by Elaine White July 12, 2017
by Elaine White July 12, 2017
Beautiful. Touching. Perfect.
POV – 3rd person.
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Urban Fantasy, Werewolves, Shapeshifters
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
The Being(s) in Love series is an awesome collection of contemporary, urban fantasy, paranormal stories all linked together through one universe. Involving creatures like werewolves, fairies and dragons, it's a series that takes you through a whirlwind of emotions and possibilities.
Book 1: Some Kind of Magic
Wow! I loved R. Cooper's writing the moment I read The Winter Prince. It was so good that it made me nervous to start this series, because I didn't want to risk losing the magic. But, no fear, it was there in spades!
The 3rd person POV was kept to just one character, which was great, allowing us to see Ray's thoughts and feelings, without letting us see Cal's, which was really important to the progression of the plot. It wouldn't have been half as interesting if we'd have known Cal's thoughts throughout.
I really loved that Ray was a detective with a human police force, while having to compete with the ideology of humans fearing the, often incorrect, tales about Beings and Weres that existed in their 'absence' from the world. I love that people were nervous around him at a crime scene, that people often suspected him and that there was a lurking anxiety whenever he and other Beings were around, though they were overall accepted and acknowledged for their abilities as detectives and investigators.
The world building was fantastic, the characterisation nicely balanced between showing, telling and exploration, while the hints and subtlety of the descriptions meant that although there were suspicions about Penn's 'Being', for example, it took until 2% (not long, about a few chapters) before we were told what she was. I loved that, because it let us put the pieces together at first, before confirming.
There was a great variety of Beings within the story, despite the MC's being a fairy and a wolf. There were more fairies, another wolf, a Siren, mentions of a dragon, humans and a demon. There are so many options and I could already see the potential for more stories in some of the Beings.
There was an incredible, slow burn type of chemistry at work here. There was flirting, smooching and an irresistible draw towards each other, without ever really giving in. The anticipation was perfect, but I could also feel the raw pain and hurt, the confusion and the need that existed between Ray and Cal as they tried to navigate their working relationship while never venturing into a personal relationship.
All of that was accomplished while allowing us to follow Ray and Cal through the process of crime solving and investigation. There was real police work here, real processes and trials of a case. As someone who studied forensics and crime, I loved seeing the natural, realistic nature of their work, without the unrealistic expectations of the likes of CSI and results being returned within hours. I'll admit, I knew quite early on who the bad guy was, but I hadn't figured out the who or the how or the why, which I loved. I liked being surprised, but I also love that there were logical hints within the story that I could follow, as the reader, to come to my own conclusion.
I loved the flashbacks and how they really came along at the perfect time. They were well placed, well thought out and exposed just enough for us to follow along and stay curious, without giving too much away. I'm also really pleased to say that they were well divided from the main text, with italics, which is something that not enough people do. I always knew when Ray drifted into his thoughts compared to a flashback and vice versa.
Overall, a perfectly sweet romance within a hot and feisty relationship, all wrapped up in a detective story that I loved. Perfect.
“He looked up and there he was. Cal Parker. The bane of his existence and his reason for living.”
And I just had to include this one, which really just tore my heart out.
“Holding up traffic, Ray. Someone should have ticketed you.”
Book 2: A Boy and His Dragon
Star rating: ★★★★★
Another amazing addition to the series. I loved that book 1 focused on the police aspect, with Ray being a detective, and really, really loved that this one took the same idea, but without feeling like a carbon copy. Our dragon, Bertie, is a professor and is writing a book, so fittingly the story focuses on that fact and the human boy, Arthur (our POV) who is his assistant.
I loved how well Arthur and Bertie worked together. Arthur was opinionated, desperate for his job, but also a real loved of books, artifacts and antiques, so much so that he often had a go at Bertie for the proper storage and safety of such items. He was a real firecracker at times. Bertie, on the other hand, was this sort of foppish, flouncy aristocrat at times while also being the badass dragon with a seductive streak. The chemistry between these two jumped right off the page and smacked me in the face, from page one. It was amazingly effective and palpable.
