This was one of my very rare cases of venturing outside my comfort zone of contemporary romance. I really don't do fantasy. But every now and again something or someone lures me to such a book. Guarded had a lot in its favor; great reviews, the fact that I had absolutely loved the last book I read by Kim Fielding, it was short enough that I'd get through it even if it should turn out to not be my thing, but what really convinced me to try was when it came out in audio narrated by Greg Tremblay.
And it was so worth it. Very much so. (Even though I wondered why Volos had been given something like a Scottish accent).
Volos has survived a brutal war and imprisonment and is now working as a palace guard. He has wanted Prince Berhanu since he first laid eyes on him but Berhanu attitude towards Volos is somewhere between disinterest and contempt. This doesn't stop Volos from taking on the one-man rescued mission the King asks of him when Berhanu is captured by enemies.
Volos finds the place Berhanu is being held but cannot simply rush in as the enemy has him outnumbered. So he gets to watch from a distance while Berhanu is brutalized. Not gonna lie, this part was nasty. But it helped really draw me into the story and feel Volos's helplessness and despair at not being able to save Berhanu in time.
Rescue mission accomplished they spend the rest of the story healing and finding their way to each other. Especially Berhanu needs to heal from his abuse before he can give back the strength Volos gives to him. But they eventually get their sweet HEA.