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I won't read a book that doesn't contain a romance plot of one kind or another...

Water Waltz - Hayley B. James 3.5 stars

I'm not sure how to describe this book; in my opinion it was a bit more fantasy than romance. The politics and world building were so complicated that they took over most of the reader's attention, as opposed to the romance. In fact, they were so complicated that I almost put it down after reading about one fourth of the book and still being unable to understand what was going on. And then magically, about one third into the story, everything became not only clear, but extremely captivating as well; after this point I was unable to put it down until I reached the end.

I'll try and write down the plot description as simply as I can here because, to be honest, Goodread's synopsis personally lead me to expect something different from what the book turned out to be:

There are two main countries in this story: Feinan, where the demons and angels live along with a handful of devils, and the country of humans. Those two countries fought in the past and the humans lost, but they have been living peacefully for the past decades. Lately though, the demons have been secretly stealing humans to use as sex toys.
Varun is a demon who can control water and a member of the goverment's secret STAR organization (think CIA) whose mission is to rescue those humans and kill the demons (or angels) responsible. Varun's butler is his ex-lover, and also ex-STAR agent, Triste, for whom it's obvious he (=Varun) still has feelings, though he also has a lover, the devil Fremont, who is also a STAR spy.

The story starts when Varun rescues a human named Elden from the demon Barish. Although he's under orders to deliver all rescued humans back to STAR's shelter, Varun for reasons he refuses to confide to his trusted butler, decides to keep Elden in his house. This is an act that could get Varun killed if STAR found out, so Triste, sets out to find Varun's reasons for acting so strangely.

As I said before, the book's main problem is that it takes too long for the story to take flight. The writer decides to keep many secrets for longer than she should trying to increase the suspense but in such a complex world, this proves to be a mistake as the complexity becomes almost overwhelming for the average reader. However, if you can persevere and last past the first 100 pages, then you'll be rewarded with a highly addictive and engaging tale of spies, unexpected plot twists, double agents, betrayed lovers, traitors and assassins. After this checkpoint, I really couldn't read fast enough to find out who were the bad guys and how the heroes could save themselves and their country from the mess they found themselves into.

I admit that though I liked Triste in particular, and even Varun in a lesser degree, their romance was not the pivoting force of the book, as they spent most of the book with different partners each. I also liked the secondary heroes as much as I liked the main ones; Fremont was a delight and Leandre, Amer and Zephyr, though with less important roles, were still intriguing and not just space fillers. What seemed a bit strange though was that almost everyone in this strange world, was homosexual; but then in a world where faeries, devils and demons rule, why should anything be strange?

I'd recommend this book, more to fantasy than romance lovers, or at least those romance readers who appreciate a complex world building. Personally, I'd love to read more books in this world Hayley James built and hope this was not a stand alone but the beginning of a series.

ARC provided by NetGalley