The story covers some difficult topics, like Arthur's sister having been a drug and alcohol abuser at a young age, after their parents died. But I love how it was handled with care and sensitivity, with Arthur revealing what he needed to, to Bertie, but holding back for fear of seeming needy, weak or that he needed taken care of. At the same time, I love how he put her before everything else, even when he didn't realise it.
I love the little slip of the website FangandFur.com and really hope that it pops up in a later story, because it sounded great!
The relationship was slow burning, with a nice, natural progression from strangers to acquaintances, to boss and worker, then towards something much more heated and laced with innuendo. I really loved the way that Bertie had a little bit of the sadness Ray had, in book one, because he knew something that, not being a Being, Arthur didn't understand. Yet, he took the time to teach him slowly, over time, and let Arthur make his own choices. The whole relationship was fraught with tension of a will-they-wont-they heat, while having me on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would all turn out and hoping for the best.
Again, the world building and characterisation were perfect. Despite some book series I've read over the years, this one has a true standalone capability. They're all in the same world, but characters haven't dipped in and out of each other's books (so far), except for a brief mention of a minor character from book 1 that isn't really a tie between the two. That's great, because it means each can be read out of order or as a standalone, without readers missing out on important details or reading a book with constant hints of the previous one and not being able to follow it.
With sizzling chemistry, a great way of humanising Bertie's dragon, while teaching Arthur about Beings, and thanks to an incredible writer who is able to draw me into with every word, there wasn't anything I didn't love about it. The ending, again, killed me! The 'Facts About Dragons' was a perfect addition.
“Best-case scenario, he wouldn't get the job, and he needed this job; worse case, the dragon might eat him.”
“Love, asking you not to organize would be like asking a siren not to sing.”
Book 3: A Beginner's Guide to Wooing Your Mate
Star rating: ★★★★☆
Ugh! This slow-burn stuff is slowly killing me, but I love it!
This is the first story, so far, to have a dual POV, with both MC's – Zeki and Theo – getting their say. It worked really well, because there was a whole lot of history between these two that needed to be covered and it went much better with both of them giving their view on things. It created that really fun element of “I know this, but he doesn't” for the readers.
Again, this is a really slow burn, because Zeki and Theo knew of each other in high school but never hung out or spoke, so there was a lot of unresolved tension between them from the past that the other was completely unaware of. It made for some amazingly awkward, tense moments full of chemistry and “will-they-wont-they”. It was brilliantly written.
I loved the characters. Zeki and Theo were both scarred by their high school years in different ways, but both strong in their own ways, too. Zeki became feisty and self-reliant, strong and able to stand up for himself, while Theo withdrew into himself but found his passion in baking and had a strength of belief in his people that was beautiful to see. Zeki was something new, for the series, as a wizard, which was really fun to see. I loved that they were both hung up on their high school crushes – so important to people, at the time, and all consuming – while they both became something more. Zeki became a powerful wizard and used his past history of being hurt and used to build a life where he helped people and made the world better, while Theo became a volunteer fireman (with a free wet-t-shirt show at weekends) and baked as a hobby. It was really nice to see the big bad were being the submissive of the two, both in personality and in the bedroom.
I really liked the gender-neutral Pixie, Violet, the sheriff and Littlewolf, as well as Zeki's dad, and all the minor characters that helped to make the story more exciting by offering support or condemnation whenever it was more interesting. I'm really looking forward to reading Little Wolf next. I also really want to know who Theo's cousin Albert is, because he sounded interesting, though he was only ever mentioned once.
There were some really great hints for Zeki and Theo that neither really understood or noticed, because of their mental and emotional predicament, which I really enjoyed. It was fun to have everything laid out, see both sides and have all the answers, dribbled into the story bit by bit, only to realise that neither of the MC's had the information we did. The anticipation of the big reveal was great.
I loved the idea of Wolf's Paw as a place of refuge for weres and Beings (not referred to with the capital B that it is in other books, in this one) and how the place has a code of ethics and behaviour that is neither set in stone nor enforceable, but is definitely preferred for the safety of everyone involved. I loved that part; it was so original. I also loved that they taught Sex Ed in school, for both humans and Beings, which was a stroke of genius, even if it didn't prove to be much help the MC's of this story. I also thought it was a stroke of brilliance to have one of the rules be that humans had to make the first move on a were, because of the free will and mate issues. It was a great tool to help move the story along, but also an intriguing idea that I loved to see explored.
