I think I picked this novella up because of the interesting mix of paranormal tropes – we have bond (soul) mates, shapeshifters, the fae, and more, all packed into a nice, short novella. Fans of the Alpha Pack are practically rabid in their enjoyment of the whole series, so I was excited to see a M/M entry into what has been an M/F world. The problem is that all those tropes combined with a whole boatload of gay stereotypes just doesn’t work.
Noah Brooks knows and loves his fated bondmate, Phoenix Monroe. Unfortunately for Noah, Nix is determined to ignore their bond – he is strictly a ladies’ man, thank you very much. But that doesn’t stop either of them from caring. And it certainly doesn’t help when Noah, a nurse in a community full of shifters and other paranormal citizens, is attacked by a confused patient who shifts into a tiger and mauls him.
While this certainly brings out Nix’s protective side, it doesn’t take care of the underlying issues. Nix’s father was violently homophobic, and although he’s no longer in his life, Nix can’t help but bring those issues with him, and keep his own desires a secret. That doesn’t work so well once Noah’s hurt, though, since Nix feels the need to actually have them live together. And if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an evil lurking around that is definitely interested in taking Noah away.
The basic premise is good. The problem is, everything happens so quickly. The end result is that instead of feeling action-packed or romantic, it book just feels rushed. I feel like I blinked and Nix got over most of his issues, then turned the page and Noah was upset about something again, and then Nix’s issues were all back in full force a couple of paragraphs later. It’s confusing.
On top of that, the story is less about their relationship and more about Nix’s problems. Each line he has is basically all about how the relationship defines him and how he feels trapped by it, or how his past influences his current decisions. I get it, Nix, I do. Your father was a horrible man, and he instilled such fear in you that you’re stuck. But relationships should be about both people, not just one side, and while Noah has his issues, they are largely ignored. It’s really frustrating, if only because I actually kinda liked Noah. He is, by far, the most interesting and developed character of the two. Nix, on the other hand, spends half his time being an asshole and the other half thinking about how much he loves and wants to have sex with Noah. Not exactly my idea of a romantic hero.
The romantic storyline would have been enough, especially for a novel of this length. But instead, we get an added, external evil being who wants to make Noah his power source, which leads to some rather disturbing descriptions of kidnapping, torture and brainwashing. Not my thing.
In the end, it comes down to this – the series might be good (I haven’t read the other books), but tropes are only interesting if you do something interesting with them. I’m really glad that M/M has become more mainstream, but now I’m worried that I’m just going to find more things like this – something that feels half-assed for a paycheck.