I know it may not seem like it considering all the romance that I read, but I’m actually a big fan of thrillers as well. So when the romantic thriller THE KING IS DEAD by Benjamin Dean crossed my path, I knew I had to read it. As luck would have it, I entered and won a giveaway for an ARC from NOVL!
James was born to be king. No, seriously, he is the first son of the King of England. And when his father passes, he is thrust into the position he’s been training for since childhood - at the ripe old age of 17. Add the fact that he is the first Black heir to the throne into the mix and things couldn’t get worse. That is, until secrets start getting spilled on the front page and the man he thought he loved suddenly disappears. As more of his private life gets splashed into the headlines, James’ sense of safety is shattered and he’s not sure who he can trust and who is trying to overthrow the monarchy.
Told strictly from James’ POV, the story opens with the death of his father and spans just a few short weeks. Don’t let the short timeline fool you though - this story is packed so full of mystery, suspense, and surprise twists that it is easy to forget how much time passes in story. The way in which Dean manages to capture the emotions brought upon by grief (and the subsequent need to hide those emotions from the public) is masterful. It’s a peek behind the curtain in a sense and a good reminder that public figures may live their lives in public, but they are also human beings who deserve grace.
There is a full cast of characters that is introduced and while there were some I immediately hated (looking at you Cassandra!), I generally felt okay with them as they orbited around James. The anxiety gets dialed up quickly though as the secrets start becoming public knowledge and anyone could be the mole. Through the eyes of James, I found myself not trusting anyone and screaming at him when he made a choice to trust someone.
Speaking of screaming at James, there were times that I literally wanted to yell at him and tell him he was being an idiot, only to remember that he is a seventeen year old boy who has just lost his father and the ability to trust. James is an incredibly sympathetic protagonist and he wormed his way into my heart quickly, even with his teenage nonsense. The care with which Dean handles the character of James and the chaos that his life descends into is wonderful and aided in my fully falling into the story.
I spent a majority of the book with one suspect in the back of my mind while James and his team worked to figure out who the leak was. With each chapter, we are taken on a wild ride and everyone around James is a suspect. I never felt comfortable with my suspicions until the very end and I absolutely loved the fact that it quite literally could have been anyone. Dean was able to throw in a lot of clues (and red herrings!) that kept me turning page after page, anxious to find out how the story ended.
THE KING IS DEAD by Benjamin Dean is available now and you can pick up a copy for yourself here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."