Heat Rising by Jessica Lee (review)

Tagline: Mating heat mixed among a bisexual wolf and his two best friends (MMF)

Heat Rising Book Cover

TitleHeat Rising 
Author: Jessica Lee

Genre:  Paranormal Adult Bi (MMF) Romance
Format:  Novella (57k words)
Series: KinKaid Wolf Pack #3

Sites: AuthorGoodreads | Amazon

Publisher: Self-Published (July 2013)
ISBN: 9781301396191

Retail: $2.99

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Synopsis: Rosa, the twin sister of the alpha, has not yet mated, but her full wolf shifter heat is about to be upon her, and she will need to have a mate.  Unfortunately, she cannot choose between the two men she loves, as they are best friends and she does not to pick one over the other.  Landry, the bisexual chief enforcer for the pack, knows his questionable lineage makes him unsuitable for the alpha’s sister.  He is in a quandary over discovering that his past submissive lover at the BDSM club is the scheming brother of a rival pack alpha, while he also tries to tamp down his own feelings for his straight best friend.   Kaleb is dedicated to helping both of his friends through their predicaments, but only lets his only feelings out after a few too many drinks.  As the rival pack plots and schemes, Rosa, Landry and Kaleb are caught in a web of shifter intrigue, raging hormones, and the most dedicated friendship and love.

Review: This installment in the KinKiad Wolf Pack series is more focused on plot than the preceding stories.  While it shares a few of same eye-rolling weaknesses as its predecessors, overall it is much stronger in terms of story and relationship development. Indeed, while it stated out with some formulaic and thin writing, the middle of the novella cranks up the tension more thoroughly, seeming like it was written by a much improved, more experienced and nuanced writer.  In all of the books, the setting, plot, and character ideas were sound while much of the exposition was weak, but in this third installment there was enough meat in the dialog and tension to make the “build up” to the climatic scenes a bit more fleshed out and interesting than in the previous stories.

Recommended for: Readers who need well-developed and written stories might enjoy this story more than the previous ones.  Fans who like to focus on explicit MMF menage scenes in a wolf shifter setting will likely appreciate this novella the most.  Those who also like some addition male/male action (with a different couple) and the full (but not necessarily wonderfully written) backstory should start with the first two installments about Evin and Mason.

Heat: 6/10 – not as much as in the previous stories, but the few scenes are plenty hot and explicit (focused on MMF menage)

Specific (but rambling) minor critiques and little pet peeves (with possible spoilers):

The Male:

The author uses the term “the male” in place of “man” quite often.  I understand this practice and have seen it before, especially in shifter books, as the characters don’t necessarily think of themselves as men (humans), but shifters (or wolves).  On the one hand, this is a bit of “turnabout is fair play,” since so many male characters in shifter  books refer to female wolves as “the female” or “she-wolf” instead of as a woman.  However, since the characters refer to each other as “man,” this logic is at least a little bit inconsistent in this work.  Overall, the fact that the narration and inner-dialogue repeatedly, almost constantly, refereed to “the male” ended up making the prose read rather awkwardly.  For example:

Uncurling his fingers from the male’s biceps, he stepped away.”

There were plenty of times the author could have used other words instead of man (his friend’s biceps, the other’s biceps, the wolf’s biceps, the guy’s biceps, etc.)   A lighter sprinkling of using “the male” would have added a touch of flavor without making so many sentences sound awkward to my ears.

Not quite gay, not completely straight = fucked up

One of the characters was straight, except for his attraction to his best friend.  The “gay for you” trope is one of my least favorites, the way those stories are written often smack of bisexual erasure to me.  In this story, the main character was openly bisexual, which certainly helped make Kaleb’s thoughts about his own sexuality a little less offensive to me.

He wasn’t quite gay, but there was a part of him that wasn’t completely straight either. Christ. That was fucked up.

Given that his best friend was openly and “fully” bisexual, it strikes me as a stretch that being attracted to women but also one particular man is “not quite gay” (sounds pretty far from gay to me) and that not being “completely straight” is fucked up. Still, these words are Kaleb’s musings about his own sexuality (and not a narrative commentary on it), so even if they strike me as almost offensive, it’s certainly something a person struggling with their orientation could think, even if I wouldn’t have expected those thoughts from Landry’s best friend.

BDSM club pick-up line?

“I know a sub when I see one. And, pup, I can tell you’re just itching for someone to call Daddy.”

As I, myself, am a submissive who formerly frequented BDSM clubs, this line just floored me and struck me as ridiculous. If an unfamiliar Dom said that to me in a club, I think I’d be horrified and aghast (as was the target of this line in the book).  But the more I think about it, if the chemistry were right, I could have been flattered by such an over-the-top approach.  In the right situation, maybe a super-cheesy BDSM pickup line would have worked on me? Yikes!

Issues with the “gay for you” trope (not in this book but, unfortunately many others):

Apart from a personal mini-reaction one semi-offensive line (that actually makes some sense for the character who said it), this mini-rant is not directed at this author (who has a rare, fully bisexual character – which is much appreciated).

Often a character at the center of a “gay for you” story seems to be written as 100% straight but, because they are attracted to one man, they are often labelled as fully gay for that person. In other words, there is often with no recognition of bisexuality – that there are plenty of men who are attracted to women and men to some degree or another. Often, the word bisexual is not mentioned at all or maybe be referred to once in a whole story about a “straight” man attracted to another man. In this book, the author includes a fully bisexual character, and over all Kaleb’s confusion lines hit a negative chord with me. (Just a pet peeve of mine, probably worth a more thoughtful, better researched and supported post, but the “fucked up” line just gave me an opportunity for a mini-rant…)

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