Trusted BondStory Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 2.5 stars

Narrator: Jeff Gelder
Length: 8 hours, 34 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Book Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK

Trusted Bond is the continuing story of Logan Church and Jin Rayne from the Change of Heart series and as such, this book must be read in order and this review may contain spoilers.

Left at home while his mate Logan attends a wedding, Jin feels incomplete, yet knows that his love will return home soon. Left in the care of Yuri and Crane, and other members of the Church household, Jin’s pheromones began to work overtime, causing those near him to feel an unnatural attraction to the reah. Abbott George, a guest in the house, feels the pull of Jin’s pheromones more acutely and arranges with friends to take Jin by force. The ensuing fight not only destroys the kitchen, but leaves the combatants injured, especially Jin.

throwback thursdayUpon his return home, Logan discovers that his mate is missing and reaches Jin by phone, only to discover that not only had Jin been attacked in his own home, but that he had sent everyone away in an attempt to protect those who hurt him and let him be hurt. Jin’s behavior after the attempted rape demonstrates that he lacks faith and trust in Logan, whether he realizes it or not.

Once reunited, the household is polarized into two camps: the ones ashamed of their actions that led to a controllable situation getting out of control, and the angry ones who believe they could have done more, that the perpetrators should have known better, and more importantly, that Jin should learn his place in tribe Mafdet. Before anything can be resolved, the house comes under siege and one by one the were panthers collapse to the ground, leaving Jin the last man standing.  he intruders have one goal, to secure Jin and bring him to his former lover, Laurent Bruyère.

Calmes was one of my first M/M authors and I will admit to having read this series quite a few times over the years and jumped at the chance to review the audiobook. Now Calmes’ writing style and characters are very distinctive, and I land firmly in the “love it” camp.

The characters in the Change of Heart series were created to demonstrate extreme personality traits and emotions, loyalty, love, trust, hate. Each character in the story has an emotion or characteristic that dominates their behavior. This feeds the fantasy that is the world of the were panthers, making it a distinct dynamic.

Do I like Jin? Kind of. He can be such a fun and engaging character and yet his poor decision making makes me want to throttle him. I did find that Jin grew during the course of Trusted Bond, realizing all of the things that we, as readers could see so clearly. And how about Logan? Gah! Love him so much!  Logan is the ideal Alpha male, rarely losing his cool, leading his tribe with fairness and ensuring that every member is acknowledged as a valuable member. Logan is the most balanced character with the greatest overall depth.

Now this story is packed with action, tension, and thrills, all of which are made believable by the fact that we are constantly reminded that this is not the human world we are dealing with, and that were panthers are drastically different in so many respects, and so the suspension of our disbelief rises to a whole new level. You will notice that I am being vague with the details, but things get pretty crazy in the action part of Trusted Bond.

Did I like the story? Of course. Did I find some issues? Sadly, yes. At the beginning, I found that there were some plot holes and improbable scenarios (and that is saying a lot based on my earlier comments). These situations had me stopping and re-reading sections to try and puzzle out why, how, and when Jin could have accomplished certain things. Fortunately, the plot solidified soon after and made for smooth reading. Another issue that I had was the choppy way some characters spoke, such as Jin and some members of Laurent’s entourage. In all my life, I have not met an individual who cannot complete their sentences 99% of the time and yet many characters seem to have difficulty with that, which to be honest has always been a pet peeve of mine.

And now on to the audio. I regularly proofread audiobooks while they are being produced and have become rather picky when it comes to the mastering (editing) of audio files. In Trusted Bond, I identified five sentences or part sentences that were duplicated throughout the story, which to me is a huge miss and rather disappointing. I also found narrator Jeff Gelder to be somewhat two-dimensional. In fact, I nicknamed him “Mr. Mechanical” because of the minimal, if any, vocal differences between the characters and his flat tone. Now I will say that Gelder’s diction was superb, but without some variation in his tone, that was not enough to salvage the performance.

To me, an audiobook should bring life, and a new dimension to a story, and sadly the narration detracted from Trusted Bond.  The first book, Change of Heart had a different narrator (Sean Crisden, who returns in the fourth book). The best advice I can give is to listen to the sample and figure out if this is the audiobook for you. I did finish the story, but will put some serious thought into continuing the series on audiobook.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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