Orphaned as a child, all Ori Jones knows of his origin is that he’s probably a duck—an ugly duckling at that—because that’s what the elders told him after his first partial shift. While awaiting his first full shift, Ori is working for the nest as a server. As a duck, he knows his place, and that place is the bottom of the ladder. So when taunting and abuse from the crows of the nest are interrupted by a newcomer—a hawk—Ori is confused. When the hawk takes exception to Ori’s treatment, the head of the nest agrees to send Ori home with him.
Frederick Raynard has no use for an untrained servant, but there is no way he is leaving Ori at the nest under those conditions. Besides, Raynard has a monstrosity of a house he’s inherited from his uncle that is in need of care. The fact that Raynard can’t get his mind off Ori’s ass or that Ori might be a duck and therefore naturally submissive doesn’t help things. When Ori offers said ass up, Raynard holds back until he can’t any longer.
Having Ori as a submissive until his full shift is the deal. Afterwards, Raynard will give Ori the chance to choose to remain his or to seek other arrangements. Ori has no doubt as to what his choice will be. No one has ever made him feel as safe and cared for as Raynard. They only have to get through Ori’s first shift.
This is probably my favorite retelling of The Ugly Duckling. Such a fabulous twist with total power exchange and BDSM, but then again, this is Kim Dare. What I love most about this story is the way that Dare not only brings Ori out of his shell in the eyes of everyone around him, but he also finds himself. He becomes comfortable with himself in a way he had never imagined. That is Raynard’s role in Ori’s story. He is the guidance and protector. They meld so perfectly—more than a Dom and sub. They are family where neither has any. It’s heartwarming and beautiful, while being strong and fulfilling as well.
The BDSM aspect of this story isn’t so hardcore, but still engaging. The power exchange is satisfying and downright sexy. I also like Raynard’s role as the Dominant—how he can separate himself from anger and punishment and still fall head over heels for the one person who, on paper, makes no sense.
I found the world building fascinating and extremely fun. The hierarchy of birds and their ranks and duties was well-placed and described. It was creative and vast. From the quirks to the full shifts and flights, this author thought of everything. The cause and effect of the world and the natures of the animals is spot on.
From beginning to end, I was head over heels for this this story. The characters are captivating and the story heart-melting. It’s an adorable story of finding one’s self and full of love.