Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
I feel like I should start with a content warning: Please be warned that reviewer has been known to fangurl to the extreme after reading this author’s works. M.L. Rhodes is the first m/m author I ever read, and has remained by far one of my very favorite authors, with good reason. Every work that she puts outs goes into my “must read” column. The characters are always lovable. The attraction between lovers sizzles. The reader/character connection is immediate and strong. The world building is new and imaginative. And the stories always flow so well.
It’s been over a year since an M.L. Rhodes book has been released so I was beyond excited to delve into Emrys’ world and another of Rhodes’ magickal, inspired works. I wasn’t disappointed…not that I had any doubts.
“But sometimes really hard things that make us hurt, that make us struggle, that make us fight for what we want, are blessings in disguise. Sometimes we have to live through them in order to have a better appreciation of our lives and the good things that happen.” – Emrys Andrews
Emrys Andrews was not your average teenager. Salem, Massachusetts has a vast history of magick and mystery. Emrys and his family are part of that magick. As a member of a family of witches, Emrys has known and been around magick his whole life, but more on the outside of it. Emrys is a witch, but his powers are uncontrollable and unpredictable, so he learned at an early age to suppress his magick in order to keep others around him safe.
At sixteen, Emrys knew at first sight that he wanted to be part of star quarterback David Jennings’ life. But after a disaster caused by his magick, Emrys was forced to pine for David from afar for the next year and a half – never wanting to accidentally cause any harm to David. It didn’t matter anyway because David had never even noticed Emrys, and he was straight.
On a dare from his best friend at their graduation party, Emrys ends up at an old abandoned house on the harbor that’s said to be haunted. He didn’t expect to find David on the property. And it was the worst possible time for his magick to act up, but it did and injured David yet again.
A night that began in disaster proved to be just the opposite. Finding out that David has been hiding the same feelings for Emrys was a bit of a shock, but is not unwelcome. David’s family life is not what it seems and Emrys finds out that David will be leaving the town of Salem and Emrys the next morning. Both boys share secrets that neither has ever told anyone else. A beautiful night of discovery and connection turns into the hardest goodbye Emrys has ever experienced. And he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to get over David when he leaves.
Three and a half years later, Emrys still remembers the night spent with David in vivid detail and holds out hope that one day they will find each other again. Then one cold and snowy night, David walks into the veterinary clinic where Emrys works afraid and tense. David is back and Emrys refuses to let him walk away again. Their relationship picks up as if they had never been apart, but danger follows David, and Emrys is determined to find a way to help him even if he has to use his temperamental magick to do so.
First off, if you’ve read the blurb for this story, you know it’s extremely long, detailed, and a little overwhelming. It’s almost like a short story of the actual story, but don’t let that put you off. Familiar is a fabulous story of dreams and hope and love and, most of all, magick.
As I mentioned earlier, this author’s characters are always lovable and most endearing. One of Rhodes’ strengths is characterization. Emrys Andrews is no different. The lovable geek that never fit in to one group in school. Who stood up to bullies to protect weaker students, even if he didn’t know them. Not a genius. Not a jock. Just an angsty teenage boy who grows into an even more likable man. A boy that lets love go in hopes that it will return. A boy who grows into a man who will fight for his true love. He’s stronger than he believes himself to be. Emrys is a charming underdog that had me rooting for him from the beginning of the book to the very end.
The book is written in the first person POV of Emrys, which is not common for Rhodes’ works, but is refreshing and flows so well. We only see David through Emrys’ eyes, but what I saw, I adore. When he’s younger, David is a victim of circumstance. For years, he suffers for his family’s mistakes. But older David is more determined to lead his own life and follow his own heart. His faith in Emrys and his powers makes Emrys have more faith in himself. Together they balance each other.
One of the best aspects of these characters is their believability. I can actually picture these two together – magick, mystery, and all. I can see the teenage boys full of doubt and fear, and the adult men, full of determination and love. Even the sex scenes are believable and so very hot, but that is a given for this author.
The story is as creative as it is captivating. I most enjoy the difference in teenage-Emrys and adult-Emrys. There’s a definite change, a maturity, in the thought processes between the two and adds wonderful layers to his character and the story. The magick, the romance, the mystery, all follow Emrys and David through their teenage years into their reunion and wrap up in a nice bow at the end.
Emrys’ world is new and imaginative. I would love to spend just one day in the mind of this author if only to know how the creative process plays out. The world in Familiar is one of reality and fantasy, one of humans and witches, one of mortal and magick. There are hints of the paranormal – werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. The play on the legend of witches of Salem adds a little history and myth to the mix. I also love that each of the Andrews’ children is named after a witch from literature or television. And if you are a Merlin fan, such as I, you can appreciate the meaning of Emrys’ name.
Over half of this book consists of Emrys’ high school years and mostly the one night that Emrys and David spent together, and then the story picks up three and a half years later. If I had a complaint it would be that I wish that I could have seen more of what happened in the years that Emrys and David were apart and also I would have loved for the story after the reunion to continue on. I would have liked to see Emrys and David move into the old house. I also would have liked a glimpses into their past lives that readers were given hints of.
So, fangurl gushiness aside, Familiar is a magickal story in more than one sense. The characters, the story, and the world are all combined to bring readers a tale of hope and love that left me wanting more only for the simple fact that it was such a charming story that I didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend Familiar by the very talented M.L. Rhodes. I look forward to seeing if Emrys’ story continues somewhere down the road, and I anxiously await the next story from M.L. Rhodes.
Cover: I do like this cover by Trace Edward Zaber. It combines lovely images of Emrys and David that are such great depictions of the description within the book along with a little bit of magick.