However, I did find that the sense of 'wolf' in the were world was totally different here to book 1, which was a little jarring at first, but really proved the point made later in the book that Wolf's Paw operates like its own little world and has no idea how wolves outside of it behave. That's going to be more prominently focused on, I believe, in the next book.
So, why have I given it four stars instead of five, like the others? I found that while I loved the build up to the romance, I missed out on the dating part, which was limited to Zeki and Theo thinking about it, during their POV, without us actually getting to experience it. It created a disconnect with the present scene, taking us into the past (even if only by a few days) and I often left the flashback-y moment disorientated and unable to remember where the characters were or what they were doing. This also led to some editing errors, where the wrong names were used. In previous books, any editing errors are limited to the odd punctuation or spelling mistake, but the ones here really affected my reading and had me going back to wonder if I'd missed something, so that was a down side. I didn't understand the whole 'mis-communication' issue, because they were kids when it happened, no adult ever tried to help Theor work through what happened and they all expected Zeki to automatically know what had happened back then, even though they admitted that it shouldn't have happened, because teenagers never recognised their mates. No adult ever tried to help either of them through the situation and that bothered me. I also really wanted to see more at the end. More of what? I'm not sure. Maybe just some actually “getting to know you” moments, because I really didn't feel like there were all that many in here, for my liking. The other books in the series had so much more of that quality time spent together.
“The world was twilight, and Theo was aching for the moon.”
“His parents should see that.” ← I know this doesn't tell you much, but if you read it, you'll understand. It's a really powerful, great moment.
Book 4: Little Wolf
Star rating: ★★★★☆
Again, this was great in a lot of ways, but I had some issues.
First off, this is another 'mis-communication' story, where the big bad wolf doesn't let on to his mate that they're actually mated. Or what it means. Or what to do about it. That part bugs me, because this story takes place in the same town, Wolf's Paw, as the previous one, yet it's doesn't read like that. No one remembers the heartache that Theo and Zeki went through, with Zeki not knowing about the mating and inadvertently refusing Theo. It's the same storyline here and I wish that someone in the community – Arthur or Carl – had taken the time or cared enough about Tim to tell him what was happening and prevent Nathaniel from going through another heartache. No one did anything, despite there being ample opportunity for it and that frustrates me. Yes, the story would have been shorter, but it would have made sense.
And, while we're on it, I have to admit that I felt the story was too long. This is the longest book I the series, so far, and it felt like it. It isn't far from being 400 pages and I'm not entirely sure that all of it is necessary. There was too much sex, for a start. I don't mean at all, but in detail. And I think we could have missed out on some of the 'dating' aspects and Nathaniel constantly pushing Tim to try to have sex with someone else because he's young and inexperienced. That part really grates on me, because he shouldn't be dictating to him like that, knowing that Tim is already desperate for him but feels inferior to everyone else. Of course he's going to try to prove himself and defy any orders Nathaniel gives. I don't care for cheating in books and this reeked of that, to me, as well as taking up a whole lot of space that wasn't necessarily needed.
It was nice to see Ray back, from book 1, but I'm disappointed that there was zero mention of Theo and Zeki, despite their book coming first and actually having Zeki and Tim talking in the previous book. Not only that, but Zeki is the town wizard so should have been consulted to put up protective wards for Tim, but wasn't, and the fact that they both have magic should have meant that he entered into the story as a friend of some kind, at least once, but that didn't happen either. The whole story read as a standalone, but with no hint that the previous book had ever happened.
Yet, at the same time, there were great things about the book. Again, the world building and characterisation were brilliant; the characters were diverse and intriguing; the plot itself was well paced and nicely explored, if a little long.
I found that I liked the 'mis-communication' situation for a while, because it made sense that Nathaniel wouldn't want to push a wolf who was already terrified of him into thinking that anything was set in stone between them. However, I could only buy that excuse for so long, before the length of the book and the constant opportunities to tell the truth meant that it was well into the last 10% before Tim found out anything he needed to know.
