Publication Date: April 24, 2014
In the novella, The Golden Key Chronicles by A.J. Nuest, Rowena Lindstrom is a modern-day antiques dealer and art restorer based in Chicago when she tracks down and buys an armoire to which she seems to have a familial collection. Inside the armoire, she finds a mysterious golden key that seems to unlock a parallel dimension containing a deliciously dashing Prince. What tie does the key have to that world and once the veil is crossed, will Rowena ever make it back to the modern day. With evil forces plotting her demise, will she survive in the realm of Prince Caedmon? The Golden Key Chronicles brings together four originally released novellas along with a new bonus prequel.
The author, A.J. Nuest, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
One of the best elements of the time travel genre is that fish-out-of-water adjustment that goes hand in hand with falling into another time. When Rowena falls through the veil and removes the key necklace, she loses all of her memory so we miss out on that period of adjustment, but what the author, Nuest does with her story is equally fun and engaging. No memories? Lost in a time where women are lower tier on the ladder (though the deity system is female based), learn to fight back. Measure up with the boys and then beat them down showing them that they’ll find no simple victim here. Rowena is woman, hear her roar.
The beautiful thing about the way that Nuest writes her characters is that we knew that Rowena would be strong and adaptable all along. She lost her parents at an early age and forged a means of support in a field where really anything can happen. When Caedmon appears in her armoire she’s fairly pragmatic. Someone is clearly playing a trick on her, and fun is her middle name, so she’s willing to play along. It helps of course, that Caedmon is an Adonis who with repeat visits clearly becomes smitten with the woman in the mirror. We see it and we believe it. The hero worship in the novel does, at times, get to be too much but as romance writing goes Caedmon and Rowena are strongly entertaining and believable.
Caedmon for his part is also a bit awesome, but not too much so. He’s the younger son of the King and a favorite dead mistress — the mixed race for the time period as his mother was a gypsy. Rowena, modern woman that she is, couldn’t care less and the persecution he’s suffered is somewhat believably lifted. His biggest program when they meet is his jackass of an older brother Braedric, the man everyone assumed would have the honor of recovering the key from Rowena, but independent thinker that she is, she had other plans.
Nuest writes a few moments that are clearly inspired by Tolkien but much ofT he Golden Key Chronicles reads as cohesive and fresh. There are a few fairly graphic sex scenes, and I must call the author on using the phrase “Velvet over Steele” only because in a recent discussion of overused phrases in the erotica genre, this is the one I chose. Her treatment of the gay character Oliver seems to rely heavily on stereotype as well, but Nuest built the character as one who has a deep connection to and affection for her main character. We know that while the connection with Caedmon is one that she craves, there are people in her world who will miss her and Oliver is one of them.
Though a meaty 360 pages, the narrative flows well and the novel read quickly. There are story lines I’d like to see more developed such as the time Rowena is separated from Caedmon. There are blanks to be filled butT he Golden Key Chronicles was written by bringing four previously released novellas, Rowena’s Key: HarperImpulse Fantasy Romance Novella (The Golden Key Chronicles, Book 1), Candra’s Freedom: HarperImpulse Fantasy Romance (A Novella) (The Golden Key Chronicles, Book 2), Caedmon’s Curse: HarperImpulse Fantasy Romance (A Novella) (The Golden Key Chronicles, Book 3) and Braedric’s Bane (Golden Key Chronicles, Book 4), together and sticking to the rules of novella writing made the portions of the book periodical like and the shifts between quite smooth, but left some questions unanswered. Also, a number of the characters had a fan fiction level of adoration for Rowena who, to be fair, was suspected to be a sorceress and called “Your Radiance” in their realm. There is certainly a Cult-of-Rowena feel with her personal guards and others. When going for the overused plot point, Nuest seemed to lean more heavily toward the romance genre. At the end of this novel, I would have loved to have known more and that is a very good sign of an interesting read.
The Golden Key Chronicles features likable characters in interesting situations. If you like adventure, romance or time travel fiction, read an excerpt and pick up The Golden Key Chronicles by A.J. Nuest on