*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
I have to admit, this was a little outside my normal preferences when it comes to books, but I could not resist such a gorgeous cover. But sometimes cover reads turns out well, and fortunately, though I did have some issues, I enjoyed a lot of things about this too.
First things first, the writing itself was great. It flowed smoothly enough to make me forget I was reading a book, and the characters had voice and personality.
Speaking of the characters… Layna had a relatable, sarcastic voice at times. She was also a very strong-willed, compassionate, understanding person. The only thing I didn’t like was how Axis was doing this huge favor for her, and she repaid him by snooping around and acting like she deserved to know all of his secrets.
Axis was the quintessential brooding paranormal hero. He was kind and compassionate to people, but he was damaged from a dark past and had a temper and mood swings, and he frequently pushed people away and emotions down. He also struggled with depression and suicidal impulses. His emotions and flaws were dramatic (as these things often are in books) but complex. (And his mental illnesses and emotional struggles weren’t automatically cured by love.)
Supporting characters Tristan and Gareth were great. Tristan could be prickly but had a good heart, and Gareth was a big, ol’ sweetheart who was always trying to lighten the mood and smooth things over between everyone.
There were also relationship complexities, like Tristan being in unrequited love with Axis but being in a relationship with Gareth. I was uncomfortable with Layna telling the gay men their relationship turned her on (to her, these were real people in a real relationship), but aside from that, I enjoyed seeing the way all four characters interacted and the way their relationships with each other grew. It brought some good angst and tension, and some sweet moments, to the story.
As for the romance… I’ll be honest, I tend to prefer books where romance is a subplot because I don’t like a lot of romance tropes, and while I didn’t feel it was fair to dock my rating too much since I think these are “me” things, I did have a couple issues there. I felt like the romance and love happened really fast, like they knew about each other but didn’t really know each other yet. They were also really preoccupied by sex, and there were A LOT of sex scenes. There were a couple other tropey things that bothered me too, like Axis’s need to claim Layna and the way he felt like having sex with her was the way to do that. But what I did like was how there was maybe a bit of a role reversal—or at least a more equal balance than what I’m used to seeing in M/F books—with the woman being the one to say and initiate the sexual stuff, to give sexy speeches, to be dominant sometimes, etc. And the man was the one who usually felt more emotional. And both enjoyed submission and being treated a bit roughly.
There were also some intense, heavy moments in this book because of Axis’s inability to control his wolf form, his use of drugs to counteract that, and his traumatic, abusive childhood. The author wrote the intense moments really well.
So overall, I had a couple issues, but they were mostly about personal taste. I still enjoyed the writing, the character relationships, and the intensity, and I think this one that a lot of paranormal/fantasy romance fans will like!
Anyone who likes fantasy romance, shifters, brooding heroes, characters with depression, intensity, and lots of sex scenes.