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One Night in Boukos

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On a night when the whole city is looking for love, two foreigners find it in the last place they expected.

The famous Psobion festival is about to begin in the city of Boukos, and the ambassador from Zash has gone missing. Marzana, captain of the embassy guard, and Bedar, the ambassador’s long-suffering secretary, hunt for him through the streets and taverns and brothels of Boukos. There they find unexpected help from a beautiful widowed shopkeeper and a teenage prostitute. Before the two Zashians learn what became of their ambassador, they will have to deal with foreign bureaucracy, strange food, stranger local customs, and murderers. And they may lose their hearts in the process.

One Night in Boukos is a standalone romance featuring two couples, one m/f and one m/m.

233 pages, ebook

First published June 16, 2018

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About the author

A.J. Demas

6 books305 followers
A.J. Demas writes about love and imaginary politics in a fictional ancient world. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and cute daughter.

A.J. also publishes fantasy and historical fiction with a metaphysical twist as Alice Degan.

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5 stars
154 (41%)
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158 (42%)
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50 (13%)
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5 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,843 followers
October 27, 2018
I enjoyed this greatly. It isn't quite a fantasy--set in an alt Mediterranean world with very well developed clashing cultures. Not quite a romance--there are two love stories going on, m/f and m/m, but neither takes sufficient prominence to fully qualify. And not quite a detective story, though there is a strong mystery of which the resolution is hilarious. So it does fall slightly between stools in terms of genre expectations, but if you just leave those at the door it's a beautifully written intriguing and immersive story of people trying to get the job done, coping with in some cases fairly crappy hands in life, and finding love and friendship. If you like the Astreiant books by Melissa Scott, and who could not, I suspect you'll love this.

NB the m/m love story is between a eunuch and a 16yo slave prostitute. I think this is handled really well, with cultural context used well but in no way handwaving the situation, still less using it for titillation.

A pleasure to read, and well edited too.
Profile Image for WhatAStrangeDuck.
474 reviews35 followers
September 8, 2018
4.5 stars. This is an utterly charming little gem of a book. The world building is good and the editing is quite decent. The story is for the most part a quaint connect-the-dots mystery without a body. But where this books really shines is the characters. I dare you not to fall in love with them. Both the main characters, Marzana and Bedar, and their respective love-interests are well fleshed-out and lovingly portrayed.

I got this book as a freebie but it would have been money well spent. It's also on KU. Caveat for the usual suspects: No on-page sex and it's queer but not m/m.

Highly recommended and I just one-clicked the next book by this author.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 74 books2,495 followers
December 23, 2019
This was a charming alternate-historical fantasy, made engaging by the two main characters. Marzana, captain of the embassy guard, and Bedar, the ambassador’s long-suffering secretary, leave their ambassador to his revelry on a Festival night, and head out on their own. Each of them has their own adventure (Marzana is straight, Bedar is gay) and the next morning they're worried to realize the ambassador never made it back home. They each set out to try to track down their wandering (and unpopular) boss, neither of them very concerned at first. And each meets someone who makes their pulse beat faster, and distracts them from their search.

The story progresses slowly, and there's a surprising lack of urgency in their search at first (explained by their disdain for the ambassador and their discovery that he spent the early part of the evening engaging in pleasures frowned on back home.) The world-building is well done, and both men are enjoyable and distinct points of view.

The tone is light and warm, despite the omnipresence of slavery in the story line (Bedar is a slave), and the potential for murder and political unrest. Both M/M and M/F couples get a happy ending (one more tentative than the other) in ways I found satisfying.
Profile Image for Elin.
Author 19 books190 followers
February 17, 2019
I loved every second of this - the humour, the mystery and the slow gentle paces of the romances. This has gone straight into my comfort-reads folder
Profile Image for Elena.
825 reviews80 followers
January 5, 2021
3.5 stars

This author can write, no doubt about that, and apparently she can also keep me interested and make me enjoy reading even when I’m not especially invested in the characters and events, as it happened with this book. She also clearly likes to hear her characters talk and think. Particularly talk and think at length about history, religion, different customs from the many different countries in the fantasy historical Mediterranean-inspired universe she seems to set all her books in. It’s interesting, but it makes for a very slow pace and unlike in Something Human, in this book the pace never picked up much.
I wouldn’t call this a romance, even though there are two couples and the ending was perfectly satisfying I didn’t feel like the focus was much on the romantic element, and the plot is so thin that it was clearly just an “excuse” to make the characters go around and meet and talk with each other. I enjoyed it anyway because I liked the writing and I liked—genuinely liked, not just thought they were well written—all the main characters, and I was very happy with the ending. Even though I wasn’t particularly invested in any relationship, with the exception of the friendship between Bedar and Marzana, or in any specific outcome for either couple—my only firm hope was for all the main characters to be happy by the end of the book—I think the ending would satisfy any romance reader. It certainly satisfied me.

