as complex as it is lucrative, pushing both men to the limits of their abilities and patience. Yet as the fires burn and cauldrons bubble…they find a different sort of chemistry brewing.
Review: When Shakespeare wrote “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” I’m positive he didn’t have the enemies-to-lovers romance trope in mind. That doesn’t make it less true, though. Ambrose Beake and Eli Valenz give it a good run for the money as business competitors in A Rival Most Vial, and in return, R.K. Ashwick gives readers a sweet and cozy fantasy to delight in.
Ambrose is what one might call a genius in his field. Potioneering is his life’s work, and he excels at it. In fact, he’s had the monopoly on the business in the Scar for decades. Until, that is, Eli moves into the retail space across the street and opens his own potion shop. This, of course, sets Ambrose off in a snit to end all snits. How dare a novice horn in on Ambrose’s territory and then do something so crass as to undercut his prices. Ambrose is the grumpy one in this story, but then, his reasons for being emotionally standoffish and reclusive aren’t without basis. Discovering those reasons accomplishes a lot along the way, not the least of which is building Eli’s empathy for him.
Eli is Ambrose’s opposite in every way, especially in the potion making business. Eli is leagues behind Ambrose in terms of skill. He also doesn’t have the passion for it that Ambrose does. Eli isn’t sure what he has a passion for, if he’s being honest with himself, but he does know he needs to figure out a way to make enough money to keep himself and Eli’s Elixirs afloat. Enter the mayor, his daughter’s birthday wish, and a collaboration that causes both cauldrons and emotions to boil over.
The world in which these characters exist isn’t built. It simply is. The Scar is home to all sorts of mythical beings along with humans, and let’s not forget the dangerous slimy wigglers and flying things. This book isn’t about constructing complex structures within a society, but very much is about building trust, friendships, family, and navigating a growing bond with someone special. In fact, Ambrose has a lot to learn about emotions and how to process them, and it’s the friends who have been there for him, day in and day out, that help him sort out what it means not to be alone. What it means to be Ames and how, when they call him Ames instead of Ambrose, what they’re really saying is “I care about you, friend.”
A Rival Most Vial is a soft little tale that was a simple joy to read.
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