Title: Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Author: Shira Anthony
Length: 69,784 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty**
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between**
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters (Merfolk), Sea/Rivers/Sail, Under the Sea, Slaves/Prisoner, Indentured (Sexual) Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Multiple/Other Partners, Spies, Civil War, Resistance, Dreams, Superpowers, Reincarnation, Sex in Shifted Form (underwater mermen sex, which is much more interesting than underwater basket weaving)
Rating: Pretty Good
Taren Laxley has never known anything but life as a slave. When a lusty pirate kidnaps him and holds him prisoner on his ship, Taren embraces the chance to realize his dream of a seagoing life. Not only does the pirate captain offer him freedom in exchange for three years of labor and sexual servitude, but the pleasures Taren finds when he joins the captain and first mate in bed far surpass his greatest fantasies.
Then, during a storm, Taren dives overboard to save another sailor and is lost at sea. He’s rescued by Ian Dunaidh, the enigmatic and seemingly ageless captain of a rival ship, the Phantom, and Taren feels an overwhelming attraction to Ian that Ian appears to share. Soon Taren learns a secret that will change his life forever: Ian and his people are Ea, shape-shifting merfolk… and Taren is one of them too. Bound to each other by a fierce passion neither can explain or deny, Taren and Ian are soon embroiled in a war and forced to fight for a future—not only for themselves but for all their kind.
Believe it or not (and I can’t), this is the first book I’ve read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I’ve really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn’t only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I’m really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren’t as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I’m glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time — about 8 weeks — but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he’s sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters’ hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn’t know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he’s just a rigger for his master’s shipyard, he hopes that one day he’ll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he’s sold to pay off his master’s debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He’s not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He’s been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He’s submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man’s kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain’s prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he’s never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover’s bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn’t know or understand — why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he’s knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian’s home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn’t feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn’t and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they’re separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons — regret and guilt — that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it’s as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don’t know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I’m excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one — seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian — will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Captive/Slave, Civil Wars, Dreams, Dreamspinner Press, Indentured Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Merfolk, Multiple/Other Partners, Prisoner, Reincarnation, Resistance, Sea/Sail/Rivers, Series, Shifter Sex, Shifters, Shira Anthony, spies, Superpowers, Under the Sea
Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.
Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉
Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Artists, Best Friends, Blood Bathory, Co-Authored, Cops, Friends to Lovers, Grief, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Mythology, NYC, On the Lam, Paris, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Second Chances, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Shifters, Torquere, Vampire, Villain
Title: A Knight to Remember
Author: Anne Barwell
Length: 65,490 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Dragons, Royalty, Alternate Reality Historical, Quests, Secrets & Lies, Merlin-fic, Magic, Mages, Shifters, Amnesia
Rating: So So
**This review contains some spoilers**
“The last of your line will be in the embrace of a dragon.”
Aric, Crown Prince of Astria, has been brought up to believe that all dragons are evil. But when he speaks with one, he finds himself questioning those beliefs. The dragon tells him to find a sword in Sherwin Forest to save not only his kingdom but also his sister, Georgia, who must otherwise wed the prince of a neighboring kingdom.
At the start of his quest, Aric dons a disguise and meets Denys, an archer and herbalist who lives alone at the edge of the forest. Denys agrees to guide Aric into the forest, but then Georgia appears, revealing Aric’s true identity.
However, Aric learns he is not the only one keeping secrets. Denys has a few of his own that could change both of their lives forever.
I was immediately drawn to this book for two reasons. First, I’ve wanted to read an Anne Barwell book forever. I’ve bought all of her’s as they’ve come out. They’ve all seemed rather interesting to me but for some reason I’ve never had time to actually read them. So I was really excited that she had written another book, which secondly, seemed rather Merlin-esque. You’ve got a crown prince, a king that has banished magic and is a pretty crappy father, and the fable of dragons which are supposed to be extinct, but really aren’t. How could I refuse, right? It’s like Merlin, but with gay guys!
And my reading went much like I thought it would, at least for the first half of the book, roughly. We meet Aric, the crown prince living under his father’s thumb and doing just about everything he can to make his own way and hold true to his own beliefs under such a stifling reign. His father has banished magic and Aric and his twin sister have grown up with quite a biased education about their history and the history of magic and magical beings in Astria. His beliefs are challenged when he once again sneaks out to visit his aunt, his dead mother’s sister — a forbidden act by his father — and is instead greeted in a forest glade by an ancient dragon. He’s baffled to see it at all (believing them to be extinct) and even more confused when the dragon doesn’t show the signs of aggression he was taught. Instead, the dragon speaks to him, the most surprising thing of all, and tells him that to save his kingdom and his sister, he must set out on a quest to seek the sword hidden in Sherwin Forest.
