I read the first book in this series, Alex's Surprise, when it was first offered as a free read from the M/M Romance Group's yearly event. The cliffhanger ending ticked me off so much that I didn't have any intention of reading its sequel. I don't like being manipulated like that, and I thought the cliffhanger was in poor taste and against the spirit of the event.
Then this book became available for review, and I asked whether it was a whole story, without any further cliffies, before I would consider it. Having been assured that it was, I did request and receive a free copy of this book for review from Pride Promotions, as part of the blogtour.
My review forthwith:
I actually quite liked the characters: Gerome, the Vampire Prince from the first book who knocks up Alex and is now forced to take a mate he doesn't know or want if he wants to ensure Alex safety, and Luis, the mostly-human mate, who finds himself sold to the Vampire King by his mother, without having a say in any of the arrangements. I may have shed a couple of tears for him, at his helplessness, at his fear, and at his loneliness. I had no love whatsoever for his mother, who sells him for her own gain, but also felt regret for his father once the circumstances became clearer.
Obviously, Gerome and Luis are not off to a good start, especially after Gerome treats Luis like a possession (which he learned from his father, the King), and basically ruins any chance they might have had for an amicable relationship. In response, Luis, cowered and afraid, retreats into himself, stays in his room, and spends his days watching TV, scared to sleep without one eye open in case Gerome decides to hurt him.
There is a scene fairly early on that is definitely more dubious consent than actual agreement, as the mating between Gerome and Luis requires that they have sex. Now, remember they've never met before, and less than an hour after laying eyes on each other, they are expected to consummate this mating, so the King will send his men to find Alex. The King cares nothing about that, though - he just seemed to enjoy himself doing so. As if he had to prove to Gerome that he was stronger than him. Nasty guy, that one.
I was thoroughly enraged by this point, and became even angrier when Gerome, in a complete and utter dick move, shows the cruel side of himself to Luis immediately after the consummation.
And then he does it again, for a stupid reason, and because he thinks treating his mate as anything other than a submissive thing he own is weakness in his father's eyes. It's no wonder that Luis retreats. The Old Laws of the Vampire society are archaic and cruel, and Gerome isn't man enough to even entertain the thought of questioning them.
Months pass without the two men seeing each other - Luis hiding in his room, Gerome hiding in his work. Until someone not bound by vampire rules has some strong words for Gerome, and he finally begins to use the brain he was given.
I liked the characterizations and how the author allowed the MCs' personalities to slowly emerge over time - Gerome pulls his head out of his ass and realizes what he's done, then sets upon righting the wrongs, and Luis carefully, with baby steps, begins to trust his vampire mate not to hurt him, and they both start to blossom into the men they're meant to be.
I thought that the themes the author used are easily translated into our own societies of today, and how old, archaic laws need(ed) to be changed so all people can live their lives within certain human rights, so arranged marriages, forced marriages, and treating your mate as a possession you own are eradicated.
The more I read on, the more Gerome grew on me, and it became clear that he wasn't like his father, that he actually did care, but didn't see a way out. And it was also clear that Luis is the stronger of the two, perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally and mentally. He managed to share his strength of convictions with Gerome, and made him stronger in return.
I also liked Sam, Alex's partner, who helps Gerome pulls his head from his ass, and D, one of the King's trackers, who becomes Luis bodyguard and friend. Even Gerome's absent siblings had a part in the changes that are made within the story line.
While I liked the plot and the story flow, I wasn't as enamored with the writing. It's somewhat stilted and doesn't flow well. Some things are repetitive, and the author uses more telling than showing in her writing. I would have liked to connect more with the characters, experience their emotions for myself instead of being told how they feel. In some instances, the personalities are also a little inconsistent in how they develop, though I was able to explain most of that with the tentative truce the two form.
There's a grand scene at the end that I quite liked, and while there is a long period of time without any physical contact between the two MCs, they do make up for it at the end.
Not a bad read, but also not earth-shattering. The title of this book basically tells the progression of the relationship between Gerome and Luis.
This can be read as a stand-alone, though I think it would be better if you're somewhat familiar with the first book. Since it's available for free Goodreads (as long as you're a member of the M/M Romance group), I do recommend reading that first so you understand the circumstances for the forced mating, and Gerome's single-mindedness in agreeing to it. While this book doesn't cover all of what appears to be book 2, it does coincide with those events to some degree.