I read a fair bit of Willa Okati’s books and they are solidly average reads. I never really love or hate the books but I find them easy and forgettable. Which honestly is exactly what I wanted when I picked this one. I also liked that it was a shorter novella. I don’t have the time or mental energy for something long and involved right now, which only matters because that was my attitude coming into the book. I hadn’t read the previous book in the series but figured it couldn’t be that difficult to figure things out. The story was easy to read and romantic enough, although not having read the first book in the series did hinder my understanding somewhat. Overall Soulmarked is an enjoyable read and made me curious to continue with the series.
The premise is kind of silly but not outrageously so for the genre. People – I assume everyone although only men and male/male couples are included or discussed – are somehow mated for life through matching marks on their skin. Until the marks appear, the people/men can fool around with whomever they want, but once the mark appears on their skin, the person is genetically programmed to be unable to live without their mate. So only soulmarked mates are ever together as couples. In this installment, Nick and Barrett have been together for years and pretending to be soulmarked even though they aren’t. Neither one has a soulmark so they’re not hurting some mysterious mate for either one and choose to be together. This has suited them both extraordinarily well until Nick’s mark appears one day and Barrett’s didn’t. Since it’s well known the marks of soul mates appear simultaneously they now have a horrible choice to make – either break up and find their soul mates or try to ignore their programming and stay together.
This setup obviously lends to instant love but I appreciated that the main couple had been together for years out of love and a desire to be together, not any genetic programming or luck. They were quite happy and in love without any need for marks and even once Nick’s mark appeared they vowed to love each other forever regardless. Their connection felt real and honest from beginning to end. I was somewhat stymied by the fact there was a large cast of people I didn’t know and the story traded on knowledge obviously given in the previous book, to which I clearly didn’t have. So the scenes with other people didn’t mean as much to me because I didn’t have the proper context to appreciate them. I liked instead the glimpses of world and science offered and definitely wanted more. The main thrust of the story is the internal tension of the couple and whether they can stay together or have to split up and not on elaborate world building or character development.
I would have liked a bit more organic development of the men on their own and less of the story telling me about each character and their likes, dislikes, flaws, and strengths. However, the narration is easy enough to read and since the couple was already established, the connection was strong. Okati’s writing is easy, not always clean, but not overly verbose or imaginative. I find it slightly bland sometimes but it’s also what I consider a comfort read. Not amazing or memorable but a filler kind of story. It was what I wanted and suited me pretty well for that.