There are also 3 snippets, 1 prequel and 2 sequels, available after subscribing to the author’s newsletter. I loved the prequel for the insight it gave into , and I enjoyed the two sequels as well, even if I was left with some questions about . Maybe another short will answer those questions in the future. Or one of the author’s other books, since they’re all set in the same universe.
Profile Image for Lee Welch.
Author 7 books262 followers
October 29, 2018
I bought this book after reading the author’s recent m/m historical romance Something Human which I loved. This second story cements the fact that I’ve found a new auto-buy author in AJ Demas. One Night in Boukos is a mystery/adventure/romance featuring two charming and very different couples (one M/F and one M/M). Set in an alt-Golden-Age Mediterranean the masterful world-building and characterisation are reminiscent of Mary Renault at her finest. The thing that AJ Demas does SO WELL is to portray characters from different cultures with such insight and understanding. I love how her characters delight in each other’s differences and are always ready to interrogate their own cultural preconceptions and expectations. The writing is excellent – easy and flowing – the mystery intriguing, and the romances sweet and convincing. As a fan of m/m romance, perhaps it’s not surprising that I loved Bedar and Pheres best – though Marzana and Chereia were also a pleasure. I hardly ever give out five stars, but this earned such a solid 4.5 that it seems churlish not to round it up. My only criticisms would be that occasionally I felt the intricate world-building got in the way of the pacing/plot, and also that there was, curiously, little tension even when the ambassador had been missing for ages (and had likely been murdered) and corpses and poison had been found. People looking for a sexy read may want to look elsewhere as the book is low-heat, though it still manages to deliver all the feels. Despite my (minor) criticisms, I loved this book and will certainly re-read it.
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,551 reviews100 followers
December 10, 2018
3.5 Stars

This is an odd one. I guess this is historical AU, since it's set in an alternate world, but doesn't have any fantasy elements. The world-building is sprinkled throughout, and is largely accomplished by the culture clash of the Sashian embassy staying in the Pueschaian town of Boukos to open trade routes between the two countries, so it comes across more naturally than the info-dumping one might come across in other AU novels.

During a party, the ambassador to Zash goes missing but this isn't noticed until the following morning. His personal secretary Bedar and Bedar's friend Marzana, the captain of the guard, go on a discreet manhunt through Boukous as they try to follow the crumbs of the ambassador's trail after his disappearance. To complicate matters further, the city is preparing for the annual festival to honor their god of debauchery, Psobos, a most un-Sashian ritual. Along the way, they meet a couple of citizens of the town and slowly fall in love over the course of a most unusual night.

This is a charming little tale. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it for my Prime loan, and that just added to the charm. Despite the urgency of Bedar and Marzana's mission, this story unfolds at a leisurely pace. There's a spattering of humor, a little action, but mostly it's just two men out of their depths as they navigate an unknown city full of people they don't understand only to discover they're not so different after all.

I thought I had the endgame figured out at one point, but I was only right about part of it. Chereia and Pheres were a great supporting cast and just as fully fleshed out as Marzana and Bedar. The m/f and m/m couples get equal page time to develop and are respectfully handled in the difficulties that faced both pairings. That makes one a little less satisfying than the other, but certainly still an HFN. (To be clear, this isn't Romance and there's no on-page sex.)
Profile Image for Hart_D (ajibooks).
355 reviews9 followers
November 30, 2021
I enjoyed this book so much! I love this world that AJ Demas has created. Bedar and Marzana are both great point-of-view characters, and their friendship is really nice. Both of their romance plots are also very satisfying, although the romances here definitely take a backseat to the story of finding the missing ambassador.

