There’s a particular phase of falling for someone, a particular moment in a romance story that I really love: the wondering phase. It’s right after that special someone has gotten your attention; you sort of, kind of got their attention too, but you’re just not really sure where you stand. Do they find you attractive? How attractive? Does their heart flutter just like yours does when you make eye contact? Do they yearn for your touch the way you do for theirs? I love this tension, the ambiguity of this moment in a love story.
Here’s a snippet of such a moment from A King and a Pawn:
He was sitting on a couch. His long, shapely legs were elegantly crossed and giving me a tantalizing view of his thigh and the curve of his tight ass. He was leaning his arms along the back of the couch. His head tilted to the side as he checked me out slowly from head to toe, then back up again. I couldn’t tell what he thought of the view, but reading fey faces was a skill I definitely didn’t possess. I might with time. Apparently these guys showed few facial expressions, and faint ones at that. Probably because everyone could read what everyone else felt, so there wasn’t need for rudimentary stuff like expressing it with your face and body. Maybe not even with words.
I arranged my tie, a little agitated. “Works for this reception thing that we’re going to?”
He nodded once and looked up into my eyes. “You look good enough to eat,” he said in a cool tone that ruffled my metaphorical feathers. Then he went back to checking out my suit. Or me.
“Are you hitting on me, Will? I hope it’s not part of your job description.”
“Oh? Why would you hope that?”
“Because my permanent driver lady would be disappointed on a daily basis to see I’m not interested,” I said, trying to smile in a charming rather than lascivious way.
He seemed to search my face for something. “Not into drivers?”
I snorted. “Not if they’re lady drivers.”
“I see,” he said slowly, running his gaze up and down my body.
It made me nervous that I couldn’t read much into his tone, expression, or gaze. I realized the actual words could mean anything without hints to what the speaker felt.
Tim had warned me that body language, expressions, and tone were different with fey, and it might throw me off in the beginning. To be honest I had thought he was full of shit at the time because I could read his body language, expressions, and tone just fine. Come to think of it, maybe that was because he’d taken them up human style, not fey. We could all read the subtext of what everyone else meant because we used the same ways of expressing our feelings. This guy just… didn’t express himself in a way I could read right off the bat. I was hoping to practice my fey-reading skills on him before facing the whole cohort of them, but if things went as they had so far, I was kind of screwed—sadly not in the good way.
“So are you? Hitting on me?” I tried again, focusing on his face and eyes. Come on, man, give me something to work with, here.
“Would you report me if I were?” he asked, studying my face and body.
I swallowed. “You’re not allowed to hit on me? What, am I outside the law or something? I’d better buy a lot of hand lotion, if so,” I muttered dejectedly.
I was hoping for a smile, a grin, a laugh. He just looked up into my eyes. That focus of his was very exciting for some reason. It made me feel like I was the only important person in the world. It was the kind of gaze leaders got from their packs or clans, like the whole universe revolved around them. Like they were the sun, moon, and all of the stars. It was not how pack members looked at a beta, for instance. Nobody had looked at me quite like this. Like I was a much-coveted book, only written in a yet-unknown language. Like they were burning inside to read all of me, page by page.
None of my so-called boyfriends had looked at me like that. Maybe because I never looked at them like that either. I couldn’t afford to. As pack beta and Alf’s guard, I had to be available to Weiss and Alf at all times, any time. My loyalties could not be questioned or swayed, not even a tiny bit. And reading someone like Will was trying to read me, page by precious page, meant a sort of commitment I didn’t dare get into. A sort of connection I couldn’t afford. Much less now that my loyalty would be forever put into question. Loving someone would mean being loyal to them. And that could be taken as not being loyal to my alpha first. I would never give anyone reason to doubt my loyalty.
Besides, I was most likely imagining things. Maybe it was a sign of the same kind of curiosity I was experiencing. After all, if I couldn’t read him, maybe he couldn’t read me. And if that was true, then my ring worked like it was supposed to. Now if I could only get him to talk about reading my emotional grid….
“I’m not supposed to… fraternize while I work for you,” he finally said.
What the hell did that mean? That he wanted to, or that he was using the excuse to brush me off? The guy was starting to be irritating. I was suddenly terrified they’d all be this impossible to read, rendering me pretty much blind and dumb. Not much could panic a wolf more than taking away his senses.
