“In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.” ~ Isaac Asimov
Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar of 'Checkmate' by Nicki Bennet and Arial Tachna, has one main concern—supporting his son, Esteban. Anything else, including his own pleasure, takes second place. His occupation as a mercenary is a dangerous one but it pays well; for Teodoro, it's worth the risk. When he's hired to find Christian Blackwood, son of an English nobleman, Teodoro sees it as an easy job, over and done with swiftly. What he doesn't realize is that retrieving Christian will engage not only his sword, but his mind and his heart as well.
Teodoro accomplishes his mission, getting Christian away from Hawkins, his bodyguard, but wounds him in the process. After hearing that Christian's father sent him away for his own protection and learning that St. Denys, the man who hired Teodoro to 'retrieve' Christian, is the one Christian needs protection from, Teodoro understands Christian is in trouble. He will not leave him unprotected until he can eliminate the threat, so Teodoro takes over as Christian's bodyguard. After making preparations for Hawkins to be taken care of, Teodoro brings Christian back to Madrid with him. From the start, Teodoro and Christian have a strong attraction to each other, but honor prevents Teodoro from propositioning Christian; he thinks he has nothing to offer Christian and that there is no way Christian could possibly want someone so far below his class.
Teodoro's son, Esteban, is not happy when Christian insinuates himself into their home and, apparently, into the heart of his father as well. With patience and consistency, Esteban comes to see that Christian isn't there to usurp his position or take Teodoro away from him and begins to trust him. Esteban also sees how much happier Teodoro is with Christian around. With the help of his best friend, Raul, Teodoro obtains evidence in writing of St. Denys association with conspirators in an attempt to assassinate the king of Spain when he meets with the English Negotiator, who happens to be Christian's father. St. Denys is condemned and executed, but that's not the end of their problems. There is another coconspirator out there to be taken care of. Before Teodoro can present his evidence, he is arrested by soldiers of the Inquisition charged with Sodomy. It's obvious to all that the man working with St. Denys is to blame for alerting them because he thinks it's a way to get rid of him. His family and friends agonize over what will happen to Teodoro and desperately search for a way to save him, because, generally, no one escapes the Inquisition’s clutches.
I thoroughly enjoyed this swashbuckling tale and fell in love with the characters. Teodoro having a son was a nice twist. Raul added a touch of the exotic; the mystery surrounding the man was intriguing and his dedication to Teodoro was admirable. Teodoro and Christian's miscommunication about their attraction gave them time to get to know each other better before jumping right into bed. Teodoro and Esteban as well, didn't give Christian enough benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was just a spoiled, privileged child, instead of the fair-minded, not condescending man he actually was. If you like swords for hire, hot sex, despicable enemies, intrigue, betrayal, and a happy ending, then you may enjoy this book. Thanks, Nikki and Ariel, for the exciting story. I'm looking forward to reading more of the series.