But really, the book is about Marzana and Bedar immersed in this city that's foreign to them, which made me feel like I was visiting this place too. I think Boukos is the author's version of Athens, because of the statues (hermae, in ancient Athens), and I've always dreamed of seeing ancient Greece. There are so many wonderful details here.

Overall, this book gave me such good feelings! Definitely a keeper.
Profile Image for Rosa.
620 reviews6 followers
January 5, 2021
First book, and first BR of the year. It wasn't bad, it's well written and the characters are really likable and I loved to comment with my fellow BReaders. , but... nothing happens. The book is slow, I thought the action was going to pick up at some point but it didn't. All that issue with the Ambassador was an excuse for the characters to meet, and while that in itself isn't bad, it was like something was missing.
Profile Image for BevS.
2,706 reviews2 followers
December 24, 2020
Another very well-written story by A.J. Demas, set in a detailed alternate historical setting with quite a few chuckles and HEA's for both of the couples...just sorry it's taken me so long to read it. 4.25 stars.
Profile Image for M'rella.
1,299 reviews179 followers
September 22, 2018
Well.... this is just.... I don't know what to say. "Search desperately" my butt.

Not exactly a romance, not exactly an investigation, not exactly a political intrigue either. Lots of local history, local politics and each and every character wouldn't shut up about themselves personally.

I had to skim through the middle of the book; it dragged and dragged and dragged. The (very urgent, very "desperate") investigation into ambassador's disappearance was literally forgotten. Instead MCs talked their heads off with their newfound mates about local customs and how their countries would benefit from trade negotiations, completely ignoring the fact that for those negotiations to happen they need to find the damn ambassador, like yesterday.

So for all of you alternate history/universes fans, this is Dah Poison. Niagara Falls of ancient history of Earth-like world.

Since the description is somewhat misleading and I am neither an AH/AR/AU fan nor a fan of I-don't-know-how-shut-the-front-door characters, I am giving this 2 stars.

PS Not that it was badly written.

PPS So I was cranky when I wrote my review, mostly because while the book is nicely written it did not meet my expectations and it took me forever to read through the parts that stalled the investigation. Guess this one is not for me. That said, loved the episode in which the ambassador was found! :)
Profile Image for Hirondelle.
868 reviews180 followers
December 20, 2021
A glom is when you find a great book and then go off and read a lot of books by the same author in a row. I can not help doing it (a LOT), even if I am aware of its dangers, which are usually everything else falls short of the great book which started it and the reader, if so inclined, can start nitpicking flaws and patterns on the writer's style. And I am inclined to nitpicking books anyway, even if I would rather I was not.

The book which started my Demas glom was the great Sword Dance which is truly very good. This one serves as a kind of prequel to the second book in that trilogy Saffron Alley, in which it is the background of two secondary characters in there. My feelings are rather mixed about this book.

Two Zashian friends from the very first Zashion diplomatic mission to Boukos go look for their (voluntarily) missing ambassador, on the night and day of a dyonisiac festival in Boukos and each of them finds love (and eventually the ambassador gets found out). Boukos and its inhabitants are almost the main character and it is mostly a charming and very memorable setting, an antiquity alternate universe. But it is also a place where, realistically like in classic greek or roman society, slavery is normal and there are brothels of boy children. This got in my enjoyment of Boukos as a setting. Bad things happened to people in this story, particularly the protagonists of one the romantic (though asexual) love stories, between a Zashian eunuch (kidnapped as a child, castrated and enslaved for life) and a teenager in Boukos who was kidnapped and enslaved into prostitution as a child. They do get their HFN though and their story is still sensitively written (though you know, IMO rivalry between child brothels is not a FUNNY detail) but just warning of this definitely not cozy detail.

The other love story, between a guard and a Boukosian widow shopkeeper is lovely and it is cozy. Both romances feel slow and comfortable, even if they mostly take place in around 24 hours. Action also feels somewhat slow. Dialogue is fantastic as are a lot of the minor minor characters around.

Profile Image for Coco.V.
47.1k reviews4 followers
Want to read
August 26, 2018
💝FREE on Amazon today (8/26/2018)!💝

On a night when the whole city is looking for love, two foreigners find it in the last place they expected.