“I see,” I replied in what I hoped was a cool enough voice. “Should we go, then?”
He nodded and got up, turned for the door, and walked out to the car. There he opened the back door and stood there with his hat taken off and resting under his arm while he waited. I locked the front door of the house, walked up to him, and got inside the car without wasting time looking his way again.
I was busy enough without trying to figure out some cryptic, admittedly hot fey guy, at least for today. I might squeeze in the time to inspect matters further tomorrow, maybe.
What’s your favorite part of a love story, aside the happy ending that I’m sure we all love? Is it the wondering phase? Or maybe the seduction?
A King and a Pawn (Leader Murders #3) by Liv Olteano
MxM Adult Paranormal Mystery/Suspense Romance
234 pages; app. 82k words
Cover by AngstyG
Pub date: June 17 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Bert Cooper’s life used to be great, until his sister turned out to be a traitor. Now Bert feels the whole pack looks on him with doubt and suspicion. To prove his loyalty, he volunteers to be the first ambassador at Fey Court, gathering information to finally solve the Leader Murders and punish those plotting against the Council and community. At least, that was the plan….
When Bert meets Sir William Matthew Sims, Court Interrogator, and one hell of a sexy man, life becomes a balancing act. And when the Fey King is assassinated, things become really messy.
Pack politics, fey politics, treason, suspicions of treason…. Bert has to choose between being ruled by his fears or standing up for what—and who—he believes in. And it might just break his heart.
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30232294-a-king-and-a-pawn
He walked toward me slowly, his hands still at his back. For a moment I contemplated stepping out of his way, though I could see no outward sign of aggression or violence in his demeanor. But I was a beta in my pack, even if it was the beta of a ballsy alpha like Weiss. My natural instinct was to bow to someone’s intense vibe of authority. And without a doubt right now Will exuded shitloads of those vibes. My heart was pounding in earnest, the plug inside my ass making me tingly all over and lusty.
“Say you needed a friend at Court,” he whispered when he was but a breath away from me. “Say you needed one desperately. What would you be willing to do to gain such a friend?”
I swallowed hard. “Depends.”
“Loads of things. How much I liked that person, how badly I needed their friendship, to what end.”
He chuckled. “I like your thinking, Bert. I find I like you, all in all. And you know what?”
He leaned in even closer, rubbing his lips against the shell of my ear. “I think you like me too. Do you?”
I nodded because I couldn’t help myself. And I was hard at this point, so there was no use in denying it.
“Good. I’m glad to hear that,” he said, stepping away. His hands had never left the small of his back. “Now a lot depends upon what’s written in that file. And upon my direct testimony. Should the file say there are traces of the drugs from last night in your blood, it would prove you’d been a victim of the attempt just like everyone else. My testimony would show just to what degree you were affected.”
“And why would that be relevant?”
“Events took place last night. Unfortunate events. Decidedly unfortunate.”
“You mean aside from the guests being drugged?”
He nodded. “Let’s say your life hung in the balance. And let’s assume how much of a friend I decide to be to you could either make or break your case.”
A cold chill went down my spine. “What the fuck are you saying?”
He smiled. “I think you know. Don’t you, Bert?”
“No, I fucking don’t!” I shouted and just made a go at him.
I’m not sure what I was thinking. I don’t think I was thinking. Rage just exploded inside me and then outward, controlling my body. I wanted to slap that smug look off his face. I wanted to mess up his hair, at least; I was almost convinced it would annoy him more than a slap to the face.
But I didn’t. He easily spun me around and planted me face-first against a wall, my arm twisted to keep me in place. I growled, the loud sound booming against the walls of his office.
“Yes,” he said directly against my ear. “This is the temper I expected of you. This is the intensity you were supposed to display. Yet I can’t read it in your emotional grid. So tell me, growling beauty, what is it that’s messing with my reading?”
I kept growling for a moment so I wouldn’t seem shocked silent by the question. I’d screwed up in two fucking days. In two fucking days I’d given away the fact I had some sort of antireading thing going on, which would mean I had something to hide. And this was most definitely not the right time to be discovered as a liar.
“What’s going on? What do you want?” I asked, trying to tone down the rising panic.
