For Emily Ford, being awakened in the dead of night by what seems to be the very shadows in her bedroom come to life is the least of her worries as she is spirited away to become the new wife of an elven king for the purpose of bearing his heirs. Entranced despite herself by his ethereal beauty, Emily surrenders willingly to his seduction and is introduced to a new world of sexual pleasures she had not thought possible outside of a dream.
But can a human ever really win the heart of an elf or have a place within the elven court, especially when the biggest obstacles to both are her new husband's barren and resentful queen, who makes no qualms about wanting Emily gone and is prepared to do the unspeakable to make it happen, and the whispers of anti-human sentiments within the elven court, itself?
I first ran across this author while reading a 20 novella Christmas collection. The short story in that collection was Shadows in the Falling Snow, which is a prequel for this series. I thought it was one of the best stories in the book, and made a note to check out this author’s other works. So that’s how I came to buy this collection. I would have totally named it something other than “Claimed by the Elven King”. That title just screams “Hey, I’m reading kinky smut!! Judge me!!”
Emily thinks that she is having one heck of a realistic dream when she is taken from her room and transported to another realm. She is blinded, and terrified, and suddenly in a huge amount of pain with no frame of reference for it. The pain stops, and she is led away again. Her sight returns as she is taken to a room. In the room she is faced a tall blonde man, who she recognizes as an elf, pointed ears and all. He calls her by name. His intent for her is clear, and after she briefly tries to run she tells herself “This is a dream, anyway, so what does it matter?”. She tells herself that in the morning she is giving up drinking all together, and settles in for (she thinks) must be the best sex dream ever. Before she “falls asleep” he tells her his name is Sethian.
The next day she wakes up stiff and sore, and still not in her own world. More surprises are in store for her. Her skin is the first thing she noticed - her tan was gone, and her skin had this strange airbrushed look to it. Startled, she leaps from the bed, looking for a mirror and finds more and more things about her have changed; her height, the shape of her face, the very color of her eyes. She’s almost a whole foot taller, and dropped any extra weight she was carrying - the total body transformation.
She is locked in the room that she is in, and all alone. She’s freaking out, reflecting on her “dream” from the night before. She says something curious here: “ I didn’t understand how I could have so willingly given to him, my abductor, what I had never given to another man without putting up at least some kind of fight, even if I knew it was no use.” I didn’t catch this the first time I read it, but it seems pretty obvious that she has been abused in her past. it’s mentioned more than once that she views crying as weakness, which only adds to this theory in my mind. I would have liked to have seen this explored more, but that’s the last we hear of it. She distracts herself with a book written in Latin, trying to translate it. (She was pre med, so she knew some Latin). Sethian appears. Now, myself, I would have greeted him with an elbow to the mouth and some violent demands for answers. Emily takes the (probably) wiser route, and lets him tell her what the situation is. After all,what could she do against a creature with the power to transport her to somewhere that is obviously not her world and change her so dramatically? It bothered the heck out of me for a good while that she accepted it so easily, and without more fight.
Sethian tells her many things: His people and their world exist just a few degrees out of phase with the human world. This was the reason for her brief blindness and all of the changes, so that she could live in their world. She couldn’t go back now if she wanted to. He tells her that he is the king, and they are now husband and wife. He has another wife, a full blooded Sidhe, who has been queen in her own right since her birth. Their marriage is not a love match - you get the impression that they actively dislike each other. Elven women are unable to have children, and that is why he has brought her there, to have his children. The elves haven’t had children on their own in the last 500 years, and this is not the first time that this infertility has happened. He chose her, specifically. She is alone in the world, her parents passed away, no other family. He asks her if she would have wanted to go back, and she realizes that she doesn’t want to, really. She is not really sure how she feels about all of this,but goes along with it. They wind up in bed again, and get walked in on by none other than the queen herself. (WTF, creeper?) She passes out, and wakes up alone some time later.