The famous Psobion festival is about to begin in the city of Boukos, and the ambassador from Zash has gone missing. Marzana, captain of the embassy guard, and Bedar, the ambassador’s long-suffering secretary, hunt for him through the streets and taverns and brothels of Boukos. There they find unexpected help from a beautiful widowed shopkeeper and a teenage prostitute. Before the two Zashians learn what became of their ambassador, they will have to deal with foreign bureaucracy, strange food, stranger local customs, and murderers. And they may lose their hearts in the process.

One Night in Boukos is a standalone romance featuring two couples, one m/f and one m/m.
Profile Image for M.
242 reviews7 followers
December 10, 2021
Que cosa más deliciosa de libro, totalmente recomendado. Igual no es la versión más realista para un choque de culturas pero es todo tan encantador y con un humor tan entrañable que se perdona enseguida. Para terminar con el corazón contento.
Profile Image for Magdalena.
40 reviews2 followers
December 17, 2021
This was delightful. A "historical" (because it's set in a fictional city-state reminiscent of Ancient Greece) novel imbued with the same sense of exhilaration and possibility as "Before sunrise". With a small but well engineered geopolitical intrigue at its heart, the book effortlessly unfolds in two gorgeous love stories. The ending was a tiny bit too sugary for my taste, especially considering how subtle everything else had been but it still doesn't detract from the whole experience, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Profile Image for Grace.
63 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2022
This was a fun read for its setting more than anything. I really enjoy when historical fantasy goes urban, and this book was interesting because the Greek/classics inspiration is generally underused in fantasy. So cool to see people being very human and ordinary in a time period that is usually portrayed as dramatic af.
Demas also really brought the peculiarities of greek gods and the shenanigans of party festivals to Psobios and Boukos. I liked the shocked prudishness of our protagonists as foreign visitors and reluctant participants in the festival. Their reactions disguised the book’s exposition well, which was significant in a work as focused on culture and setting as this one.
For the story events themselves, I was a little surprised that the mystery was more of a framing devise than a high stakes plot, but I wasn’t mad about it. It was a cool way to set a clock on the story, but also to push our characters into the festivities of Psobion.
The romances, which ended up being the meat of the story, were good but not SUPER meaty. It makes sense that we wouldn’t see too much development over the course of a single night, but I was a little sad to have missed the course of their relationships prior to the epilogue time jump.
One Night in Boukos had nothing particularly deep to say but it was a positive vibe all around. I liked it a lot.
Profile Image for Shivanee Ramlochan.
Author 7 books129 followers
September 21, 2021
I have fallen in love with the world of this novel. It's the same world that exists in Demas' Sword Dance series, a rich, ancient Greco-Mediterranean civilization of pure, unabashed speculation, and I am *here* for it, in all its queer, puritanical, orgiastic, military, politically fraught, culturally polyvalent excess. It feels, in short, like a *world*. I believe everything about its construction and its citizens: intemperate, passionate, contradictory, pious, rebellious.

Marzana and Bedar, the Zashian pair of narrators who guide us through this one Boukossian night, are markedly different, but in their separate/intertwined journeys, they raise questions cut from the same cloth: what does it mean to be a man, and a good one? Do the gods shape our destinies, or can we hew them ourselves? How can you own your autonomy if you're enslaved, and how can you be a faithful soldier if you follow morally flaccid masters?

Finally, I long to visit Chereia's sweet shop on the city's hill, stand there with the sea wind on my scalp, the aroma of saffron and anise and rosewater wafting from the hopeful ovens.
Profile Image for sigaloenta.
475 reviews20 followers
May 25, 2020
Another very fun, gentle alt-Mediterranean not!Greek/not!Persian romance novel. Entertaining potshots at Sparta, and I continue to really appreciate how accurately Demas portrays the hybrid & cross-cultural nature of "Ancient Greece" and its relationships with "The Persians". This is also a deeply hilarious novel, as the co-protagonists set out to search for their employer, gradually becoming more and more disgusted with him as they follow his trail of carousal around the city, while meanwhile finding allies (and eventual romantic partners) who gradually become more invested in the mystery than they are.

