Title: The King’s Mate
Author: Ashavan Doyon
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 14,706 words, 64 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Light & Sweet, May/Dec, Secret Admirer, Short Story, Sports (Chess), Unrequited Love
Rating: Really Liked It
Reviewed by Nikyta
*****This review contains slight spoilers!*****
Russell Pine goes to the café every morning to enjoy his time chatting with Sam Tesh, the café owner, a friend made over the past twenty years. So when Sam asks a favor, Russ reluctantly agrees to play in a chess tournament. But the contest isn’t the real challenge: Russ finds himself the focus of a secret courtship in words and pictures left for him to discover each morning, leading him to the question: In a café full of young and beautiful minds, who is looking at the graying chessmaster?
This was one of those stories that touched my heart. While not perfect, I fell in love with Russell, his troubles and how Chess played a role in it all. The fact that he has issues with Chess but willingly helps a longtime friend generate interest in his café by playing in a tournament was heartbreaking for me because it was obvious how much Russell hated it. The story is short but it revolves around Russell, his secret admirer and the possibility of moving on.
I loved the progression of this story because it has a slow feel to it. There isn’t much depth to any of the characters, though we get to know Russell just enough to connect with him (at least I did) but Sam, the café owner, and Justin, Sam’s son, are still enigmas. I found Justin so cute and I loved the way that Russell handled his ‘secret admirer’ but most of all, this was just such a cute story I couldn’t help but smile while reading it.
As I mentioned, though, it’s not perfect. In fact, some of the dialogue felt stiff, which made some scenes seem awkward. There isn’t much background to the characters so I was left confused and wondering what they were talking about sometimes. Such as, how Russell helped Sam regarding Justin, what happened to Justin and why he was healing. There were just so many questions left over in the end, that I wasn’t completely satisfied with it.
In the end, I loved the characters and the fledgling relationship that they start. The secret admirer aspect was done well, IMO, because it was sweet without it getting out of control. If the story had been longer with more fleshed out characters, this could have been a phenomenal read. As it is, it was adorable but left me wanting more.