“It was so close to his own thoughts – that everything he knew was gone, but that this was here, in its place, this one bright thing.”
This is not really a review, this is more of me just writing down my thoughts about the story and having a minor freak out. I feel like this goes without saying, but spoilers.
For those unfamiliar, The Summer Palace is the second of four short stories to be released by author C.S. Pacat, set in her Captive Prince universe. This story is set a few weeks after the conclusion of the third novel in the series, Kings Rising, and works as the series’ epilogue.
I was not at all prepared for this story. In just 30 pages, Pacat tore out my heart and stomped on it; does she just expect me to be able to live my life normally after reading this?!?! God damn you, woman.
I didn’t expect Damen and Laurent to be so sweet with each other, at least not for a while. Laurent was sweet and charming and so unbelievably in love, I started crying at 1:30 in the morning because of him (because I stayed up waiting for it to be released on Kindle). When you compare him to the person he was in Captive Prince, that vicious, lonely, cruel ice prince that he was, to the person he became in The Summer Palace, there are literally no similarities. That is some top-notch characterisation right there.
Laurent was the person he was supposed to be had his brother not died. And it blows my mind that the person who drew that innocent and beautiful side out of Laurent again was the man who killed his brother.
Oh, and Damen. Damen, you precious cinnamon roll, you. That boy is crazy in love – we all knew that as the books are all from his perspective, but it’s wonderful to see that love reciprocated and Damen still unable to quite believe that Laurent cares for him.
Everything was so cheesy and romantic and I loved every second of it! They talked about their feelings, they talked about the past, they talked about the future. I think my favourite scene was when Laurent sought permission from the statue of Damen’s late mother to court Damen. That was so unexpectedly honest and loving for Laurent.
I love that Laurent served Damen in the baths. It was such a touching scene because you know that was his way of apologising for what he did to Damen in Arles. I read that a few people didn’t like this as it reminded them of the abuse Laurent suffered, but I did not read it that way. I think we all know that Damen would never force Laurent to do something he didn’t want. Laurent bathed Damen because he wanted to. Let’s give Laurent a little credit here. He is not fragile after what happened to him – he is a strong survivor who has found a way to move on with someone who adores him and only wishes to make him happy. Don’t ruin what is meant to be a touching scene by infecting it with the Regent’s poisonous presence. 🙂
There’s a part of me that just refuses to believe that this is canon because there was so much fluff. Goodbye angst, we left you behind in Kings Rising – and hello gay husbands who are in awe at the future that they can finally have together. They are so happy. Babies.
I laughed. I cried. I squealed in excitement. This short story reminded me how much I love this stupid gay series. Please do yourselves a favour and read these wonderful books.
– Laurent’s mouth having a life of its own when he admits he missed Damen.
– All the kisses.
– Flashback to what happened when Damen was healing.
– Walking in the gardens, holding hands!!!
– They are courting each other!
– “They’re ours now.” Mate.
– HOLDING HANDS
– Laurent promising to protect Damen.
– Talking about Auguste – one day to visit his grave.
– Everything about the bath scene !!!!!!!!!!!
– “Don’t get any ideas.” “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
– LAURENT LAUGHING.
– LAURENT AND DAMEN WRESTLING.
– Damen getting jealous that Nikandros taught him.
– Hair fluffs.
– Casually walking naked down the palace like okay.
– “Our new palace.”
– Kisses and kisses and kisses and sex.
– Damen’s gift to Laurent.
– “You were watching the road.” Booooooyyyyyyyyy.
“Tell me as soon as the King approaches, I was to be informed right away.”
In the palace at Ios, they had snatched moments together like illicit lovers, at sunset, at dusk, in the gardens, in the bedroom, mornings with Laurent sweetly above him.
“Stop my mouth,” said Laurent, “I don’t know what I’m saying.”
Laurent’s fingers found his again, a small intimacy that had him overbrimming.
Damen was smiling; there was delight in seeing Laurent explore himself, a young man who was sweet, teasing, at times unexpectedly earnest. Having made the decision to let Damen in, Laurent had not gone back on it. When the walls went up, it was with Damen inside them.
“I’ll take care of your son,” said Laurent. “I’ll protect his kingdom as if it were my own. I’ll give my life for his people … I won’t let him down. I promise you.”
He had been braced against the lash for so long. Where he had been flayed, he was now open.
“You were a force of nature. It was infuriating to fight you. Frightening to have you on my side.”
“You didn’t know how afraid I was of you?”
“Of me? Or of yourself?”
“Of what was happening between us.”
Laurent filled the pitcher from the secondary sluice, approached, and shifted his grip. Damen threw his arms up instinctively.
“No, Laurent, that’s cold, it’s -” Gasping.
… Laurent was unexpectedly laughing.
“The truth is you’re very sweet, aren’t you,” said Damen.
“Laurent said, “I like it here. I like it here so much.”
“This is Akielos. We can do things your way in Vere.” He thought about it. “It’s cold there.”
“And in our new palace,” said Laurent, “on the border?”
He loved the way that Laurent kissed, as if Damen was the only person he had ever kissed, or would ever want to.
Before Laurent could answer, there was an unmistakable knock on the door.
The sound made Damen groan, because he knew what Laurent was going to do.
“What?” called Laurent, pushing himself up on an elbow.
“I’m here to inform you that the King of Akielos has arrived.”
“Thank you, I can be said to be faintly aware of that.”
His smile widened.
Laurent said, “What?”
“You were watching the road,” said Damen.