The Bartender’s Pride by T.J. Dallas

The Bartender's Pride (Pride Trilogy #1)

The Bartender’s Pride by T.J. Dallas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I honestly did not know what to think of this book as I was reading. It jumps between several character points of view throughout reading. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what the plot was early on. I was enjoying each character, they all had interesting personalities. The main protagonist of the story Lara, however, seemed fairly irrelevant and the least developed of them all.

Closer to the end though, things started falling into place. Things that seemed unimportant made sense in the grand scheme of things and Lara finally felt like she had a legitimate purpose. I won’t lie, I was indifferent to the book until this point. I liked the plot twist and how it shook everything else up and change everything, including character dynamics.

It did feel like this book was mostly just setting up for a bigger story that I hope continues in the rest of the trilogy without the need for as much of it in them. This book started out a little bit weak, but ended strong and has me curious for the next one.

Full Review with Spoilers

I went into this book with high expectations. A sapphic retelling of a classic fairytale is something I will always jump on. I was extremely happy to see that this book delivered and then some. The entire story is told from the perspective of Alyce, the traditional villain of Sleeping Beauty. The books acts as much like an origin story as much as it is a retelling.

Alyce is a fantastic character. She is told she is essentially evil and dark her whole life, that she is something other. It was heartbreaking to see how she deals with this her whole life and as much as she tries not to be that person, it definitely shaped who she is. She does what is essentially considered bad things because it is what is expected of her and what she is brought up to believe is the only thing she can do. Aurora is also a great main character. She is a princess and at first glance Alyce’s total opposite. The relationship that builds between them through the book is so well done. It was great to see them connect over their general dislike of everyone around them then it progress to Alyce trying to help her break the curse that will kill her when she turns 21. I loved seeing Alyce’s emotion progress and escalate even if she could quite see it for what it is.

There was a very interesting magic, social structure, and history developed in this book. I especially loved how the decline in ruling from a Queendom to a Kingdom where the queens have essentially given all their power to her husband over time really hinted at the same type of direction the story was going to take. The author did a great job placing these hints and connecting everything in a smooth flow that never felt like an information overload to the reader.

The storyline flowed so very well. There was a fantastic mix of emotional drama, angst and the sweeter buildup on the romance side. The romance was definitely not the focus of the story, though it was very much there. It really focus on Alyce’s build up to becoming a villain. And it was such a ride! Once Alyce crosses that line into actually killing people I have no idea what I should feel. Up to that point we get to see everything that has just been stacking against her and in a way we really see the justification for her actions. I ended the book completely blown away by the turn of events. We see Alyce exactly how we expect, guarding a sleeping princess against a kingdom that hates her.

Overall

This was a great retelling that gives the reader a new way of looking at a classic and very well known fairytale. Good story telling and great character development make this an extremely enjoyable read and one you won’t want to put down.

I didn’t have very much knowledge about this book when I started it. As promised it is indeed an erotica. Though I was a bit lost on the plot in the beginning of the story.

Lara is a young woman struggling with her sexuality due to being raised in a close-minded environment. In need of a job, she begins working as a bartender at a gay club. Realistically, Lara didn’t really feel like much of a main character. The chapters jump around to follow different characters, each a human incarnation of one of the seven deadly sins. (Though you don’t get to follow each of them just yet in this book.) Because of this, Lara doesn’t really seem very important and to be honest, her chapters didn’t feel like they had a great deal of character development other than everything just going wrong for her.

Each of the other characters we follow throughout the book though all have very distinct personalities and I found myself enjoy each of them and their complicated relationships with one another.

Up until maybe three fourths of the way through the book I was a little indifferent. The sex scenes varied greatly and were all well written, but that really felt like the biggest draw of the story. Out of nowhere though, the big plot twist occurred as we meet the counterparts of the sins, the virtues, and we learn of a rather devious plot to use Lara against Pride who is the leader of the Sins. In causing Lara to essentially hit rock bottom, Pride takes a heavy blow to her psyche. This throws off the delicate balance that is in place. I liked the supernatural aspect that underlines everything through the book too. It becomes more and more prominent as the story progresses.

By the end of the book I was genuinely invested. It’s a very character driven story which I always enjoy. This particular book was paced a bit slow in terms of the overall story but worked well to set up the next two books in the projected trilogy. It’s an interesting concept tangled within a supernatural erotica story.

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