There is a definitely Dom/sub element between Nathaniel and Tim, which I didn't mind at all. It's quite mild and unobtrusive, though there are frequent instances of public displays of affection and exhibitionism. However, I felt that there was too much sex, clogging up the spaces where we didn't need them to be so graphic; they could have been fade-to-black or briefly mentioned, without losing any of the effect.
Overall, the story was great, with a really palpable and electric chemistry between the two main characters. The minor characters were intriguing. Carl was a great snippy addition, while I'm eager to eventually read Arthur's story. Graham and the baby wolves seemed really sweet and cute; the fairy and her cohorts were entertaining as all get out and Zoe was a great sidekick for Nathaniel. I wasn't disappointed in any of the plot/character effects, only maybe the length of the book and how it allowed certain aspects of the plot to be carried out longer than seemed logical.
“No one's ever let me go in order to do what's best for me.”
“If pancakes were happiness, then Nathaniel was a stack of them piled high and dripping with melted butter and real syrup.”
Book 5: The Firebird and Other Stories
Star rating: ★★★★★
The Firebird (74-77%) is an adorable, sweet short that takes place in Paris, 1934. I centers around the Firebird, Kazimir and human, Seer, Jacob Rifkin. Kazimir is a firebird with a chip on his shoulder, having fought through many years of being a slave to humans until finally finding his freedom; an opera singer/performer, he laments over the false portrayal of Beings but never things to push against them. Jacob, on the other hand, is a writer/editor and ex-soldier haunted by the things he's seen, while also being a Seer who drowns himself in alcohol to forget. Until Kazimir accidentally unlocks his thoughts and opens up his writing pass, once again.
The two have great chemistry and affection for one another that blossoms on page, though over a relatively short time. I loved the characiterisation, the flair of the era and the flounce of the diva, prima donna, Kazimir. Jacob was a breath of fresh air in his brutal honesty and I love the thought of them together. There was nothing explicit about this story and that felt perfectly natural. The glimmers of side characters, the tales about Imps and such, were all nicely added to give the story some depth that I really appreciated. I'd love to see Michel's story, too.
The Warrior's Sacrifice (77-81%) is another sweet offering, with some heat. It takes place in 1947 and bravely combines the pain and torment of a man returned from war with the simple, gentle life of Teo, a muxe → a third gender, of a gay man who identifies as and behaves and dresses like a woman. I say brave, because even in a Mexican community, such as this story has, the 40's weren't a time of acceptance for gay men, never mind a muxe. Yet it was written with heart and compassion and understanding for who Teo was and who he needed to be openly.
The story takes place in Los Cerros, the location of book 1 in the series and a place mentioned in book 4, which offers a nice continuity.
Told in 3rd person, with a single POV, it was really nice to be inside Teo's head, as he was a relatable character – someone looked down on for who he was, but brave and loyal, gentle and kind. Carmelo was also a really interesting character – quiet, withdrawn and more animalistic than even some of the wolves in the series, yet it fitted his gruff but loveable personality.
There was a mis-communication theme again, but this one less so than the others. It involved a jaguar this time, which was a nice change, going back to the tehuantl ancestry and covering the Warrior and Protector role that the jaguar had over Teo's community. It was a great piece of writing, great world building and I loved the glimpse into this other community, so different from the other books in the series.
I would have liked to see a little more of Teo and Carmelo getting to know one another, as they both made it clear that they had only ever spoken once and, despite their attraction (hinted at a mating, but not clearly defined as a mate bond) they barely knew each other. A little more communication would have helped with that.
Hyacinth on the Air (81-85%) is a story set in 1961. It is...scandalous...hot...incredible...and perfect for being all of those things. The title is so very apt, because Hyacinth really does just pour his heart out to the listeners of his radio show. As a fairy, he has less shame and inhibitions as a human would, especially for the period, but his human companion, the lawyer tasked with keeping him in line, Walter, is all the things Hyacinth should be. Careful, respectful, mindful of the rules and proper. Yet, through the slow burn romance between Hyacinth and Walter, through stumbling conversations to stolen kisses, the intensity never lessens, even when they're expressing themselves, sometimes unconsciously, live over the air.
