Bloodlines by Jessica Lee (review)

Tagline: Heated but too quick wolf shifter gay shifter/human “romance”

Bloodlines Book Cover

KinKaid Wolf Pack #1
Title: Bloodlines
Author: Jessica Lee

Genre:  Paranormal Erotic Male/Male Romance
Format:  Novella (42k words)
Series: KinKaid Wolf Pack #1

Publisher: Self-Published (2nd Ed., Oct. 2012)
ISBN: 9781301240289

Bonus: Free from most vendors

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

While this is an older worker (2nd edition in 2012), it’s in the genre I prefer to review (paranormal/wolf shifter male/male romance) and a new installment in the following series was recently released (February 2016).  Bloodlines is a free novella that is a complete erotic read in itself, but is also the first in a series of gay and bisexual erotic and romantic wolf shifter stories that build on an underlying plot line.

Synopsis: Evin KinKaid, in line to be the next alpha of his wolf shifter pack, is banished by his father for refusing to mate with the she-wolf chosen to cement a family and pack alliance. While living in exile, he takes a tumble with Mason Thorne III, a gay human travelling through town who is just as alienated from his powerful human family as Evin is from his pack. Stranded in Evin’s town for the weekend, Mason takes advantage of Evin’s sizzling and sensuous hospitality.  The wolf shifter enjoys the rough and tumble with his guest, being careful not to let his secrets slip or to bite (and therefore potentially turn) his hot and (mostly) accommodating guest. When Evin’s twin sister arrives with dire news, the wolf shifter and his new beau must make some quick decisions that will greatly affect their families at the risk to their own lives.

Review: The character and plot ideas were fairly interesting and intriguing, and some of the intimate connections had decent sizzle, but overall the heat seemed better executed than the relationship or story. The initial attraction of the pair moved very, very quickly to an extremely deep connection, in a manner similar to an “instant mate” trope without the benefit of that plot device. Still, the story and relationship elements that were present were enticing, and the physical intimacy was rather heated.

Overall it was a nice, explicit (romantic erotica) male/male shifter novella with enough glimpses of story and relationship elements to make the sexual intimacy a bit more compelling. This is a quick, erotic and somewhat romantic read that sizzles a bit in itself, but is also a set-up for an additional erotic short story with these two characters, as well as follow-on novellas broadening out to other relationships (including a bisexual male/female menage).

Specific Critiques (with Spoilers):

The general plot points are interesting, bringing up some wolfpack dynamics and shifter issues that are very intriguing, but only explored in the briefest manner, basically building a relatively slight story frame on which to hang the sex scenes.  For example, the pair go from an initial, happenstance meeting (and sex) to seeming to be totally comfortable living with each other in just two days. This (almost) instant love was so overwhelming the fact that his father was likely to die very soon slipped Evin’s mind as well as the mortal peril now faced by his new partner.  Basically, major plot developments were often breezed through in a few sentences, hence I classify this as more erotica than romance.

The focus of the book for me was clearly the intimate sizzle, accounting for about 1/4 of the novella.  The heat takes on a variety of themes, with the first scene slipping easily into a very top/bottom dynamic, followed by more back-and-forth physical confrontation between the pair, before devolving into a deeper, more primal interaction.

Series:

The first two installments (this novella and a follow-up short story) center on a male/male couple, while the third installment is a novella regarding a male/male/female potential menage, and a fourth novel focuses on a new male/male couple. There is a loose story connecting the first three installments, while the fourth is set in the same pack but has a new story.

Unacceptable Risks by Kaje Harper (review)

Unacceptable Risk Book Cover

Title: Unacceptable Risk
Author: Kaje Harper
Genre:  M/M Paranormal Romance
Format:  Novel (111,000 words)
Sites: Publisher | Goodreads | Amazon 
Series: Hidden Wolves #1
Publisher: MLR (Oct. 2011)
ISBN: 9781608204649

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

Tagline:  Ostracized and wounded gay werewolf falls and fights for “straight” veterinarian  

Heat: Several explicit scenes (nicely contextual to the plot)

This book has been on my Goodreads “to read” shelf longer than any other title, as I added it in 2013.  I wish I had read it sooner as, after an initially slow start, this novel turned out to have some of my favorite paranormal male/male romance themes presented with just the right balance for me. The story centers on a gay werewolf ostracized and attacked for his orientation, usually a capital offense among his kind.  The town’s young, straight veterinarian saves a bloodied and beaten wolf, and the shapeshifter befriends, falls for, and seduces the animal doctor who has his own troubled past.

I am particularly fond of wolfpack politics, human mates coming to terms with shifter culture, virginal/inexperienced men coming exploring with a new lover, and geeky-ish and awkward but intelligent protagonists.  This novel had nice doses of all of the above, and I especially appreciated the presence of a “traditional” shifter culture that provided plenty of danger while retaining a consistent, if unpleasant and dangerous  world-view.  Even many of the heroes’ potential allies were uncertain and some of the adversaries showed a bit more nuance in political pack scheming than I was expecting.

The physical sizzle was enticing but used sparingly enough to add to the plot (rather than overwhelming the story). In a very nice twist, a reciprocal surprise between the lovers was seamlessly woven into the story.  The ultimate connection between the two technically did not center on intercourse (although those scenes were delicious), but woven into whether trust and accepting one’s emotions could lead to a sudden, deep connection.

I’m looking forward to reading more by this author (who has been popular – I have some catching up to do), including the next two works in this series.

Themes:  Male/male romance, werewolves, pack politics, gay for you, virgin/first-time, mate-for life, human mate, homophobia, gay shapeshifters, wounded, geeks, Minnesota