The Sherwin Forest is legend, a dark place said to once be the home of magic and dragons themselves, a place where no living person returns. But Aric must believe that what the dragon said was true. Their kingdom is in danger from their allies and a marriage treaty that would see his twin sister Georgia married off to the son of the neighboring King. Aric doesn’t trust them, however. It isn’t, as his father thinks, because he won’t let go of his sister, but because of a treacherous conversation he overheard, in which Georgia will become a pawn for their so-called allies to take over Astria. Georgia would just become a pawn and her happiness means more to Aric than anything else, even the kingdom he’ll one day rule.
My experience reading this book was good and disappointing at the same time. The first half of the book had me enthralled. I love a good sword and sorcery story and the first half of this book started well and continued strongly. Soon after Aric sets off to find his way to retrieve the sword from the fabled forest, he meets a handsome man in the woods that seems to have a special magical affinity, no matter how much he denies it. The man, Denys, is keeping his own secrets, but seems to believe what he says, which only makes him more mysterious. He reluctantly decides to help Aric, of whom he also knows very little. But Denys knows what happens to those who venture into the forest and how strange it is — how it can mess with your mind and how changed you are if you can make it back out. His strong and confusing connection to Aric make him want to help.
For me, this story really changed while they were in the forest. While I don’t begrudge an author a choice in their own book simply because it’s a plot device that I’m really not fond of (amnesia), that was the turning point for me in this book because after that the story seemed to collapse in on itself. Before that point, about midway through the book, there seemed to be a clear drive in the plot with their trek through the forest and getting to know each other. Afterwards, the story seemed to explode in different directions and it all became a little confusing for me. I felt like maybe the story wasn’t sure where it wanted to go. And yes, while it did eventually come back around, it felt like it was leaving out quite a bit of the story. I mean, it didn’t feel finished, which brings me to another issue. I wondered if this was the beginning of a sequel. If it is, then I really wish that Dreamspinner would promote it as such. That has happened before with some their books, where they’re the first part of a series but it isn’t written about anywhere. And maybe that decision comes later — it’s possible — but that changes my perspective on how I read the book and it definitely means that I consider the book in a different light. If it isn’t a first book in a series, then this story felt greatly unfinished. I didn’t particularly feel like the romance was finished but the main plot seems like an early part of a much longer story.
I pretty much knew the direction that the story was going to go — the main “surprise” if you will — from reading the blurb and at the very least from the minute that Aric meets Denys just after he speaks to the dragon. It’s not a very big leap to assume that is the case. And I was right. I suppose what disappointed me was the confusion in the way it got there. It seemed a bit messy. I have avoided, so far, reading other reviews for this book, but I would be interested now in taking a look or talking to anyone else who read this to see what they think. It’s possible, of course, that I just didn’t “get” this one and that it wasn’t for me. Maybe it’s the author’s style, as this is the first book of her’s that I’ve read. But part of me thinks not, since I felt such a change between the first half and the second half.
No matter my ultimately feelings, however, I still liked the book okay. I just wanted to like it a lot more.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Amnesia, Anne Barwell, Dragon Shifters, Dragons, Dreamspinner Press, Mage, Magic, Merlin-fic, Quests, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Shifters
Title: The Flame
Author: Skylar Jaye
Length: 39,299 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Magic, Mages, Magic School!!, Family Issues, Secrets & Lies, Lots of Enemies, College, Shifters
Rating: So So
Despite the stigma against magiks other than the four elemental types, Jeremy Ashe works hard toward a degree in runic studies, navigating his way through family disproval and school clique politics while trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. What he never figured on is The Flame, Samuin College’s fire mage prodigy, Marcus Smith. Sparks strike and threaten to raze Jeremy’s plans to the ground. When strange fires begin to burn all over campus, clues point to Marcus. Suddenly life isn’t just complicated, it’s dangerous.
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this author only has a couple of short stories in anthologies and The Flame is their first solo publication. In a way, that shows in this book, but I also saw a lot that I liked and overall, I enjoyed reading the book.
