Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Bero is a Felan, a race of creatures that live in the land of Asgard. The Felan are called to help humans in need. They are gifted with the ability to empathize, to read people’s emotions, to recognize their problems, and to guide them through bad times. Periodically Felan are temporarily matched with a human and form a binding, or Behovet, for as long as it takes to help resolve the problem. Bero is one of the best at his job, but he is also burned out. Although he takes great pride and satisfaction in helping people get their lives back on track, he feels like he has no real life of his own. He is always serving other people’s needs without any opportunity to think about what he really wants or what makes him happy. So Bero decides he is going to mess up his next binding, forcing the council to pull him out and give him some time off.
David Whitaker is one of those humans in need. He has made a total mess of his life lately and can’t seem to snap out of his self-pity and wallowing long enough to do anything about it. As Dave imagines calling tech support to explain his problems:
“Hey there, I can’t get my computer to work. You see, my boyfriend left me, I lost my job, I was forced to move into a basement apartment that I’m pretty sure I share with a variety of crawly, disgusting things, and I haven’t left the house for more than a few minutes at a time in weeks so I’m pretty sure I look like a homeless person, and well, the thing is, lately the only thing that makes me happy is watching porn online—you know the really filthy, debased stuff? So, anyway, I think I got a virus from this website—www.stuffitinandtakeithard.com—I’m sure you’ve heard of it—and now my computer keeps crashing. And, well, I really need to get back online so I can look at more porn. Can you help me?”
When Bero shows up in Dave’s apartment, Dave is understandably a bit freaked. But he takes the news that Bero is here to help him as a fairy godfather of sorts surprisingly well. First of all, Bero is hot. And secondly, things can’t really get much worse. Not to mention that Bero seems to totally understand him and what is fueling his downward spiral. He calls Dave on his self-pity and misplaced anger, and gets him motivated to clean up both himself and his apartment for the first time in a long while.
Although Bero had intended to sabotage his binding, he has second thoughts upon meeting Dave. Not only does he find him attractive, but Dave is such a nice guy. He actually seems to care about Bero’s feelings and desires, rather than a sole focus on what Bero can do for him like so many of the bindings. Bero can’t stand the idea of intentionally causing him further pain. Given the mutual attraction between them, Bero decides instead to seduce Dave, figuring that will cause the council to dissolve the binding just as fast. But to his surprise, the council lets Bero stay. And the two men begin to fall for each other, with a real connection that is developing into love. Dave begins to get his life together and really make some positive change. But the faster Dave improves, the sooner Bero will be forced to return home. And before long, Bero realizes that he may have to decide between Dave’s happiness and his own.
So I found this one a fun book with a lot of cleverness, some enjoyable characters, and great world building. The story zipped along for me, aided by Dave’s amusing banter and commentary. Even when he is at his worst, he is at least self-aware enough to realize that he is a total mess and retains some sense of humor. I think Stark finds a nice balance with Dave. On one hand he is enough of a mess that we can feel for him and root for him to get his life on track, and it is clear he is in trouble and needs help. But at the same time, Dave isn’t so much of a sad sack as to be to be totally unlikeable or unsympathetic. It was easy to see the slippery slope he has taken and how hard it is to pull himself back out. And the fact that he retains his humor makes it even easier to like him. In the same way, Bero could easily have leaned toward the unlikeable for his desire to live for himself and his plan to intentionally mess up someone’s life. Not to mention his truly misguided actions toward the end of the story (though I appreciated the quick resolution to the conflict, not the mention Bero’s immediate realization of his mistakes). But we can also totally understand how burned out he is, how he feels like he has no life of his own, no one who really cares for him or thinks about his happiness. All Bero wants is what most people want – to make someone happy and to be happy in return.
I enjoyed the way that the romantic relationship between Dave and Bero starts out as a means to get Bero kicked off the job, but instead it ends up being the way both men find happiness. Bero finally finds someone who really cares about him and how he feels. Dave is curious about this life, sensitive to his needs, and actually loves him for who is his, not for what he is doing for Dave. And Dave is motivated by his relationship with Bero, getting some new perspective and a renewed energy that jump starts his efforts to get his life back on track. The two guys are very sweet together, and even though the book sways to the syrupy side a bit at the end, I enjoyed them as a couple.
For me the best part about the story is the fabulous world building. Stark gives us so much depth and detail into the mythology of the Felan, the world of Asgard, and the role of the bindings. She creates and interesting world and one that felt very rich and complete. Even though most of the story takes place on Earth, we really get to understand the alternate world she creates.
This is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I am really excited to see how the future books play out. I found this was one really interesting with a lively pace, great world building, and a tone that combines humor and sweetness in a really nice way.
P.S. As a bit of an Easter Egg, Dave secretly writes romance and one of his stories is called Knockout, a tale of a boxer and his trainer. Which of course is a book that Stark in fact wrote herself (and we reviewed here). I was sort of torn between amused and eye rolling, but I did get a giggle out of it.
Cover Review: Oh, I like this one. Ok, so I am always a sucker for a nice pair of wings, but I think this is beautifully done.