She meets a woman named Lariel, who tells her that she is to be her lady in waiting. They encounter the queen again when they go to the baths - she calls Emily a mongrel, and Sethian as well. Needless to say she’s not on board with this whole “have kids with the human” idea. Sethian is livid that they met, saying the queen is engineered the meeting just to intimidate and upset Emily. This isn’t to be her first uncomfortable encounter with the queen. About a month later, she starts to think that she’s pregnant and tries to hide it. He’s already been gone awhile on royal business, and she’s afraid that once he has gotten her pregnant she won’t see him again until the child is born. That doesn’t work for long, and he straight out asks her why she hasn’t told him that’s she’s pregnant. It seems that elves can hear their children’s souls before they are born, that all elves share some sort of mental connection. He is thrilled that she is with child, saying that he can present her to the court as soon as she is showing, that this will open the floodgates for others to be able to do as he has done, to take human wives and repopulate their realm. He is apologetic that he hasn’t told her something very important - due to the changes in her she is likely to live just as long as he is. He had no intention of using her a baby factory like she feared - time just runs differently when you live that long.
The queen comes to her again, warning her that there are others in the court that are not accepting of the human “taint” in their bloodline. They would rather let their race fade away then “couple with lower life forms”. She tries to trap her with doubletalk about how the human genes were what caused the elven women to become barren, but Emily has had medical training, and sees something fishy in that explanation. Here my brain started ticking over, and her’s did too, considering her medical background. Is it that they can’t carry, or that they just can’t conceive? If they can carry, then they don’t need an influx of human women - they need to go rob a fertility clinic and get about six bazillion human eggs. That way elven women can carry their own kids, even if half of the DNA isn’t their own.
I really don’t think that the author intended us to think about it that hard, though. The queen says that the human genes accumulate, especially in elven women, and all that were found to be barren had at least 10% human genes. She also tells her that Sethian’s mother was rumored to have been human herself, only changed to appear as an elf. (That’s where the prequel came into play) Emily realizes that this might be why Sethian looks a little bit more “human” to her than the other elves, who are all beautiful, but in an almost alien fashion. The queen finally get down to the brass tacks - she has a mage who can change Emily back to her former state. she wants her to go back to the human world. Knowing that any kind of procedure like that would surely kill her child Emily FINALLY grows a backbone and throws the queen out of her rooms. Sethian tells her that the queen is telling her the views of a minority of the population, that most of his people will be happy about them having a baby. I say that Emily needs to grow some eyes in the back of her head and have some of his people pop back over to the real world and pick up some firearms. Or perhaps Chuck Norris.
Time passes, and she is showing enough now to be presented to the court. When she is standing with the king, she can’t help but notice for all of the people that are clapping and cheering there some who are reacting unfavorably, men and women. The women I understand, kind of. But if these people are so desperate for children…….idk. Later that same day there is a magical attempt on her life - she was standing on a balcony when a force hit her from behind. She grabbed on to the railing, but she felt something pulling on her free arm and legs, trying to pull her down. Her ladies in waiting are desperately trying to pull her up when Sethian appears, just in time. He thinks another Sidhe family might be vying for the throne, whichis just as likely as someone being pissed about him taking a human wife.
We skip forward, now she is very pregnant. She has had guards all around her since the assassination attempt. She goes into labor - interesting plot point with all of this soul reading going on - sethian will deliver the child. During childbirth “the birthing process opens your soul and the child’s soul up in a rather unique way, in order to forge the familial bond between mother father and child” Outsiders don’t even touch a woman in labor, to not risk contaminating the bond. She’s freaking out seven hours in because she still can’t “hear” the baby. He can, but she can’t. They connect just before the baby is born. it’s a boy hooray….the kid has black hair, which surprises both of them.
Later Sethian explains that his hair may just be a human trait, but it’s strangely like an elf from their myths, Hirion, who had the perfect balance of elven and human traits. Hirion was a kind of Merlin of the elves, or King Arthur. They are all bonded together now, all empathic like. Emily and Sethian had felt some sort of a bond the second time they were together, but it only lasted for a short period. Sethian tells her there’s another tale about Hirion, that he got all of his abilities from the fact that his human mother mentally bonded with his Sidhe father at the moment that he was conceived. He realizes that this is what happened and suddenly she can feel him, because he was inadvertently blocking her off. She realizes now that they may be in even more danger, that their enemies will target the newborn baby instead of her. She worries especially about the queen, knowing that she has no scruples at all and would not hesitate to kill a newborn if it got her what she wanted.
At the naming ceremony for the baby they do the whole Lion King thing. They name the baby Thaylan. The queen reaches out to touch him. The baby senses his mama’s distress and knocks everyone in the room on their ass with a wave of power. Hilarious scene.
