There's a social commentary hidden somewhere in these pages. It must be there, for I conclude that subtext is why the book is so popular. Kelsea has become even vainer in this book than in the first. So much so that her magic has interpreted beauty to be the one true desire of her heart, thus makes her thin and pretty. It does have a purpose, as beauty ends up being the key to everything. Kelsea also suffers from the mental health issue of self-harm known as cutting. It turns out that this self-abuse was actually a path to power, that it was how she learned to heal. As such, encouragement for cutting is implied. Kelsea, once she's beautiful, uses a friend for sexual purposes- a friend who she doesn't have romantic feelings for, and who she believes is in a relationship with someone else. Rather than feeling guilty for turning her friend into a cheater (the friend is not in much of a position to say no to the queen), she feels relieved at the idea that he probably won't develop feelings for her. This is an interesting insight into the mind of a mistress. It's interesting that someone who is so opposed to slavery would wield her position of power in this manner. I certainly agree that she does not need a man to be whole, and does not need to marry a King or anyone else to cement herself. However, the idea that she'd rather manipulate someone into her bed instead of finding someone who actually wants her is disheartening. (She's the QUEEN. Not one single guy in the kingdom that might willingly offer her company? There's a whole area dedicated to prostitution— at least one of those guys would have traded a no-strings night for a few coins. Instead, she makes a loyal man become disloyal.) Kelsea, as a main character, I'd only give 2 stars.
All that being said, there's another story that's woven in to the book. Lily, and her story, is exceptional. If just that portion were made into a novella, it would be worth it. There is exemplary writing in those snippets. The Lily story I would give 5 stars to in a heartbeat.
In the final Kelsea chapter, the book hits a small climax of sorts. Much like in the first book, there isn't an actual ending. The first book was just an introduction and a bit of rising action. This book is more rising action. SPOILER ALERT! As one reads about the possible army coming, then about the army coming, then sees it coming, one expects a battle. There's a point where it's clear that there aren't enough pages left for a battle. That's because there isn't one. But no, nothing is resolved. One character laughs, one cries, and the army does nothing. END SPOILER. Apparently, there's going to be another book.
Do NOT try to read this book without the first one- you'll have no idea who anyone is. And don't try reading the ending first, because the ending is part of Lily's story, not Kelsea's, so it won't make any sense.