Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
Nick and Barrett have been deeply in love, best friends, and living together for years, but they are not a bonded pair. Falling in love when they were young, they kept seeing each other even knowing that one day they could one day be bonded to someone else. Once they reached the age of thirty and no mark appeared for either of them, they felt safe enough to pretend. Fooling the world by pretending to get marks for each other, Nick and Barrett are essentially lying that they are bonded. But they are so in love that they think the risk is worth it.
Separated for the weekend while Nick attends the first big football game at the coliseum, Nick is witness to the explosive reunion of Ivan and Robbie (in Now and Then). He can’t wait to get home to Barrett, and when he does, his feelings are a bit deeper than they were before. Shortly after his arrival home, he feels a sting on the back of his neck. He thinks he’s been bitten by a bug and ignores it. He can’t keep his hands off Barrett, and needs the man desperately. But after a burn-up-the-sheets reunion it bed, Barrett sees the truth. Nick’s soulmark is beginning to appear on the back of his neck. And Barrett doesn’t have one.
Soulmarks always appear at the same time for both parties, and the men are devastated to know that their relationship will have to end. Only Nick knows that Ivan and Robbie were apart for years, so he knows it’s possible to live without one’s mate. He’s convinced that he and Barrett can continue their lives as they have been. But a few days later, it turns out they may not have to. Barrett just may be getting a soulmark of his own.
I have to admit that I’m a little bit conflicted about this story. I loved these characters, and I particularly loved their love for each other. I thought it was a fantastic twist to the world that Okati is building that these two men fell in love the traditional way and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep that love strong. But at the same time, it felt just a little bit too easy that they would be destined to be together. I’ll get to that in a minute though.
Nick is probably my favorite character in this book. His fierce determination is wonderful to see. I loved the way he cared for Barrett. And I loved that when it seemed like their world was crashing down on them, he was not going to let it ruin them. His love for Barrett just jumps off the page in a palpable way.
At the same time, I adored Barrett as well. There was something just endearing about him that made my heart get a little melty. There was no doubt of his love for Nick, and the easy way they fit together. I even appreciated his resignation to the fact that he would have to let Nick go. For Barrett, it was coming from a good place; he wanted what was best for Nick, he wanted Nick to live his life to the fullest. If that meant letting the man go, he was willing to do it.
These two characters were fantastic together. Okati really gave us a good sense of their deep seeded love and how easy it was for them to be together. They know each other so well, inside and out, and that was clear on the page. When difficult times came to them, they each handled it differently. But there was never any doubt of their love and commitment.
My issue came with the conflict with the world that Okati has created. Soulmarks always appear at the same time, and always when the fated mates meet each other for the first time. Nick and Barrett have been friends and lovers for years, but they have no mark. On top of that, Nick’s mark appears days before Barrett’s. I had a really hard time accepting this, even when there was a possible explanation presented. It just didn’t make sense to me. If it weren’t for the fact that I loved these guys so much already—and really, Okati does an outstanding job showing these characters to us—I would have been ready to toss the book aside. But because of the incredibly strong characterization, because these two men are so clearly meant for each other, I was able to accept that their union just broke the rules. It took me a bit to get there, but in the end I did.
I love the fated mate trope, and I really love the twist that Okati has given it. This is another great installment in the Soulmarked series. While I think that technically it can stand alone, I would suggest picking up Now and Then first. It builds on the story before, and I got a better sense of what was going on having read the first one. We’re also introduced to the character that will star in the next book in the series, and I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see where that story goes. I can definitely recommend Only You.