The Substitute (Guntram de Lisle #1) - Tionne Rogers 4.5 stars - Yes, this is going to be a long review. You have been warned :P

The best way to describe this book is as surprising.... and frustrating. I had this idea in my mind of how this story was going to be that was completely wrong. I purposely didn't read any reviews about it a few months before I read it because I didn't want to be spoiled or have some subconscious expectations placed on it. So, all I knew about the book was what the blurb explains and the fact it's poorly translated with bad editing. (Yes, I am one of those readers who can read a review on a certain book and forget about everything I learned from the review weeks down the road lol)

The first fifty to a hundred pages of it are the most brutal to go through. Not because they consist of violence (even though they do) but because of the poor translation. If you can get past those (and I strongly recommend you do) then it is easier to read the rest of the book because you get kind of used to it. You start filling in the words that should be there, replacing the correct gender words in your mind and understanding what is ultimately being said. It's not easy, that's for sure. I couldn't fully immerse myself into the story like I would have preferred (although I think if I did I would be a wreck right now considering how deep of the emotions I already felt would have been tripled at least!) because I had to read 'lightly' so I wouldn't constantly falter at the errors :'-(

This book is twisted because Konrad makes it that way. He's a powerful man in a powerful position. He's cold, brutal, obsessive and ruthless. He doesn't care who he hurts or how he does it. He's manipulative, unstable, deranged, deceitful and always needs to be in control while never showing weakness. He's the type of man you do not cross because he will retaliate in a much worse way than how you actually deceived him. However, he's loyal, sticks (mostly) to his word and respectful. From the moment he saw Guntram, he fell head over heels in love. Guntram is kind, sweet, innocent and lovable but a bit insecure. He has a heart of gold, who only wants to help out the poor. He's physically fragile because of his heart condition, beautiful and an amazing artist. He has an 'old soul' as they say, having better manners than even the oldest of aristocrats and treating everyone with respect no matter their position, power or title. He also, unfortunately, attracts the 'love' from all the predators. He's gullible in the sense he always sees the best in people and accepts their words as truth. He will believe almost anything but he's stubborn and loyal and there's no swaying him on certain things. He is the perfect Consort.

The start of Guntram and Konrad's relationship is rocky at best. They go through a lot of ups and downs because of Konrad's possessive, controlling nature making Guntram into the perfect obedient boy. In my opinion, they are both idiots and fools. They caused a lot of useless grief and aggravation, making me get so frustrated I wanted to make them real to strangle them both! They forced themselves into situations that only made their trust in each other falter. They brought it upon themselves and then only made the situation worse by how one or the other reacted. I either loved one and hated the other or I hated one and loved the other. There's no other word for it but frustrating.

Some might say Konrad took advantage of Guntram at a tender time but I honestly don't believe that. Konrad was more besotted with Guntram than Guntram was with him. Konrad needed Guntram in the beginning whereas Guntram did not need a thing. If Konrad wasn't so persistent, Guntram would have left Konrad for good. As the story progresses, though, Guntram falls deeply for Konrad. However, no matter what the surface says, Guntram still holds all the cards in their relationship and the ability to make their lives miserable. Konrad might look as if he rules Guntram but Guntram can do more damage mentally to Konrad than anyone else. Konrad still needs Guntram to be mentally happy. He makes Konrad calm and less vindictive and crazy. Guntram, however, does not need him. Want him, yes, but he does not necessarily need Konrad to survive life and move on whereas Konrad would eventually go crazy and do something exceptionally stupid and get killed. :-(

There are a lot of things I'm leaving out of this review. Mainly all the conflict with The Order and their problems, Konrad's enemies and the things Konrad did when he went temporarily crazy with the belief he could make Guntram jealous enough to take him back. I'm not explaining them because I don't feel they were the focus of the story. To me, the story revolved around Guntram and Konrad and the other stuff is just details. The things Konrad did, did not rate high enough on my 'to care' meter to mention. Lol. Others might disagree, though.

The secondary characters were some on my favorites. I loved Guntram and I loved Konrad even though they were both idiots. People like Ferdinand, Friedrich, Michael, Heindrick, Alexei and Goran were right up there as my favorites, too. They were actually a valuable part to the story, though. They kind of push Guntram and Konrad into some problems but they also played a major roll in getting them back together and showing Guntram he has the power to make or break Konrad. And I just want to say how cute their nicknames for Guntram were ^_^

I want more than anything to give this book five stars because to me it was an exceptional read but I can't. I loved this book in every possible way but the poor translating and editing plus the more than occasional inconsistencies with hair colors, eye colors and names grated on my nerves a bit. Along with that, I want more of Konrad and Guntram. The ending was a bit unsatisfying. I mean, on one hand, Guntram finally accepts he loves Konrad and wants to be with him as an equal but then on the other hand, that was it. A few sentences of them heartfully telling each other they will be together for ever (a bit corny, yes, but I thought it was sweet ^_^) and that's it. I want more :-( I want to know how they cope now their relationship is back to being an intimate one and Guntram isn't punishing Konrad by being cold and distant. I want to know if Konrad keeps his word to Guntram about being equals and accepting he can't boss Guntram around like he did when Guntram was still young and naive. I want to know more. I demand more.

Oh, and I desperately wanted to label this a sweet read because underneath it all, it was. Konrad was hopelessly in love with Guntram from the moment he saw him (like a love sick teenager). He was a sweetheart during the times he wasn't making Guntram miserable and acting like a complete douche bag. So, that explains the 'a-sweet-cute-read' shelf in case any of you were wondering. :P Oh, and um, well, there's kind of cheating. Not really when you think about it but, to me, it felt as if it were cheating. If you love someone so desperately it hurts to live without them (even if you break up with them, cuz really, you are in love) you shouldn't need to find another to warm your bed. Whether it's a way to make another jealous or to cope with grief, I don't like it and whether it's kissing, rubbing or going all the way, it still feels like cheating to me. Hmph.

Overall, I absolutely recommend this book. Some might not like it, after all Konrad is violent, possessive and aggressive, but others who like those types of traits in their stories will. Like I said, though, the editing and translating have a lot to be desired and some might give up just because of that but I strongly recommend, if you do read it, to try to look past those errors and see the beautiful story underneath.