Jeremy Ashe is a sophomore at Samuin College, the mage college where almost all magi train. He’s a private guy with just a couple of solid friends. He also has a secret… one that involves his family and all the trouble they have brought upon him, simply for being related to them. It’s a drag, and so something he has kept secret from everyone. Jeremy is at the college studying runes, though he has an innate wind elemental ability, something that he clashes on in fundamental theory with his family and the general mindset of the magical community. He sees it as another way to work his magic, through the runes he casts rather than using his wind ability directly. And it does show in his versatility. It helps, of course, that he’s a pretty serious student, but his arcane course of study is one of the least popular, and in a world where power is measured above all else (including even family lineage), he’s seen as an unwanted castoff of a larger system of more important magi.
“The Flame”, or better known as Marcus Smith, is a fire elemental and a prodigy at the school. A senior and a TA, he’s the most popular guy in school and it isn’t really unwarranted. His looks and personality help, of course. But, owing to the nickname, his talent shines above all. He’s one of the most powerful fire mages alive in the world, giving him unparalleled choices about his direction in life, though everyone knows that he’s going straight to the top. It’s enough for the magical community to overlook his non-magical parentage, a rare and sudden ability, especially for one so powerful.
Jeremy and Marcus become acquainted through Jeremy’s roommate Aiden and from there begin a slow courtship. Jeremy prefers to stay out of the limelight — making his feelings for Marcus incredibly ill-fated — and his history with his family has taught him that he’s the unwanted shadow not good enough for someone who burns as bright a talent as Marcus. Their relationship seems doomed to fail, simply because Jeremy believes it so, when the two become caught up in an arsonist mystery around the college.
To be completely frank, this story is a good one, but it could have easily been twice as long with the amount of plot involved here and all the various tangents that were brought in. In the shorter novella format this book is in now, there’s simply too much extraneous information that really took away some of my enjoyment in the story. There were several details about the magic that were a bit confusing and stated outright without much explanation as if I’d understand them naturally. And there’s a couple of plot threads that fizzle out and don’t seem to go anywhere. While reading, I wanted this story to either pare down the detail and give a more streamlined plot to give the story focus and more drive, or either take all that detail and fill in the gaps, making a much longer novel. In that case, I would have enjoyed having that extra detail to flesh out the world, but there wouldn’t be a rush to get it all in and the details could settle as the story progressed in a slower pace. A lot of this is really just novice writing issues that will flesh out the more Skylar Jaye writes and publishes, and I don’t really hold it against them. Assuming that they are still a novice writer anyway, and that Skylar Jaye isn’t a new pseudonym for another author, which you never really know, I suppose. Still, this seems like an author who has good stories to tell, such as this one, but which get a bit bungled up in the execution. I’m looking forward to future stories where Skylar Jaye has a bit more practice in getting the story down. Because more than execution problems that I had with this book, the core story was still interesting and engaging for me. And I had fun reading it. That makes this a solid So So read for me.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 3 So So, Authors J-L, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: College, Dreamspinner Press, Family Issues, Lots of Enemies!, Mage, Magic, Magic School!, Secrets & Lies, Shifters, Skylar Jaye
Title: Born This Way
Author: Poppy Dennison
Length: 25,383 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (just one [super hot] scene!)
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Big Cats), Mate Bonding, Injured Character, Alphas, Teachers, Famous (friends), Music, Lawyers, Atlanta
Rating: Pretty Good
Dayton Whitmore injures his arm playing basketball with his lion-shifter friends, and his best friend asks Dayton to check on her estranged brother Hart while he’s in Atlanta visiting a specialist. Though Dayton and Hart were never close, he grudgingly agrees.
Banishment from his pride meant Hart Sherman could never see his family again. His liger heritage—a tiger mother and lion father—was a thorn in his alpha father’s side. He always planned to go back for Dayton, the man he knows is his mate, but he uses his career as an entertainment attorney as an excuse to avoid risking Dayton’s rejection. When Dayton shows up unannounced on his doorstep, Hart wants nothing more than to claim him.
Knowing what it means to be a lion’s mate, Dayton isn’t in any hurry to make a lifetime commitment. To convince Dayton he’s serious, Hart must come to terms with the circumstances of his birth—and find a place in the pride for them both.
Ever since finishing the finale of Poppy’s Triad series with Soul Magic (reviewed here), I’ve been really excited about this new release. At the time, I almost begged Poppy to tell me that she was going to write a spin-off about the kids in that series (Garon & Riley), only to have my poor heart crushed 😉 There is still a spin-off coming, also about cat shifters, but in the meantime this story isn’t associated with that series yet still, in some areas, I found reminiscent, like the pack politics.
