Fool Me Once (Court of Pain #1) by Ariana Nash

Dark fantasy MM, with heat, spice, intrigue and a cliffhanger ending, must be an Ariana Nash book. Fool Me Once is part one of a duet.

From the blurb:

The king of the Court of Love wants me dead, the queen wants me in her bed, and the prince… He wants the only piece of me I will never surrender.

They call me jester, dancer, trickster, lover.
I exist to entertain.

But behind my sideways smiles, my quick hands and magicians tricks, I trade in their lies, their secrets. I know their deepest desires, their wicked schemes. Their sins are my currency.

The Court of Love is a card castle, and I hold the card that’s about to bring it all down.

And they say I’m the fool…


Fool Me Once is a dark MM fantasy brimming with courtly spice, morally ambiguous anti-heroes, and a fool who plays them all.

This is a dark world with adult content. For triggers, please see the author's website.

Sheena's Review:

This book ruined me.

I have a little more to add than that, but that's the upshot. From the instant I met Lark, I was hooked.

"A fool is nothing without his repuation"

That's pretty much Lark's motto, he's nothing at all like the rest of the world sees, and as more and more layers of Lark are peeled back, I fell for him even more. This book has everything, intrigue, politics, heat and an antagonist that makes Joffrey from Game of Thrones look like a normal, well adjusted human being. I couldn't put this down, once I'd started it was all I could think about. I adore Lark and Arin and book two can't come quick enough for me.

There are trigger warnings for a reason, this book is DARK, but I can't recommend highly enough.

Rating: 5 Stars

Jacquie's Review:

I took my time over Fool Me Once because I read those warnings and knew I was in for a rough time. I also wanted to enjoy it and not miss anything.

This book is simultaneously dark, dangerous, and sad, but also beautiful, lush, and romantic.

So many dark themes, so please pay attention. Left on a cliffhanger, and I just don't know how Lark and Arin get a happy ending, but they deserve it after all that pain.

It made me think of Silk&Steel. The plot is twisty with something lurking under the surface. Razak is just... I have no words.

Like I said, dark, so please check out those warnings, some are: a LOT of violence, attempted suicide, and non-con. Those weren't in there for shock value, they are a crucial part of the story and were handled well.

Fool Me Once is going to sit in my brain for a while. The imagery of it is just beautiful and I need Lark to be okay in the end. He's done some bad things, he's going to do more, but he's tragic and needs love. I think Arin can be that for him.

Rating: 5 Stars

Jacqueleen the Reading Queen's Review:

"It didn't matter anyway; whatever we did, fate was coming for both of us.

But none of it could ever touch my heart.

Including the prince who liked to hide, the prince who wanted to juggle, the prince trying to bring hope back to his court. The prince who had fooled me."

Nash warned us. She said this was going to be dark, and dark it was. It was also spellbinding, intriguing, and had so many moving pieces on the chessboard I was never going to be able to figure out the moves in advance. That's what Nash's books are like and why they are almost always a 5 star read for me. There's so much going on with brilliant misdirections that you can never unravel it all until the final book is finished, bringing the entire picture together. Only then will everything finally makes sense. It's truly a talent.

I think my heart was in pain for the majority of this book, which makes the series title very apt. It hurt for Lark. It hurt for Prince Arin. It even hurt for Draven, whom you will come to know and I honestly don't trust. Draven is a wildcard in this book and based on previous experiences with this author I would peg him as someone who is going to bring great pain in the end. Whether that's with his death or awful betrayal remains to be seen. Either way it's going to hurt.

"I had to let Lark go, like I'd let go of my home. There was no use clinging to the memory of a man who hadn't existed. It had all been a lie."

The horrendous things Lark has endured in his short life were truly terrible. If Prince Razak doesn't die in a way that causes him to suffer I'll be wildly disappointed. I don't think I would have lasted as long as Lark has in his "care". Fortunately, Lark has a fire in him. It is ironic he plays the fool when he's often the smartest person in the room. I did take a little pleasure from Prince Arin getting one over on him though. I don't think Lark could have truly developed feelings for him without seeing him as a worthy opponent instead of the weak Prince who hides behind closed doors. This one ends on a bit of a cliffy. There's a major power play in motion and I honestly have no idea who's going to win.

Rating: 5 Stars

Miki J's Review:

I was totally entranced by this novel from the first chapter. A fantasy novel packed with intrigue, twists galore, drama and tension - felt like I was balanced on a knife's edge the whole way through!  

From the way the storyline goes, I'm not trusting myself on the first impressions of the characters... nor on where the romantic aspect will lead.  

There are layers upon layers and secrets within secrets... I'm holding out until the next installment - seriously, this is once fantastic novel and a brilliant start to the series!

Rating: 5 Stars

Fool Me Once is available to buy as an ebook, paperback, or to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.