Overall rating: 3 stars (out of five)
Tagline: Exiled Werekin prince and his mating heat (leading to Werewolf pirates)
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (via the “Don’t Buy Me Love” program of the M/M Romance group on Goodreads).
This paranormal, male/male romance has a rather original setting as the protagonist, Harrison, is a prince from a matriarchal werewolf “empire” exiled to rather inhospitable human lands (where werekin are usually enslaved or worse). Thrust into leadership by rescuing other wolves, Harrison must deal with the mating frenzy of the full moon, the unexpected devotion and attraction from his fellows, and the vagaries of surviving in a hostile world of human and werewolf pursuers.
The strength of the work lies in its unique setting and politics, with details unveiled through this first installment, starting in a bit of an awkward fashion but also via increasingly interesting plot complications and twists revealed as the novel wore on. From shadowy werewolf empires with harshly political matriarchies to the promise of werewolf pirate booty, the author builds a new and potentially interesting world for werewolf mating heat and romance.
Unfortunately, the characters and prose too reflect the awkward and choppy aspects of the story rather than the more intriguing, polished aspects. The protagonists are sympathetic but not as engaging as I would have preferred, and at various times the writing was a bit too choppy for my tastes. (For example, there are numerous times where several sentences are used to express an idea that I think would flow much more nicely in a long, complex sentence. I am not a fan of starting a short sentence with “but” when the following fragment fits clearly with the preceding short sentence.)
The more I read, however, the more I felt this novel was simply an introduction to a more complete story to be unveiled in subsequent installments and, suprisingly, the more I enjoyed the current reading as a set-up for a future payoff. The plot devices around attraction, full-moon frenzy, wolf mounting, human jealousy, and permanent mating seemed at first to be awkward and artificial but slowly drew my interest as more details and nuances were revealed.
The sex was nicely delayed and steamy enough, although the ultimate emotional attachment of the protagonists seemed rather artificial to me. However, I did greatly appreciate the reciprocal nature of the heat, and the unveiling of certain character details took me by surprise and greatly piqued my interest.
To my surprise, the potential of the setting (including possible “werewolf pirates”) has drawn me in. I expect some of my hesitancies about occasional choppy prose to be smoothed out as this new author continues to write and expand the story and universe. I am certainly intrigued enough to continue on to the second installment.
Setting: 4.5 stars (even though the idea of “werewolf pirates” does nothing for me)
Characters: 2.5 stars (warmed up a bit to them as the story wore on)
Relationship: 2.5 stars (the “serve” your rescuer idea was neat, but not well executed)
Heat: 3.5 stars (reciprocal nature worked for me)
Plot: 3 stars (with potential for more in later installments)
Paranormal aspects: 3.5 stars (forced matings were more “ick” and “blah” than intriguing or haunting)
Prose: 2.5 stars (not bad, but not great)