Rating: 4.75 stars
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Ethan Abbatt has always been an outcast in his wolf pack. At age 20 he’s never been able to shift, something young cubs can do easily. He has always been sickly and had trouble keeping up with the other wolves. Everyone, including Ethan, assumed he wouldn’t live much longer as his health seems to get worse and worse. So figuring he might as well go out in a blaze of glory, Ethan joins some fellow shifters out to stir up some trouble with a group of vampires in town.
But things don’t go quite as planned. Despite the fact that the vampires easily defend against the attacking shifters, somehow Ethan is spared by the vampire leader, the fierce and gorgeous Miguel. Ethan finds himself drawn to Miguel, soon realizing that Miguel is in fact his true mate. This is amazing enough, as shifters and vampires do not mix. In fact, shifter blood is usually toxic to vampires. But even more incredible, they are a perfect physical match in that when Miguel drinks from Ethan, it helps to cure his excess of blood, allowing him to shift for the first time and be healthy.
At first Miguel is wary about getting involved with this young shifter. At 400 years old, he is used to being a loner and doesn’t know quite what to do with this determined young man who is convinced they are meant to be together. But soon it becomes clear to Miguel as well that there is a strong connection between them and he accepts Ethan’s importance in his life. But not everyone is so happy with the match. Both the wolves and other vampires are against their union, and threats to their safety mean that the men must fight for their lives in hopes for a future together.
As I am writing this review, I am realizing this book has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel. Two lovers from opposite worlds with families that hate one another, destined to be together despite their differences and the disapproval of others. It is subtle, but definitely there as we explore the worlds of both vampires and shifters in this story. I just love that combination, and author Cardeno C does a great job creating this world where the two exist as enemies. What is interesting, is that usually in paranomals we see the vampires as evil and the shifters as good and sweet. But here we see both sides, as the shifters are the ones who are isolationists, out of touch with the world and looking down on everyone else. They hate the vampires and seek them out to attack even when the vampires are leaving them alone. And despite some major personality conflicts within the vampire group, we see that they are the much more open ones, interacting with and living among the humans, and that they are able to rise above and help out the shifters even when it won’t ever be reciprocated. It was an interesting take on these two paranormal groups and one that was well developed.
But the highlight of this story for me is Ethan and Miguel. I just adored both of them. Ethan is a force to be reckoned with. Despite being small and sick and much younger than Miguel, he has determination and passion for what he believes. Once Ethan realizes Miguel is his mate, he doesn’t hesitate one moment in his conviction that they are meant to be together. He is willing to give up his old life and march himself right into Miguel’s, despite Miguel’s bewilderment at this force of nature. Here they are as Ethan tries to convince Miguel they are meant to be together:
Miguel smirked. “That’s adorable,” he said, dipping down and tugging my lower lip between both of his before nibbling his way across my jaw to my ear. “I know quite a bit about shifters, actually. For example, I know your kind are very territorial, and based on that noise you just made, I’m guessing you’re trying to stake a claim on me.”
Oh, there was no “trying” about it. “You’re mine,” I nearly shouted. “And you best realize it right soon.”
The grin left his face and he looked truly regretful when he cupped my cheek and responded. “I’m not a good bet, wolf. I tried to warn you before, tried to tell you to stay away.”
“That’s never going to happen,” I said adamantly. “I belong with you, and that’s all there is.”
“I’m a vampire,” he said, as if that explained anything.
“You’re my mate,” I replied, knowing that trumped everything. “My true mate.”
“Vampires don’t mate, Ethan. We don’t settle down and build dens and raise puppies. We’re not monogamous. We—”
“Oh, well, you surely are now,” I told him. “There’s going to be nobody but me for you from here on out.”
I just adored Ethan. Despite being small and young, he is brave and committed and full of determination. I found him incredibly endearing and couldn’t help but root for him.
Miguel is also a great character. He is the fiercest of all the vampires, old and powerful and dangerous. But he treats Ethan with such care and love right from the start. He is sort of bewildered at first at this little shifter who has claimed him, which is kind of adorable. But he quickly realizes that Ethan is right, that they are meant to be together, and Miguel would do anything to protect his mate. I love that Miguel doesn’t suddenly become this perfect hero upon meeting Ethan, however. Yes, we see that he is a good guy, willing to do anything for Ethan and even to help Ethan’s pack. But he is still violent, dangerous, and scary to everyone else. Crossing Miguel will get you killed, especially if you threaten Ethan. He is sort of that ultimate romantic fantasy bad boy, wild and dangerous to everyone else and sweet and romantic to the one he loves.
So I just adored this story of star-crossed lovers, vampire and shifter who somehow make it work. Author Cardeno C drew me right into this world and I couldn’t put the book down. It is romantic and sweet and incredibly sexy, with really wonderful characters who I just adored. I definitely highly recommend it.
P.S. This book is part of the Mates series, but it is designed to stand completely alone. I didn’t read the first book and had no trouble following along here. It is a shared world more than a traditional series, and if there was any overlap at all in plot or characters, it was nothing I noticed or that affected my enjoyment of the story.
Cover Review: OMG, I just LOVE this cover. First, this so perfectly captures Miguel and Ethan, both in physical appearance and in the way they are interacting. Miguel is big and strong and protective and Ethan is always in his arms. I also love how beautifully it coordinates with the cover for Wake Me Up Inside, the other Mates series book. Just gorgeous!