Time skip again, Thaylan is 6 months old, and Sethian is out of town. Thaylan’s abilities are growing - he is able to teleport himself around the castle, and is always able to find his dad. Someone breaks into their rooms. The attacker clouds Emily’s mind to make her think that they are Sethian and climbs in bed with her. She figures it out - he didn’t smell right - and manages to get away and grab the baby. Sensing his mama’s fear the baby teleports them right to Sethian - who was miles and miles away from the city. Thaylan is more powerful than anyone thought. When questioned, the attacker only says that he did what he had to do. They realize again that they are not safe, and will not be safe for some time. Time passes, and there are numerous attempts on Emily’s life. This continues off and on for years, until one day a noble tries to push her beyond a barrier in between dimensions. To his surprise (and hers) when he goes to lay hands on her he literally draws back a nub - his hands were vanished, cut off. Thaylan put a magical barrier around her (and the rest of his family as well) that the same would happen to anyone laying hands on her with evil intent. Yes, Thaylan is a badass, and loves his mama. He was around 8 when all of this happened. The assassination attempts fell off after that. Emily and Sethian have had three other kids, another boy and two girls.
We skip forward again. Thaylan is 12, and off on the other side of the realm studying with an ancient mage. Sethian starts to get sick. Elves very rarely get ill, but it can happen. She convinces him to call a healer, and turns out that he is sicker than he thought. Sethian is wasting away, getting sicker and weaker by the day. The healers and Emily are all frantic with worry, trying anything they can think of to heal him, but nothing’s working. Finally the healers work it out - he was never sick, it’s a curse. The queen bursts into the rooms with her guards and have them take Emily to the dungeons, saying that it was Emily that cursed the king. Emily realizes that it was the queen all along, she had just been biding her time until Thaylan was out of reach. When the queen threatens her daughter Emily finally snaps, and tries to claw the queen’s eyes out, only to be cracked on the back of the head by one of her guards.
**book would have been way cooler if this would have happened**
She wakes up in the dungeon. Using the mental bond that they all share as a family she starts calling out to Thaylan, trying to warn him of the queen’s machinations. She is sure that the queen will try to have him killed as well. After a visit from the queen to do the bad guy thing and gloat, she is sitting alone in her cell. Thaylan appears, teleporting straight to her. He tells her that he heard her warnings as soon as he got near the palace grounds. They teleport straight to the king’s rooms, where the queen and all of her guards are still standing over him, presumably waiting for him to die. Thaylan uses his powers to capture and place the queen in an alternate dimension of his own making, a holding cell of sorts. Then he sets about healing his father. The curse is unfortunately a soul curse, and is draining him slowly of his life force. Thaylan is distraught, he can’t stop it, no one can touch his soul. Emily and Sethian are soulbound, though, and with Thaylan’s help she is able to feed him her life energy until Thaylan is able to break the curse. When she wakes up from this, she is told that she has been asleep for a solid moon-cycle, which I’m guessing is almost a month. Sethian has been at her side day and night ever since, feeding her his energy in hopes that she would wake up. Some things have changed while she has been sleeping. The queen was executed for her attempt on the king, but not before her mind was searched and a massive plot uncovered. Sethian has been changed while she was out too. When Emily practically poured her whole soul into him it unlocked a new power in him. Everyone has been tiptoeing around him, because he is “completely connected to the natural energies of the whole realm” So Sethian has gone cosmic, lol. This book ends shortly after, the wicked queen dead (ding dong) and the whole family set up for a very very (very) long happily ever after.
I told Barb that I fully expected this book to be a trashy smutfest, so color me surprised when it up and grew a plot on me about halfway through. Like I mentioned earlier, I had some issues with her just accepting her fate so easily. And it’s a damn shame that there wasn’t more culture clash type comedy in there - I would have loved to have seen more of that. It felt a little scattered towards the end, with all of the jumping around in time. I would have loved to have seen more of their lives together, and how the integration of the human wives affected the population. Can you imagine a handful of human women all just randomly pulled into another dimension? You know they all got together for at least lunch, like the real wives of Faerie - lol! So, in conclusion - not a bad read. I could have done with some more plot, but not a bad read at all.
Keep it between the covers,