Dayton grew up with Hart’s family, or pride. They welcomed him in as a kid with a mom who wasn’t around much and took care of him, making him one of their own. He exists in a strange kind of half adoption. While he’s part of the family and they consider him, a human, part of the pride, he still can’t really understand what it’s like to have a cat as a part of himself. Then there’s Hart, the son of the Alpha who was born as a cross-bred liger and subsequently more powerful than his father. His banishment ensured his father’s reign.
But even though Dayton doesn’t think Hart ever liked him much, Hart has a good reason why he’s willing to take the banishment. He’s known since they were teenagers and his first heat came over him that Dayton was his mate, but as an outcast among his own family, he couldn’t offer him much. In the years that Hart has been gone, forbidden any contact with the rest of his family, he’s made a career and a name for himself, all in the hopes of going back to claim his mate with a life to offer him. Somehow though, Hart can’t work up the nerve, knowing that accepting their mating may mean leaving his adoptive family behind. Having to face Dayton not choosing him is too hard, so they remain parted until Hart’s meddlesome sister Tawny, Dayton’s best friend, sets them on the same course. The ramifications, however, are more than any of them expected.
This was really a cute story and I think that it stands well on it’s own. I’ll say straight up, I was a little confused at first whether this was the spinoff that Poppy talked about, just because it has to do with cat shifters, but it’s not at all. Still, with the recent release and a similar type of story, I wouldn’t be surprised if people make comparisons. It’s probably bad to do that, in fact, because the Triad series had a real forward momentum that involved an overarching series plot. This story is different because it does stand alone. And while it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, it isn’t obviously just part one of a longer story. That means that the focus of this story is really the relationship, something quite different from the Triad series. And considering the characters and the setup of the plot, this story didn’t need a convoluted journey, no matter how much longer I wished it could have been so that I got to know the characters better and all that. It worked well as it is and I’m really just being greedy.
The story works in the Alpha Man trope with a larger stronger man and a smaller, more emotional and fragile man. But it also doesn’t play to stereotype, but allows the characters to become themselves as the story progresses and buck a few of those conventions. I think that the story could have benefitted from a little more concrete knowledge of the pack politics as well as some better knowledge of the secondary characters in the pack. Otherwise, the story mostly focuses on Hart and Dayton and uses the pack as a catalyst for the changes in their relationship.
I’m excited whenever I get a story to read from Poppy and this was no different. In particular, the two of these guys together are super steamy. Even though we don’t get more than one intimate scene with them, it packed a punch! Recommended, especially for fans of the author and fans of shifter stories.
Born This Way is available today from Dreamspinner Press!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors D-F, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alpha Men, Atlanta, Big Cats, Dreamspinner Press, Famous, Injured Character, Lawyers, Mate Bonding, Music, Poppy Dennison, Shifters, Teachers
Title: Soul Magic (Triad #3)
Author: Poppy Dennison
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 220 pages, approx. 64,750 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (I really felt the connection between Cormac & Liam!)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Series Finale (new tag), Multiple Romances (carried over from previous books), Magic, Vampires, Shifters (Wolves & Cats), Kids, Alpha Men
Rating: LOVED It!!!
**Spoilers for the first two books, but none for this one!**
Blood runs soul-deep. Cormac hasn’t been the same since the night the High Moon Pack was attacked. With his magic weakened, he’s consumed by a bloodlust he hasn’t felt since he first became a vampire. His need to replenish his power makes him a danger to his last remaining family member, and his hunger makes him careless. And that’s just the beginning of his troubles. Feeding from pack beta Liam Benson was supposed to slake his appetite, not leave him craving more.
Simon Osborne and Gray Townsend are trying to fight a being history says shouldn’t exist—one with all three types of magic. The pack must use all of their resources to combat the mysterious triad, even turning to the shady Council of Mages for help. While Cormac struggles to reconcile his past failures with his current desires, Simon must attempt the impossible: an alliance between mind, body, and soul.
