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A Rival Most Vial

By R. K. Ashwick

Two potion shops, one heated rivalry…until hate bubbles over into something else.

Any adventurer worth their sword knows about Ambrose Beake. The proud, quiet half-elf sells the best, and only, potions in the city—until a handsome new shopkeeper named Eli opens another potion shop across the street, throwing Ambrose’s peace and ledgers far off balance.

Within weeks, they’re locked in a war of price tags and products—Ambrose’s expertise against Eli’s effortless charm. Toil leads to trouble, the safety gloves come off, and right as their rivalry reaches a boiling point…

The mayor commissions them to brew a potion together.

The task is as complex as it is lucrative, pushing both men to the limits of their abilities and patience. Yet as the fires burn and cauldrons bubble…they find a different sort of chemistry brewing.

John Mauro:

 “Eli’s Elixirs, or whatever it was, wouldn’t last more than a month on Rosemund Street.”

A Rival Most Vial is R.K. Ashwick’s cozy romantic fantasy featuring two potion shop owners who begin as rivals but inevitably fall in love.

Ambrose is a longtime potioneer who has built a loyal customer base through many years of quality work. He is shocked to discover that newcomer Eli has set up a flashy potion shop across the street, advertising huge discounts and luring customers with his bright smile and personable demeanor.

The story takes place in very close quarters in a narrow chasm known as the Scar:

“Rosemund Street was one of many avenues nestled at the bottom of the Scar, a deep chasm once inhabited by dragons and giant spiders.”

The small-scale setting suits the tale well, making it difficult for the lead characters to escape each other.

A Rival Most Vial alternates perspectives between the brooding Ambrose and energetic Eli. The book follows a standard enemies-to-lovers story arc with associated low-stakes drama. The romance is slow burn and decidedly PG-rated, with lots of pining and kisses on the forehead. 

A Rival Most Vial is a light and easy read, but it left me wanting more—more action, more drama, more suspense, more surprises, more humor—really more of anything to deepen the experience. Still, readers specifically looking for a light romantasy may want to pick this up.


Whitney Reinhart:

 I was enchanted by Ashwick’s A Rival Most Vial. From the set-up of the book itself with each chapter being a different step in the potion brewing process to the mundane, everyday lives of the characters. I think that’s what set it apart for me. I loved that the stakes were personal to each and didn’t involve earth-shattering consequences. The dangers, the desires, the emotions, the relationships, the grudges, the insecurities, the rivalries, the cooperations…they’re all intimate. For me, this was a microcosm view of ordinary folks…and it doesn’t matter that those folks are elves, gnomes, orcs, automatons, human, gay, straight, trans, asexual. All of that’s just unnecessary constructs and labels. It’s the coming together, the community, the acceptance that takes center stage here. 



Team Score: John 4, Whitney 8.5, Shaggy 8, Rebecca 5.5
Final Score: 6.5




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