Change of Heart by Mary Calmes
As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn\’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them. But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won\’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.
[I love the cover.]
This is a surprisingly absorbing and mostly interesting read, considering it leaves numerous questions unanswered, has an incomplete world building, and some rather rough human/shifter sex. Even given those problems, I mostly adored the main character of Jin and was engaged in the book to the very end. It’s not perfect but I think I may be hooked on the series. This could be a guilty pleasure read due to the problems in characterization, world building, and writing but if the next book can answer some of the issues then I won’t feel guilty. As it stands, some readers will be turned off by the sex scenes of the human Jin and shifted Logan, while others may not like the lazy characterization and sloppy writing.
Jin and his best friend Crane have been traveling the country since they were exiled from their werepanther tribe. Jin is a rare breed, so rare that he’s the only male reah in existence, and thus can’t claim a home or a mate. It also causes problems with tribes due to jealousy and everyone wanting to claim Jin. One night Jin and Crane help a young panther in trouble, which leads to life changing consequences for them both when Jin is claimed by the local leader as his mate.
The plot is a classic story of a prized princess running from her fate only to fall in love with the handsome leader. Here there are two men of course but Jin is a rare breed called a reah, and apparently everyone in the country-and probably the world-want him for themselves. What exactly this is, a reah, is never really explained but it seems to be the mythical and magical perfect mate to a leader. Once the leader and his perfect mate have met, they’re instantly in love, instantly devoted, and life is fabulous for everyone. Thus everyone wants to find their reah so Jin is on the run from everyone who wants him. He has a familiar abused childhood where he was betrayed by his father, family, tribe and everyone except his best friend once his true nature was revealed. Now Jin is a classic character but the story infuses him with warmth, charm, humor, and a strong will. He also tends to wallow in pity and be incredibly stubborn, which causes almost all of the tension and problems in the book. He is a mixture of dominance and submission, giving in sexually while acting like a leader in almost every other situation. He has a surprising amount of pride which is contrasted to deep insecurity. For all of Jin’s faults – there are many – he carries the book with his energy, thoughts, and charm.
On the other side of Jin are a huge cast of men and a few women thrown in. Since Jin is gorgeous, wonderful, intelligent, and so prized, everyone loves him except those who despise him entirely. This polarizes the cast into those who support Jin and those trying to hurt him. It’s easy to see where anyone falls and those who are against the fabulous Jin are classic evil while those who support him are kind, intelligent, and loving people. The story offers a few women who adore Jin (he’s gay after all) or are jealous of him (he’s gay after all) and thus the plot stumbles several times whenever it throws women into the mix. For example there’s a scene where Jin is escaping after being kidnapped and happens to end up in a club where he figures he’s safe so he may as well dance with a couple dozen women pawing at him. A bit ridiculous and over the top but that typifies the story.
Jin’s lover Logan is pretty one dimensional as the strong silent type who falls so in love with Jin he can’t function without him anymore. Logan is presented mostly in sex scenes where he and Jin have rough, dominance laced sex. Often Logan is half-shifted but luckily the equipment stays human. Logan goes from being a straight man to knowledgeable and eager about gay sex, rimming and deep throating like a pro. He falls apart whenever Jin runs off on an emotional side trip so the two have to be together for everything to work. This is corny and trite but it’s true love so I doubt anyone will really have an issue. Unfortunately these problems are not helped by the mythology and world building thrown in haphazardly. The various rules of the panther pack appear whenever needed in the story to create tension and there is an entire vocabulary that is also used with little explanation. There seem to be multiple words for the different positions in the pack but again, nothing’s really explained. The context in which these are used offer little to no additional help so the story relies on the reader ignoring the sloppy world building and somewhat lazy characterization.
Now for all of those issues that would make me roll my eyes sometimes (especially the last scene with Jin and his father), the story is engaging and interesting. I found myself fascinated by the panther tribes and their various rules, wanting to know more and how they were used. The relationship between Jin and Logan is hot, mainly sexual, but Jin keeps it from being too bland and predictable. I found Jin’s self indulgent pouts and over the top excellence at everything amusing and humorous, although I could see why several would be frustrated at him. The potential for more books is certainly there from the numerous characters and even a plethora of issues that Jin and Logan must still tackle. This book focuses on the two getting together and threats from neighboring tribes, but leaves the door open for problems in many different directions. This certainly isn’t the best written, most complex, original story but for some reason I could go along with it and thoroughly enjoy the ride. Others may or may not depending on their preferences but if this sexy, fun story sounds like something you can get into, check it out. I may be hooked.
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