The 3rd person, singular POV was perfect, because we needed to know Hyacinth's thoughts but knowing Walter's would have ruined the effect completely. The slow burn nearly killed me, but it was in the best way, because I could feel Hyacinth's nerves and fear, the same way I could feel Cal's in book 1, despite his being a fairy who was supposed to be infallible and without fear. Walter was the incredibly real, awkward human, who wanted to succumb to his nature but was afraid of repercussions so predominant in the 60's. The addition of the “live on air” moments created incredible tension.
It was even better to see Robin's Egg (from book 4) and to be back in Los Cerros again. The continuity never goes away, with this series, no matter whether it's within the novels or the short stories.
A Giant Among Men (85- 89%) is set in 1982, covering the topic of the AIDS epidemic (as yet unnamed, in the story).
It takes place in Los Cerros again, continuing to link the stories, while also hinting at a character who is very likely Teo (an old lady with a flower behind her ear, who speaks old Spanish), as well as hinting at Carmelo, with the mention of an urban legend beast that used to protect the neighborhood. The story more blatantly shows us Calvin Parker (Cal's dad) during his police days, which was really great to see. I also really liked the hint that Teo got his bookstore, with the mention Guerrero's Books and Comics, which would be right up his alley. I'm also pretty sure that the lawyer with glasses that's mentioned would be Walter, from the previous story, since it's only 20 years after that story and he'd likely still be practicing and working with Beings.
As well as tackling the AIDS epidemic of the eighties, the story also touches on the confusion and difficulty of black Beings to pinpoint their roots, while also touching on the fact that Mami, the club owner, is a man. It's not clear whether it's drag, cross-dressing or that Mami is transgender, but I think it's another case of gender-neutral or muxe influence, because of the hints within the story. This is also the first (chronological) mention of a Being hired as part of the police force, with Tank and “others” not lasting long because of “budget cuts” but having been brought in to make it look like something was being done. It was really nice to see what paved the way for Ray.
The main characters are Tank, a troll, and the Elf, Simon, who are both great characters. It's great to have another 3rd person, singular POV in Tank's view, because it tells us so much about him, while not showing us how Simon really feels, until he admits it. Tank is one of those self-conscious Beings who tried to behave the way humans expect, being a Dom in a leather club and portraying the big bad Tank whenever it's needed, yet he's a pussycat underneath, especially for Simon. I loved that Simon reminded me of how feisty Cal could be, because he stands up to Tank, not scared of him or intimidated by him.
The story was another original take on the Beings in history theme, while offering great chemistry between the MC's and a good side story of the vandalism and the way that everyone, even the Beings, handled the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The Dom/sub elements of what Tank did and what he and Simon were going to begin experimenting with were nicely done, both in heat level and the appropriate experience for Simon's experience. A really great story to add to a bunch of great stories.
The Imp and Mr. Sunshine (89-93%) returns to Rennet, from The Firebird, but jumps ahead to 2005, which is nicely appropriate because Rennet was only a child in the previous story. It's a really cute, fun story with lots of mischief and teasing. Rennet is a real firecracker, causing mayhem without realising it and without meaning it. Yet, the Deputy Mayor (and sort of boss), John, otherwise known as Mr Sunshine, doesn't do anything but enjoy the chaos that follows Rennet like a bad penny. He revels in Rennet being unashamedly who he is.
There's a hint of the 'misunderstanding' theme here, again, but in a slightly different tone, as Rennet and John had a friends with benefit arrangement, though they both see it slightly differently to the other, which causes some confusion. It was nice that they were an established couple and the 3rd person, single POV from Rennet was perfect to properly explore that friendship and their long term arrangement.
It was nice to be back in Los Cerros again, getting a brief glimpse of Ray, though he wasn't mentioned by name, and having connections that gave a hint of gradual improvements to the way Beings were treated by humans.
I loved the relationship and the chemistry between John and Rennet; it was organic and well explored, with some heat. I really enjoyed it.
