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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

All For One by Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna

All For One by Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (352 pgs)
Other: M/M, M/M/M, Spanking, Voyeurism, BDSM
Rating: 4.5 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Aristide, Léandre, and Perrin pledge only three loyalties in life: their King, their captain, and their passion for each other. So when the musketeers discover a plan to accuse M. de Tréville of treason, the initial impulse to kill the messenger, Benoît, is tempered by their need to unmask the plotter. But their first two suspects, the English ambassador and Cardinal Richelieu, prove to be innocent, forcing the musketeers to delve deeper into the inner machinations of the French court.

Meanwhile, Aristide finds himself falling in love with the ill-fated messenger, a blacksmith without a home who rouses all of his protective, possessive instincts. Benoît, however, has no interest in any man. Torn between desire and duty, Aristide must find a way to protect the King and clear his captain’s name—all while heeding the demands of his heart.

The Three Musketeers as a threesome? It’s hard to think of a more delicious prospect in a historical. Ms. Tachna and Ms. Bennett have once again successfully immersed the reader in 17th Century Europe, a time of political turmoil and tangled court intrigue.

Someone has read her Dumas. One expects echoes of the original from the title, but this offers more direct parallels. Aristide represents the brooding, commanding Athos, the Musketeer of noble descent who scrupulously buries his past. Léandre is our Aramis, the former seminarian, who takes life as it’s tossed at him, and Perrin is our Porthos, not in stature but in temperament, always spoiling for a fight, more apt to speak before he thinks. Their unswerving devotion to each other, bolstered by the passion shared between them, is their bulwark against the world. Benoît gets to fill the role of D’Artagnan, to a degree, the character who drops into their lives without warning and unknowingly forces them to face issues they’ve conveniently ignored. But while Dumas’ character is a bright eyed youngster when he meets the Musketeers, full of fire and good cheer, Benoît has lost everything, family, home, and livelihood, and isn’t quite certain why he goes on. They do share an innocence of the world, though, and a good, well-meaning heart.

Old friends from Checkmate join us again for this novel, and the authors have tightened the POV issues this time around. While there are still several points of view offered here, most are necessary to the main plot involving Aristide and Benoît’s rocky, misstep-fraught attraction and the subplot of Perrin and Léandre’s issues. The temptation to shift POV’s to several characters in a single scene and include minor, one-scene characters as well has all but vanished, leaving this a more focused, emotionally vivid story. Aristide is both endearing and frustrating in his honorable intentions and his knack for misunderstanding Benoît’s skittish and often flummoxed reactions. Benoît’s pain and confusion as he fights with his ghosts, his insecurities, and his ingrained beliefs is often heartbreaking.

As a side note, I was pleased to see that Cardinal Richelieu was not cast as the heavy as he so often is in Three Musketeers movies. It was not a role he played in life and the caricatures of him are often painfully absurd.

With well-drawn characters who all ring true, the erotic scenes have that vital emotive quality, from playful pop and sizzle to beautifully tender. The young men have a lot to work through, and sex is vital to how they view their roles and themselves. While the intrigue part of the plot may have been a bit thin, the interaction, the inner lives of these characters engages the reader so that the outside dangers become secondary. I loved the original Three Musketeers, but these three let me into the bedroom and into their hearts, which trumps just about everything.

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