“I’m sad to say the Fey King is dead. He was assassinated sometime between last night and the early hours of this morning. Until matters are cleared up, everyone with opportunity is a suspect. Newcomers, and outsiders to boot, are at the top of everyone’s list, as you might imagine.”
The blood froze in my veins. “You’re shitting me. The King is dead?”
“Very much so.”
“Maybe it was natural causes,” I said halfheartedly.
“It wasn’t. Are you calm enough to discuss this like adults now?”
I nodded and he let go of me, stepping back. He walked over to the edge of his desk and perched on it.
“You’re telling me I’m a suspect in the Fey King’s assassination?” I asked in a faint voice.
“Exactly. So as I was saying earlier, you do need a friend right now. You need me as your friend. What are you willing to do in order to get that?”
My stomach tightened painfully. “What would you have in mind?”
Review by Elaine White
Book – A King and A Pawn (Leader Murders #3)
Author – Liv Olteano
Star rating – ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
No. of Pages – 234
Cover – Moody and Gorgeous!
POV – 1st person, one character, POV
Would I read it again – Yes.
Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Crime
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
I struggled with this one because it took me a while to make up my mind about my rating and how I felt about it. Though I’m totally addicted to the series, I’d have to say the order they come in, as a series, is also the order I’d rank them for my favorite to least favorite.
I’d really been looking forward to getting Bert’s story, after seeing snippets of him in book 2. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. He spent way too much time emphasizing his role as Beta and making excuses for himself and other people. I initially assumed that this left the Alpha role to Will, but that was wrong. While Bert went from intriguing and fun to whiny and insecure, Will transitioned from Alpha to sub. He pretty much drooled over Bert, the minute they made their deal and that was disappointing.
I liked the strong, feisty will from the Kingdom, not so much who he became on Council territory. The same could be said for Bert. In book 2 and the beginning of book 3, he was a little snarky, showed some signs of dominance and a flirty, cheeky attitude. That all disappeared when he met Will and returned to Council territory, where he became the simpering Beta, worrying over whether he was good enough if he should take risks and constantly questioning his role as Weiss’ Beta. The fact that Weiss had to keep encouraging him and reminding him of his role in the pack got a little frustrating.
You might ask why I assumed there was a need for an Alpha role? Well, because there’s always one in this series. Travis was the Alpha with a tender side, while Rick was his snarky, feisty submissive. Weiss was the gruff, loveable rogue of an Alpha, who wasn’t afraid to make the tough choices, while Tim was a little more emotionally free and insecure, while retaining a tough core that could be used whenever necessary (AKA, protecting Alf etc.) I get that Bert is a Beta, so he’s supposed to be submissive to Weiss, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be assertive or retain his character from the start of the book while with Will.
Sadly, the constant doubts about Will’s character and loyalty prevented me from rooting for him and I felt that it disconnected me from the chemistry he shared with Bert. At times, I wanted them to be together, but at other times I just didn’t care enough. I didn’t particularly like Will’s kids or the Fey treatment of children, either, which didn’t help.
While I’m on the inconsistency of characters, I really feel sad and frustrated that Rick was turned into something he’s not, throughout the course of books 2 and 3. He was always strong, with a soft underbelly and, sure, Mitch was an infection lying in wait at the back of his mind, festering away. But I really thought Travis would have helped with that, that he would confront Mitch while a strong, capable lycan and confront the past. I get that there are mentions of getting him therapy with Tim, in book 2 and then him going through with it in book 3, but I really don’t get the vehemence of his fury with Weiss. It’s not like him. He knows better and is smarter than to project his feelings for Mitch onto Weiss. I get why he never really took to Tim, after his prior relationship with Travis, but Rick is a strong enough person to get past that (especially after he’s mated to Travis and Tim is mated to Weiss). He’s also smart enough to know that Amanda was a psycho, even if she didn’t begin as one. And that there are two people to blame for her situation.
Basically, it just annoyed me that a character I’d loved so much was turned into someone that I’d never imagined he could be. He became cold, bitter and angry all the time. Not how I wanted him to end the series or ever become, but the lack of answers about that, in a series where each book is about a new couple and you only get one character’s POV, was another reason I couldn’t love this book so much.