A thing that I especially enjoyed in this novel was Demas' incorporation of ancient-world fantasy tropes: a leading citizen's son captured by bandits and sold as a slave into a brothel! The gratitude of the Great King! It's done partly with a wink and a nod on part of both characters and author, but I always like it when fantasy authors incorporate into their worldbuilding the storytelling beats and tropes of the placetime they are modeling their world on.
Profile Image for Daphne.
241 reviews21 followers
March 6, 2019
#readharder19 A book published prior to Jan 1 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads

I really enjoyed this! An alternate ancient world reminiscent of Ancient Greece and Persia, on which the author surely put considerable skill and research. It was very convincing and immersive. The plot centers around a mystery with a touch of romance and it kept me reading and enjoying it throughout. There are important issues addressed that are not glossed over, such as slavery, and the characters are delightful. Highly enjoyable, I definitely want to read more of this author's work.
Profile Image for Highlyeccentric.
759 reviews40 followers
May 2, 2020
Apparently I forgot to note when I started this, so I've arbitrarily set it as 1 March. Somewhere between Feb 16 and 1 March would be more accurate. I found it really hard to get into, but the problem is definitely me, not the book. First New Country Stress and then pandemic brain - I've only been able to focus on fiction in the past couple of weeks. When I did I liked it, quite a lot. I can't think of any particular complaints, but I'm struggling to think critically about things that aren't Chaucer or Bad Op Eds right now.
Profile Image for Veronika.
Author 1 book68 followers
May 31, 2020
Tolles World Building (es spielt in einer Art alternativen altem Rom und es gibt wundervolles "Sparta-Bashing" *hust*), sympathische Charaktere, aber ein wenig haben mir Angst und hurt&comfort gefehlt. Das liegt aber an mir und meiner Vorliebe fürs Dramatische.
Also historische Liebeskomödie aber sehr schön und unterhaltsam. Es gibt eine hetero Romanze und eine schwule Romanze und beide werden sehr liebevoll entwickelt.
Profile Image for Aussie54.
300 reviews6 followers
September 4, 2018
Overall this was an enjoyable read, although it did get bogged down now and then with detailed foreign politics that I skimmed over. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Profile Image for Tori.
870 reviews20 followers
August 19, 2019
This was an interesting read. It's not really a romance novel, although there are romantic elements in both a m/f and m/m pairing. I liked both couples a lot and would read a lot more about them.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books70 followers
November 8, 2021
Nov 2021
The first time I tried to read this novel, I DNFed it before I reached the middle (see below). Then I read the same author's Sword Dance trilogy and loved it. So I returned to this book, and this time finished it.
I'm still not enamored by this story. It starts very slowly and only gets a little faster after 50% on my kindle. It is a quiet cozy mystery with a whiff of romance, set in an imaginary world with a strong resemblance to ancient Greece. It feels like an introduction to a very interesting and multifaceted world, where all the other books by this author also take place, rather than a fantasy adventure story.
I like both protagonists, and the happy endings for both of them charmed me (I like happy endings), although neither character is well developed. The conflict is almost non-existent, just small problems people face in our real world and in Demas's imaginary one. But the world building is truly fascinating.
Overall: a nice and diverting read.
Aug 2021 - DNF at 35%
I read it a while, got bored, stopped, and couldn't bring myself to start reading it again. After about two months, I decided to give up and officially DNF it.
Profile Image for Tenny.
277 reviews2 followers
October 19, 2018
This book is pretty good, but its... how to put it, "looks are deceiving"? If you go without any ideas about what will happen, you will surely enjoy yourself. But if you have certain expectations, you might end up dissapointed.
Its certainly not a traditional m/m romance - the main two heroes, whose POVs we follow, do not end up together. They are friends and they both have romances, but not with each other - which is unusual in this genre. I had to kinda rewire my brain when I realized "hey, this is not going where I thought it was going". (and the book also has no sex scenes, I think)
But if you dont mind bit of unsualness, this books is a good read. It has bit of pacing issues and some parts are more enjoyable than others, but this author surelly has a talent for bringing up emotions in me.
And the setting is positively amazing.
Profile Image for Fallingleave.
122 reviews4 followers
May 14, 2018
This book was like being on a vacation. There where so many exotic things and their was a special party in the town that was amazingly well written. I loved how I was brought from place to place and met a lot of eccentric people on the way.

My favorite character is Pheres, he is so endearing and I get why Bedar likes him the moment he lays eyes on him. The characters in this book are just so rich and they are all different with their own traits and thoughts.

In the beginning it went a little slow, but the more pages I turned, the more intrigued I became. Also the story-line with the ambassador was very original in my opinion. This story was a real surprise to me and I am so happy I could get an advanced copy of this book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 96 reviews

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