Xavier Axelson's intense medieval romance novel, "Velvet," examines issues of loyalty, social class and sexual identity, as experienced by a young tailor, Virago, who risks everything in the pursuit of happiness and remaining true to himself.
As the son of the tailor to a king, Virago was raised within the monarchy alongside his privileged, lifelong friend, the king's son, Duir. When Duir is named king after his father's death, he appoints Virago as the royal tailor, which he proudly accepts--much to the chagrin of his blind brother, Sylvain, who doesn't trust Duir or any member of the kingdom, because he feels they look down upon those not born into royalty.
Virago initially dismisses his brother's sentiment, but begins to notice changes in Duir's behavior, whose newfound authority begins to affect his judgment. When Virago receives a package that contains a rare fabric, velvet, requested by his father before his death, he offers to craft a vest for Duir to wear at coronation. This gesture, however, does not put Virago's mind at ease when he meets and grows especially fond of Seton, a lute player. His attraction to Seton does not go unnoticed by Cale, one of Duir's minions, who violently threatens to expose his forbidden desire.
Axelson's prose forcibly and effectively conveys Virago's conflicted thought process, whether having to question his loyalty for someone he has known and adored since childhood, or comprehending the immediate connection he shares with a man he just met. Furthermore, the understandable chemistry between Virago and Seton seems genuine, and their heated interactions are fraught with unbridled passion.
Considering the consequences of Virago's actions would likely result in his death, and for Seton and Sylvain as well, the tension builds throughout the story and the reader is left hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Therefore, the young lovers revel in every opportune moment they have to share together.
The element of hierarchy and class structure (or lack thereof) is an asset to the story, and given the popularity and success of shows such as "The Tudors" and "Game of Thrones," "Velvet" is a refreshing addition to the genre.
Seventh Window Publications