When you have a book series which is essentially about three different couples, all mixed up in the one situation, it’s very limiting to have 1st person, one character POV. For the above reason – we never get to see Rick recover or know about his true feelings in a way that would satisfy my initial love of him – but also because this plot was so intricate and detailed that this is where the story fell down so much. Without delving into other characters POV, even for one or two chapters, we missed out on a great chunk of the plot. I never got to see the interrogation of the council members, the confrontation with the council or the questioning of the perpetrators of the initial three Leader Murder cases. Those are all important to the plot and the characters, since the first page of book 1. Not seeing them and following the Leader Murders through every clue and every twist as it came, was frustrating.
Book prior books focused so much on solving the case that I really expected the same here. Instead, everything integral to the solving of the case was placed into other people’s hands – Weiss and Tim or Travis and Rick – which we never got to see. For that reason, the story became much more about whether Will was a traitor or not than about solving the Leader Murders. To me, the case became less of “the heart” of the story and more “a means to an end” to draw Will and Bert together. In the end, this left me with an unsatisfactory resolution to a criminal case that I’d been following eagerly since book 1.
Similarly, it took far too long for the romance to build. Bert and Will were still at an unsure stage by 70-80% and it really felt as though the majority of the book was about the “will they, won’t they” aspect of their relationship, rather than the Leader Murders, which is should have been. And, disappointingly, it never went anywhere. At least not on page. Some tame, not very detailed fooling around happened throughout the story, always with Bert keeping an emotional distance, and when they did have sex it was a first for the series. The first to take literally 90% for them to get into bed and then the first to rush their first time together – the most important interaction between the couple – into one brief, non-descriptive paragraph that was glossed over.
I think the main reason I didn’t fall for this couple the way I did with the others came down to two factors –
- the ring – Bert is given a magic ring, to help him on his mission, and this makes it impossible for Will to read his emotional grid. It also keeps Bert hidden behind a protective cage, where he doesn’t have to expose his true feelings.
- the Beta thing – Bert uses his role as Beta to Weiss to constantly put distance between himself and Will. The way he uses Weiss’ influence over him and his compliance to his Alpha as an excuse was really frustrating.
Like the other books in the series, there were quite a few repeat phrases. “Peacocking”, “fuck me sideways” and the constant belittling of Bert (calling himself fat, useless, untrustworthy, unworthy and a Beta all the time) got old really fast.
I was, however, really happy to see the Anti-Abuse Act put into force and to see a proper resolution to Amanda’s part of the story. But the other aspects of the plot made those shining moments less exciting.
The Leader Murders, which took the previous two stories by storm, with various twists, turns, and outcomes, had never really gone anywhere. They were clues, hints, trickles of information and I presumed that meant there would be more books to the series until they put all the pieces together and gathered the evidence. However, that’s not going to happen. This book ended with a neat little bow and a summary at the end, of the three couples, that implies there won’t be any more books.
All clues and leads were not only real and brought new evidence in this story, but it happened way too fast and in a way that we didn’t really get to explore because Bert and Will were too busy together or plotting against the Fey Court to be a part of it. After the build up of the previous two books, I expected clues to show up, for things to start happening or for one of their prisoners to talk, but not for the entire case – from book 1 to 3 – to be resolved and tied up in the last 20% of the story.
Overall, Bert was less of a shining star as he should have been. His position as Beta was used to solve the case, as were his personal ties to people orbiting the case, but not directly involved.
A disappointing ending to a fantastic series. Book 1 – Travis and Rick – will always be my favorite and it won’t stop me reading all three again in the future. But I do wish that book 3 hadn’t deviated so much from the pattern I’d been expecting and from the Leader Murders so much.
“The King was throwing me a welcome party, during which I half expected them to try poisoning me. But the Court was big on pomp and circumstance, Tim told me. They’d make an event out of picking their noses if they could. So they’d even throw a wolf a welcome party, though they generally looked on us as nasty beasts.”
“He was the taste of destruction, and in that terrible moment, I wanted him. I wanted to wrap myself around his heart like a snake, sink my teeth into it, and take a good chunk of it, if not consume it entirely.”
About the author
Voracious reader, music lover, and coffee addict extraordinaire. And occasional geek. Okay, more than occasional. Lover of diversity and quirky character, spamificating the world.
Be afraid, be very afraid. 😀
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LiviaOlteano
Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6952513.Liv_Olteano