Okay, straight up… let’s get this first thing out of the way. Don’t expect this review to be necessarily eloquent or far-thinking or in any way an analysis of the book or series. I just don’t have that in me at this point. What this review IS… is an immediate reaction to reading this third and final book of the series; a book which I’ve been eagerly awaiting for quite a while now. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this last book ever since reading the first, Mind Magic, back in 2012. Normally that doesn’t happen for me, I’m not sure where the story is going. But, and maybe some of you who have read the books can understand me in this, but I felt like (in reading that first book) that the series had a clearly outlined direction, firmly delineated by the names of the books and the separate romances, which mirror the way that magic is first described to us in this world, in a triangle and points of three — three kinds of magic, three different romances, and three different books. The harmony of all of those things are what the series is working towards and Poppy did a wonderful job in satisfying my need for those things to come full circle.
We start this third book with most of the essentials already firmly in hand, with the base of the story firmly established so that the threads immediately start to come together for the final picture the moment the story starts. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me to become absorbed in a fantasy (or paranormal, but these series tend to be fantasy) series where I’m pulling the threads together on my own as I’m reading, putting the pieces together, only to have them be swept out of the way in the final confrontation or ending by a deus ex machina or even a plausible ending that is somewhat foretold but doesn’t take those threads I pulled together into account. In this series, I felt the planning throughout and that it was important to this book, which I appreciated.
Spoilers for first two books start here:
Now, back to what I was saying after that tangent. We start this book with two soild romances under our belt and a pretty firm idea that this book will concentrate on another — Cormac and Liam — the very much alive ancestor and vampire to Simon and Gray’s beta of the High Moon Pack. We know that Simon started this story by rescuing a group of wolf cubs from a demon that was working with his own mage teacher who was stealing his magic, and that by rescuing the cubs he made himself friend to the wolf pack and mate to their alpha, Gray. In the second book, Body Magic, we go further and learn that there is a man with unimaginable power who was directing both those people (for lack of a better word) and that they’re in even more dire straits than before. In this book, you’ll learn exactly who that person is and what threat they possess. The clues are all there are the start of the book and I bet some of you have already guessed the direction this book is going, in fact may have already guessed who that person is who attacked the pack during the mating ceremony in the second book (hint: you’ll get there eventually, knowing that Cormac is the focus of this last book).
But really, even though we get to know Cade and Rocky better in Body Magic and Cormac and Liam better in this book, the main star of this series is Simon, and beside him Gray and their family and pack. But Simon’s magic and his exploration of his powers remains the main thread of this story that draws all the others together. I want to mention, at this point, that the setup of this series really pleased me and is something that I’m not sure I’ve seen very much in the past. I was originally a bit upset at the start of the second book, thinking that we were leaving Simon and Gray behind and moving to a new couple when their story wasn’t really finished. But, what Poppy has done with the series is make Simon and Gray the main couple, and even though she introduces new characters and their romances in each book (including their own chapters) she never abandoned that first couple. I really loved that, not only because Simon and Gray and even Gray’s son and the alpha-heir Garon were why I originally fell in love with the story, but because Simon’s importance to the series means that he can’t be abandoned. He’s the star.
Now I’m going to go back on my word 🙂
I think some analysis of the series as a whole is due here. I want to describe why I think I fell in love with this series at the first book and just why it has remained with me. In past, I’ve equated my intense connection and love of a story with it’s length. The more time I spend with the characters, the more I get to know them and the bigger the world is, the more detailed, the more I’m drawn into it and the less I want to leave. That didn’t happen here. I was immediately drawn into this world — three books, which in the fantasy world are rather short novels. And I think, now that I’ve finished all of them, I know why. There is a clarity of purpose in the writing and a lack of verbosity to get the author’s point across. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s in planning. But the world is brought through the characters and their love of it. There’s very little detail, compared to those others I’m so used to becoming engrossed in, of the world. And there is also, I must point out, what I felt to be perfect pacing. That is what really brought the story through for me. You can’t say that it is necessarily action-packed, but you can say that there aren’t any needless words. The story is succinct, to the point, and there is a somewhat heavy emphasis on the non-romance plot as opposed to the romance-centered plot, which nevertheless felt quite balanced to me because those characters and their relationships came across to me so clearly.
I hope that come across in the way I intended, and I’d absolutely LOVE to hear from those of you who are fans of this series and how you feel about it, now and after you’ve read the third book.
Now, I’ve rambled enough. But I do want to take one last minute to urge those of you who are new to this author or series to take a chance on these books. I can’t tell you that you’ll love them the way I do, but I do think you’ll enjoy them.
Soul Magic will be released from Dreamspinner Press on May 6
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alpha Men, Dreamspinner Press, Kids, Magic, Multiple Romances, Poppy Dennison, Series, Series Finale, Shifters, Triad, Vampire, Wolf Shifters