Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Synopsis: Medieval times are the setting for this novel. It is Axelson's first full length one, and it isn't about to disappoint. Young Virago is a royal tailor and works at court, taking over the previous tailor, his father, who was killed in an accident. He knows he has to keep up the family trade as a lot of folk are relying on him for court fashions. He has a deep longing for Prince Duir even though he played with him as a child, he loves him, but as it is a forbidden love, he has to keep it a secret. When Virago gets a new cloth sent to him from outside of the kingdom, he is amazed at its beauty and feel. He finds it is called velvet, and it takes his breath away, just as Seton, the court lute player fuels his deep passion for another man to be alone with.
Review: As Virago is around court, his new position allows him to converse with royalty just as his father had, and in one way it is good as he gets to be around Prince Duir, his one true love, but he doesn't see him as he should - Duir isn't the sort of prince to be trusted as once his father gives him the position of king, he becomes cruel and unworthy of the title. The velvet Virago gets sent to him seems to have a life of its own. It is an entity that invites the fulfillment of urges, both good and bad, and even those never before known.
There is a sense of foreboding, and duality about this story as Virago lives and works around great privilege, but also gets to see the horror of what his true love, the now King Duir is capable of - murder and slaughter are seen as nothing to him, yet Virago still has a rose-tinted view of him. The king soon has an interest in Seton even though Virago has also fallen for him, so that could inspire a menage situation. There are so many opposites in this story, it is what makes it wonderful to read. Virago is prepared to take the rough with the smooth when dealing with the king, while he likes the smooth love he has found from being with Seton. Love is at the root of all this, and it is a true, honest love, but it is questionable whether it is a lingering one.
It is interesting that Xavier chose the name Virago as it is taken from the Latin words Vir for virile man, and ago to apply to a woman, which means a woman who displays male qualities. Virago in this is a virile man once he is exposed to the velvet, but also with the help of Seton, he can come to realize not everyone is as nice as he imagines.
Naughty Bits: They are nice and steamy! As I mainly read LGBT novels written by women, I found this an interesting diversion from the norm. The idea of opposites attracting, and also showing two sides of a series of people made it easy to identify to the characters. The writer is able to take the reader to his chosen world and let them enjoy it while shocking them too.
What's the verdict? There are things that aren't explained much, like Virago's past, but that doesn't make you like the story any less. This is a sensual and erotic page turner for those rainy days off.