The Wolf in the Garden (93-97%) jumps further ahead to 2014. Although the story is about Diego and Miki, it also has a lot of Kazimir in it. To be honest, his parts made me cry, because it finally answered the question I'd been thinking about, of how Beings coped or felt when their human mate died. This wasn't the usual old-age death, though, which made it all the worse and I'm not entirely sure what got Jacob, in the end, but I can imagine that it was probably a war of some kind, with the implication that Beings like Rennet had to be smuggled out of the country.
However, although Kazimir's part of the story made it sad and beautiful and soul-destroying, I also loved Miki's part in it. He was such a gentle soul, so loveable and relatable; obsessed with his weird and wonderful flowers, as only a true, dedicated gardener could be, he is a loner and afraid to interact outside of his garden. It's almost beautiful to see him opening up to Diego, even in the small ways that begin their friendship.
Thankfully, there is no confusion or miscommunication over their attraction or chemistry. It's all made perfectly clear, with the help of Kaz and Diego's honesty.
Again, the story takes place in Los Cerros, mentioning Cassandra's magic shop and implying that Kaz is the one that Tank heard singing opera, in A Giant Among Men.
It's sad to know that Miki's parents threw him out for being gay, but the human/wolf mating was really nice to see, since it's been a while.
And that's all I can say without giving it all away. A brilliantly done story about awkward love and lost love, wrapped up in beautiful flowers.
Finally, we come to the present day, with The Dragon's Egg (97-100%) and revisit one of my favourite pairings, Arthur and Bertie, from A Boy and His Dragon. This one was...sigh...another story of utter perfection. The gentleness of Arthur and Bertie, with the heat of their simmering love for each other, was beautiful to return to, but the added joy of a baby hatchling was just too much for my heart. It was perfect and I refuse to say any more than that.
Unlike the novel of these two, this one is a single POV, through Bertie, but it's perfect for that, because it lets us see Arthur's behaviour from the distance we need to not know what's going on right away. I loved that Arthur got to go back to school, like he'd wanted and that they'd been together for a few years, by this time, as well as all the plans Arthur made for their future. I'm so excited to see how they work out.
The fact that we had a mention of Jacob's book in there just stole my heart.
Overall, the entire book was a perfect blend of old and new stories, old and new characters and it definitely answered some questions I hadn't known I was harbouring from the previous novels. I can't wait to read more from this universe. It could go on forever and I'd never get enough.
“Fairy healing or not, his little Walter could break him without even trying. He only had to leave.” ~ Hyacinth on the Air
“Simon was a thousand breathless fears. Tank was going to crush them all.” ~ A Giant Among Men
“He'd never wanted a tragic love. Of course he'd been given one.” ~ The Imp and Mr. Sunshine
“I am closer to my Yasha with every page.” ~ The Wolf in the Garden
“I can't watch the Super Bowl, Arthur, please don't make me.” ~ The Dragon's Egg
When it comes to negatives, there are very few. There are no chapter headings, just divided chapters with capital letters at the start of each new scene, which makes it hard to acknowledge how many chapters are left. The only a few exceptions. There are also a few editing issues throughout, but nothing overly confusing or frustrating to deal with.
I do have an issue with the whole 'miscommunication' aspect of each story. Most of the time it's because some big bag wolf or dragon can't just come out and say “You're my mate. Would you be interested in getting to know me?” Because, if that happened, there would be no story, but sometimes it just seems a little stupid for everyone (and the town, in some cases) to never say anything.
However, the entire series is romance gold. From slow burn to flaming heat, there are stories of all sorts. There are a variety of Beings (wolves, fairies, dragons and magic users for the novels; a firebird, jaguar, fairy, troll, elf, imp and dragon in the last novel of shorts) that each get to tell the story of their people and show how they love. Some have destined mates, but not all, and it's great to see how that differs from Being to Being.
I started this series thinking that Book 1, Some Kind of Magic, was my favourite story. I'm ending it with an absolute certainty that The Firebird and Other Stories has taken its place. I can't help it. Kazimir stole my heart and that can't be undone.
If they were all available in paperback (though that's sadly not the case) I would absolutely be snapping up each and every novel until I had the whole set. For now, I'll settle for keeping this on my Kindle as a yearly re-read must.
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