3 out of 4 stars
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Hear ye! Hear ye! A story of romance and personal growth has been found for the inner adventurer in all of us.
Every Friday night, Rachael participates in the Dungeons and Dragons Underdark campaign run by her husband, Aaron. It’s one of the highlights of her week, as her marriage feels stagnant. Feeling needy and craving attention, Rachael and her character (Lilly) start fantasizing about Aaron’s brother Greg (game character Craig). Unintentional attraction blossoms into something more as Rachael’s desires become known.
But Greg might not be what Rachael wants either, and his attention might not be the positive kind. As Rachael’s frustration with her marriage grows and she starts trying to carve out an existence separate from her husband, she makes decisions and learns things she just can’t rationalize. Can she and Aaron find their way back together?
When I first saw a book entitled The Dungeon Master’s Wife under the romance category, I figured it had to be one of two things. First, a book about a role-playing game. Second, a really kinky bdsm dungeon story. There was instant delight and perhaps some fangirl squealing when I discovered my first guess was correct. Author Kate Messick has created an emotional story of a world within a world I won’t soon forget.
The Dungeon Master’s Wife actually follows two worlds—Rachael’s “real world” and the Underdark, a fictional D&D universe. When Rachael and her fellows are seated at the table and playing, most of the game is described as if a separate fantasy book were written in the pages of this contemporary romance. We see the Underdark, as well as Rachael’s character and those of the other players. For me, this was a fantastic setup. I loved being able to see how the rolls of dice I know so well might play out in real-time. For those less familiar with D&D, these scenes seem like a great way to get across what’s happening without getting bogged down in technical terms. There are some breaks from the fantasy world to field some game mechanics dialogue from the players, but the D&D terms that were used were either self-explanatory or given brief explanations.
I also found the Underdark very easy to follow, even get lost in. I have no personal experience with this D&D world, but Messick’s descriptions put me right at home there. I felt the cavernous atmosphere and saw the bustling metropolis. The Underdark actually felt more developed than Rachael’s real world. I wasn’t bothered by this at all, but readers seeking less of D&D and more of reality might find the contrast a bit jarring.
Getting away from D&D, this book offers realistic characters and a very interesting story. Rachael felt like a real person, and her friends were a great supporting cast. As the story progresses, Rachael is faced with the idea that not all is as it seems, and the slow buildup of tension while she figures things out left me more than eager to find out what happened. There was also a decent amount of romantic tension, and I’ll say right here that this book is for adults only due to mature scenes and some strong language. There are descriptions of a few sexual encounters, not all of which are between Rachael and her husband. If you cannot abide cheating in your romance fiction, you’ll want to skip this one. If you’re concerned about in-laws sex, I won’t spoil, but I will say that you should be pretty safe.
For the most part, this flowed beautifully. There were some places where the dialogue felt stilted, mainly due to a lack of contractions. As a result, the characters came off sounding too formal. There were also many errors throughout—missing or misused punctuation and some missing words. There were also a few instances of the wrong word being used, such as “though” when it should have been “through.” Overall, these things occasionally slowed down my reading experience, but the story always pulled me back quickly.
Due to the errors, I am forced to rate The Dungeon Master’s Wife 3 out of 4 stars. Otherwise, for me this was a 4-star read. I briefly considered giving it 2 because of some confusion toward the end, but that got cleared up, raising my rating back to 3. I recommend this book to D&D lovers, general gamers, or even fantasy fans who like romance or women’s fiction. While I think the book could be enjoyed by people outside this group, there would have to be at least a general interest in gaming or fantasy to appreciate the Underdark scenes, DM (Dungeon Master) notes, and character backstories included in the book. Personally, I loved it, and the ending left room for a sequel, which I hope to see soon.
The Dungeon Master's Wife
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