Rating: 4.5 stars
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I’ve made no secret about my rampant love affair with Mary Calmes’ writing. Her books just do it for me. She creates extremely hot main characters with explosive sexual chemistry. There’s usually an uber alpha male involved in keeping his kind of flighty but extremely well-liked partner under control. And it’s funny and sweet and will charm the pants right off of you. Some people don’t go for the caveman act. That’s fine. To each his own. Also, if you haven’t read the first three books in this series, you’ll want to do that first. Domin’s story is kind of a spin-off rather than a sequel to the Change of Heart books that starred Logan and Jin. However, there’s enough overlap that it’d be really confusing if you hadn’t read the others first.
Domin Thorne has been newly chosen as the semel-aten (the leader of all of the werepanthers in the world) and is struggling to establish the authority he needs as he takes over the previous semel-aten’s domain. Domin is gruff and easy to incite, but underneath that crusty exterior is a heart of gold. Domin has big plans to make the werepanther world a better place, but is being threatened on all fronts. He has to deal with outside threats intent on removing him and his people from power (which, according to tradition, requires a fight to the death in the pit). The men and women in his command are dealing with personal issues of their own. His ex has decided he didn’t realize what he had until it was gone. And, worst of all, his mate and love of his life, Yuri Sosa, has been called away to mediate an issue far from home.
Domin must learn how to be the leader he has been called to be, while simultaneously dealing with everything falling apart around him. One thing he realizes right away: he needs Yuri. It’s Yuri’s unconditional love and acceptance that makes him whole, and his absence isn’t helping his poor mood. When Jin Rayne, a frighteningly powerful nekhene cat comes to save his best friend, Crane, from the pit, Domin enlists his help and that of his mate, Logan Church, to find Yuri and establish peace. As he comes into his own as a more than competent leader, Domin learns he has a much bigger job to do than he ever imagined.
In some ways, I think this is one of the best books Mary Calmes has ever written. Instead of following her alpha-male formula I outlined above (which, please remember, I adore), she makes Domin Thorne one of her most complex characters. In doing so, I fell in love with him. Yes, he’s grumpy and brusque and doesn’t have the best people skills, but he also has a dry wit to die for, is reluctantly sweet beyond belief, and still manages to be commanding and authoritative when he needs to be. He’s not an alpha-male, and the ability that he has to rely on other people’s opinions rather than seeing his own ideas as law makes him a highly effective leader.
The relationship between Yuri and Domin is, *sigh*, exquisite. Yuri worships the ground that Domin walks on, regardless of his station or any of his successes. Domin is slowly beginning to realize that he needs Yuri, and that he loves him more than he ever thought possible. They are the true definition of partners. And they like to switch it up a bit in the bedroom, which makes for some seriously hot sex scenes. Domin is able to give up his power to Yuri because he trusts him, and he realizes that this is more valuable than anything he ever felt in his previous relationships. Yuri is a perfect combination of sexy dominance and unyielding support. I have a deep and abiding psychotic fangirl love for him.
I mean, obviously I loved it. So, why not 5 stars? The first quarter of the book almost killed me. For some reason, I had a really difficult time adapting to the first person POV in the beginning. I think it was because there was so much backstory, establishing and reminding us of the complex world of the werepanthers. It sounded awkward to me in the first person POV. Add to that the fact that I found the information dump extremely confusing, I was ready to throw in the towel. I understand that the world is complex, and I appreciate it for that. I am also not a regular fantasy reader, where people like my husband have a 40 page index of characters and terminology to understand their books and have no problem with it. I remembered a lot from previous books in the series. But there are so many different names and titles that are essentially in a foreign language, it can send a little ol’ reader of mainly contemporary fiction’s mind a-reelin’. (Huh. I became strangely folksy just then.)
If you’ve been following the Change of Heart series until now, don’t hesitate to pick up this book. Domin is more than a worthy character to continue the legacy established by Logan and Jin. And if you haven’t read any of them, start now! I absolutely loved Domin and Yuri and I’ll be dying with anticipation for the next installment.