An Ember in the Dark by Samantha Raffles and Ashley Lepak

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An Ember in the Dark is a fantasy romance novel co-written by Samantha Raffles and Ashley Lepak. This novel debuted on Kindle Unlimited on April 11th, 2022. I was asked to be a part of the ARC team, and after having read the description, I simply couldn’t say no!

Our story follows Raena (Rae) through her journey from the human world to Elysian, where she meets Emrys — a prince, and now captor of sorts. The Prince, struck by an inexplicable need to possess and protect our heroine, brings her into the Castle under the pretense of her being a Royal Courtesan. Their relationship is steamy, boasting all the trappings of star-crossed lovers. Or rather, lover, singular, as Emrys’ heart was pre-destined for a long-since missing Princess. She’s a human in the world of fae — woefully out of place, and incredibly out of her depth with royal politics and courtly subterfuge. 

I, admittedly, was a bit unsure about my feelings toward the beginning of the book. I have a soft spot for anything set in a castle — be it paranormal, fantastical, or otherwise. These are the kinds of stories I tend to devour, but I was a bit leery with the insta-lust dynamic unfolding between our heroine and Emrys. For those of you who have followed my content for a while, you’ve likely heard me say that I’m not the biggest fan of insta-anything. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around (I’m, admittedly, an over-analytical fuck-nut), but I try to approach each book with the “everyone” glasses. Just because something might not be for me doesn’t mean that it’s not for someone else

The chapters are quite short — a few of them I remember being four pages long. As someone who likes to pause between chapters, this was a boon. The writers made sure that every word counted, keeping their prose to the point while moving the story along. As a reader, I couldn’t help but wish for a bit more elaboration on some of the more developmental scenes — moments between Emrys and Raena that could have given us a stronger baseline for their feelings and the conflict they felt. However, as a writer, I know that there is a thin line between “just right” and “overwritten.” It’s tricky, but these two show an incredible amount of potential, and I have no doubt that before long they’ll be hitting the mark with every scene.

It wasn’t until the last quarter of the book that I was deeply engaged. Frankly, the ending was what saved it for me. I was engrossed — flipping through the pages with the fervor of a stay-at-home mom trying to find her car keys minutes before the kids have to be off to dance class. I was deeply invested, and quite keen to see what happened next! I will be reading the second installment, whenever that hits the shelves!

There are some things I feel are important to note, however. This book seems to be largely (if not entirely) self-edited. There were a few pockets where the tense switched from third-person to first-person. There were other instances of typos and formatting errors. As a lover and supporter of the self-published/indie space, I don’t allow that to take away from my reading experience (editors are pricy, and not a lot of people have the capital to start to justify the several-hundred-dollar bill — and often don’t see returns on their books until months after they’ve been in rotation). I mention this, only because I know, for some, this can be a deal-breaker. 

All in all, I think this was a strong start to a series. My criticisms, and my advice (unsolicited, of course), fall in the arena of “get a strong team of beta readers”, “emotionally blackmail someone to proofread — preferably with coffee and baked goods”, and keep going!

If you’re someone who enjoys star-crossed lovers, a boatload of spice, lovable side characters, and fae/magic, you’ll definitely want to add this piece to your TBR shelves!

You can find our lovely authors: Samatha Raffle’s Goodreads, Ashley Lepak’s Goodreads, Samantha Raffles Amazon, Ashley Lepak’s Amazon, Samantha Raffle’s Instagram, Ashley Lepak’s Instagram, Samantha Raffle’s Website, Ashley Lepak’s TikTok, Ashley Lepak’s Facebook.


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