Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Vaughn Prentiss lives a life of wealth and privilege, able to come and go as he pleases and live in the comfort his family money provides. When visiting his cousin, Maya, Vaughn meets Jake Bander, manager of the Ark, a local animal preserve. The big man is surly and taciturn, but something about Jake intrigues Vaughn and he is determined to get to know him. When Vaughn’s financial fortunes take a dramatic turn for the worse, he accepts a job working for Jake at the Ark.
Jake never expects Vaughn will last in the job, with the early hours and hard physical labor. But Vaughn takes to his new financial situation with the same ease and enthusiasm he does everything else. Jake finds he shares an attraction to the gorgeous, golden boy, but his defenses are definitely up. As a lone bander shifter, Jake is shy and reclusive. It is not only a need to keep secret that he is a shifter, but also a natural desire to be alone and away from people. But Vaughn is talkative and lively and sneaks through Jake’s defenses. Even when he learns more about Jake’s true nature, Vaughn is committed to the idea of building something together. Although Jake’s instincts are to push Vaughn away, he finds that he truly wants them to be together as well. But when Jake is threatened with exposure and danger looms, he must hope that Vaughn is still willing to stay by his side amidst all the trouble.
Taming the Bander is an interesting and a bit unusual shifter story. First, I think it some ways it falls right on that line between contemporary and paranormal. Although Jake is a shifter, the story has a very traditional contemporary feel and we rarely see him in animal form. Jake is also unusual in the sense that no one quite knows what he is, Jake included. Although there is some vague local lore about the banders and it seems that Jake is the last of the line, not much else is really known about him. I enjoyed the way the book takes this different approach to shifters and to Jake specifically. We learn that there is an awareness of other shifters in parts of the world (Sasquatch, for example) and some level of acceptance of their existance. Jake’s fear of exposure seems more grounded in fear of the unwanted attention than that people might harm him if they find out his shifter nature. So some interesting world building here and I enjoyed the different approach. I do wish we got just a little more detail though, especially on Jake’s backstory of growing up and how he ended up living at the Ark. A lot is mentioned in passing but I would have loved having this fleshed out more.
I really enjoyed Vaughn and Jake together. Jake is grumpy and gruff and insults Vaughn the first time he sees him. The bander inside him makes him a loner, wary of people, and sort of anti-social. He cultivates his “grumpy young man” image to keep people at a distance, and even his friends at the Ark are a bit wary of him. And I love how Vaughn sort of crashes right through that. He is an upbeat, friendly guy, forever talking, and refuses to let Jake scare him off. Vaughn has his life turned upside down, yet manages to make the best of what it has become. Despite growing up rich and pampered, he is a down-to-earth guy, and has no problems taking a low-paying job doing menial labor when it is required. He has always been a little restless, drifting from one thing to another. But when his life changes, Vaughn finally finds a real place for himself, happy with Jake and life at the Ark. They are good for each other, Jake grounding Vaughn a bit and Vaughn smoothing over some of Jake’s rough edges. I really liked them as a couple.
In addition to the growing relationship between Vaughn and Jake, the story also focuses on Vaughn’s cousin Maya and her attempts to retrieve the family money. I found my feelings at bit mixed on this subplot. I did like that it takes the story away from a sole focus on the relationship and adds a bit of a thriller element. But it does center around Maya who I found I didn’t really like. Unlike Vaughn who handles his change in fortune with grace, Maya completely falls apart, then turns to threatening and manipulating Jake in attempt to get her money back. While Jake and Vaughn in turn found her both frustrating and sympathetic, I found myself not having much patience for her more severe behavior and somewhat surprised with how indulgent the men were of her for so long.
Overall I found Taming the Bander an enjoyable story. I liked the mix of paranormal and contemporary, and especially the more unique aspects of the shifter story. I did wish for some more development in the shifter lore and Jake’s backstory, as it was so intriguing and really left me wanting more. I really liked Vaughn and Jake and enjoyed their interaction and developing relationship. So definitely an enjoyable read, especially if you are looking for a paranormal with a bit of a different spin.