Stone Skin
Grade : B-

Jenn Burke’s Stone Skin is book two in her Gargoyles of Arrington series, featuring three brothers who were cursed five hundred years ago, and their search for a way to break the curse once and for all. This is a trilogy with each book featuring a different brother and love interest, but the overarching plot means it’s probably best to read all the books in order; the author does include the backstory here, but I don’t think it really works as a standalone.

In Stone Wings we met Teague, Drew and Rian, the surviving three O’Reilly brothers who were turned to stone by a witch and cursed to live out their days as gargoyles. Thanks to a counter-curse by their aunt – also a witch – they are able to return to their human forms once every century and live as human for twenty-five years after which they return to their sleep in stone. The only way to break the curse is for them to find true love – which has now happened for two of them; the eldest brother, Finnian, found his love in 1899 and, sadly, lived his life without his brothers at his side – and Drew, who fell in love with their ‘caretaker’ and assistant, Josh in Stone Wings. With less than two years to go before their next ‘sleep’ the chances of Rian and Teague finding love and returning to their human forms is becoming less and less likely.

In the previous book, we learned that Rian has been scouring the internet for information on folklore, myths and curses – basically, anything that might help them find a way to break the curse before he and Teague return to stone once more, which is due to happen in less than two years time. And he suspects that he may not even have all of that time to keep trying; recently, he’s begun sleeping for longer periods than normal, sometimes for days at a time, and is worried this is a warning that his time may be up sooner than anticipated.

Professor of Anthropolgy at the University of Victoria, Dr. Logan Davis is a world-renowned expert on folklore and legend, and has driven to Arrington in order to find out more about the Irish legend brought to the US by the O’Reilly family. He suspects the tale is probably one he’s heard before, but he hasn’t heard this family’s spin on it – and honestly, he just wanted to get away from Victoria and the sad memories that have been dragging at him since the deaths of his mother (from cancer) and younger brother (in a motorcycle accident), both within the last six months. His car breaking down on the outskirts of Arrington – where there’s no phone signal – really shouldn’t have surprised him; his frustration is just one more thing pushing him closer and closer to the edge of falling into all those unwanted emotions he’s been squashing down for so long.

Luckily, he’s not been there long when a tow truck pulls up behind him, and a guy, obviously a mechanic, jumps out and explains that someone had seen the car on the side of the road and called him to come see if he could help. They chat while he checks out the car, and Logan is stunned to discover that he’s one of the O’Reillys he’s come to see, and that the invitation to visit came from his younger brother, Rian. When Drew explains he’s going to have to tow the car to his garage and Logan realises he didn’t think to book somewhere to stay, Drew offers him the use of the guesthouse on the O’Reilly property – as he’s come to see Rian anyway, it’ll make things easier. Logan doesn’t immediately jump on the offer – he doesn’t like being dependent on anyone – but realises he has little alternative and agrees.

Rian has just woken from one of his long, involuntary naps – which lasted for three days, this time – when he discovers that they have a visitor. Eager to meet Logan – because he may be able to offer some new insight or information and not at all because Rian may have spent just a little bit too long mooning over the man’s photograph on the UVic website – Rian makes his way over to meet their guest, and is shocked when Logan can immediately tell that Rian is not human. It doesn’t take Rian long to work out that Logan isn’t exactly human either. He’s a werewolf.

Logan being a shifter means there’s no difficulty in his accepting what Rian tells him about the curse, and the pair immediately get to work, their research about the Fomori, the fae-like creature who killed Rian’s parents and then put the curse on him and his brothers, turning up some information that could prove very useful in their quest to break the curse and their fight against the pride of mountain-lion shifters/biker gang that has been trying to force them to abandon their home.

I really like the premise of this series, but after reading Stone Wings, I adjusted my expectations for the romance, which, in that book, was a bit lacklustre. I can’t say the romance works much better here; Rian and Logan are likeable and it’s clear that they both need someone to care for and have care for them, but they fall in love having known each other for less than a week and I didn’t feel any real chemistry between them. That said, Ms. Burke really knows how to deliver an emotional gut-punch, which she does, expertly, near the end, and she does a good job of describing the brothers’ grief at missing out on Finnian’s life, at losing their youngest brother (whose statue was smashed while they were asleep) and of what it means for them when they awaken each time, knowing their old lives and the people they might have known are long gone.

So, I went into this book primarily for the overarching plotlines about breaking the curse and the conflict with the mountain lion shifters who are in league with the Fomori, and in that respect the story did not disappoint. The author has clearly done her homework on ancient Irish mythology, the revelations about the wolf shifter pack Teague had formed an alliance with were ones I didn’t see coming, and the suspense and action portions of the story are well done. I enjoyed the relationship between the brothers and the beginnings of a found family with the group of younger shifters who come to them for help – and we end with a glimpse of what’s to come in the next book with Teague now the last gargoyle standing. Given the way his story has been set up, his romance with ____ (not saying!) has the potential to be a pretty angsty one, which, if that’s how it turns out, will be right up my alley.

I’m giving Stone Skin a qualified recommendation because I enjoyed the story and liked the characters, even though the romance is a bit insta-love-y. If you read and enjoyed Stone Wings, then you’ll probably have already marked this to read; if you haven’t, the series is worth checking out for the inventiveness of the plot and premise. I plan on picking up book three, Stone Heart when it’s released later this year.

Reviewed by Caz Owens

Grade: B-

Book Type: Paranormal Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 5, 2023

Publication Date: 02/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. Personal impression is subjective. What works for one person doesn’t always work for others, as we all know. However, when…

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  3. I didn’t mean to attack the reviewer. She’s entitled to her opinion, of course. I’m just pointing out what I…

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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