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Review: Honey and Pepper – A.J. Demas

Honey and Pepper  - A.J. Demas

Genre: Historical, Alt History

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay Cis

Reviewer: Dan

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About The Book

Newly freed from enslavement, Nikias is making a life for himself in the bustling city of Pheme, working at a snack stand, drinking with a group of anti-slavery radicals, and pining for the beautiful law clerk next door. When he sees his crush attacked in the street by an outraged ex-client, it seems it’s finally Nikias’s chance to be the hero.

Kallion doesn’t need a rescue. What he really needs is a skewer of octopus fritters (with extra sauce) and a friend. Nikias can supply both, and maybe, with the help of Nikias’s skill in the kitchen and Kallion’s excellent collection of wine, they can fight past their misunderstandings and the disasters of their pasts to something deeper.

But when civil unrest roils the city and old threats resurface, the trust these two have built will be tested. And they’d both better hope that Kallion’s vicious former master will just stay dead.

Honey & Pepper is a standalone m/m romance and also the first book in the When in Pheme series set in an imaginary ancient world.

The Review

In the past I have always found the characters and world Demas sets up to be captivating and I usually burn through books by this author. On occasion, the author has moved me to tears. I enjoyed Honey and Pepper but took a brief hiatus from reading it during a particularly exhausting time in my life, which lead the the delay in getting this review out. Overall, Demas still delivers with worldbuilding and a character driven plot.

Nikias and Kallion are an unprobelmatic couple, their relationship generally complication free in terms of conflict between them. They are genuinely supportive and care deeply about each other, quickly and sweetly. It’s a refresh from the more typical angst ridden tales that are usually featured in mainstream queer romances, though I think we are blessedly moving away from those tropes. Nikias is a refreshing sweet and pleasant character, an overall teddy bear of a man, though not unprotective of his friends and lover. Kallion strikes a balance of confidence and a touch of shyness when it comes to untraveled waters. Together they pair well and grow into themselves, both becoming stronger advocates for themselves and each other by the end of the book.

The plot took a backseat to their relationship and has a good slice of daily life tossed in. I think the story could have been drawn out a little longer since the conflict and resolution with the main (mostly off-screen) antagonist was handled a little too neatly and quickly.

As always, I look forward to more from this author and the ever expanding and delightfully diverse set of characters readers get to meet.

The Reviewer

Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with a variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.

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