against the grain

Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars

Narrator: Mark Westfield
Length: 7 hours, 58 minutes

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

Ash Keeler has finally admitted his feelings for Cael Maddock go much deeper than friendship. But he’s got baggage he’s hauling around, and even though Ash knows Cael loves him too, he needs to move slowly. Events from his childhood have him scared to move forward, so even though he wants to having something real with Cael, he’s hesitant to take the leap. Cael’s understanding goes a long way, and though things aren’t easy between them, it looks promising.

With members of Destructive Delta still healing, the team has been taken off duty. But that doesn’t stop them from learning that a mind control drug that works on Therians is being used. When they find out that someone within THIRDs is possibly moving toward mass producing the drug, the team cannot sit idly by. No longer being sure of who they can trust, the team nevertheless springs into action. They can’t let this drug out into the open, or disaster will befall them all.

In this fifth installment of Cochet’s THIRDs series, the pace slows down a little and focuses more on the relationship between Ash and Cael, while the mystery and action takes kind of a back seat. At times, this really worked for me, as it was nice to take a little breather and to focus on a relationship I’d been waiting to see since the beginning. But at other times, things slowed down too much for me and hindered my enjoyment of the story just a big.

Ash and Cael. There was no doubt from the beginning of this series that these two Therians were meant to be together. Cael had been pining for Ash hardcore, and though Ash insisted he was straight and played the ladies man, his soft spot for Cael was very telling. I loved finally getting to see their relationship progress, but I admit I also had some serious frustration with it as well. Ash and Cael have been on a slow burn throughout the first four books, and we’ve seen them growing closer on the sidelines. To then have more than half of this story with them barely together, admitting their feelings but not acting on it, was definitely frustrating. While Ash’s motivation was clear, I felt like he was time and again being shown that he could move forward and he was time and again stepping away. I got it at first, but the repetition of it got to be wearying. after a while I just wanted to shake him and tell him to wake up already because he was dragging it out unnecessarily.

When they finally do get together, it was incredibly satisfying though. I love Ash’s possessive nature, and I love the way Cael act toward and reacts to Ash. These guys just work on every level. And Ash has definitely shown enormous growth throughout the series, and certainly in this book. I loved seeing all the different facets he has, and I like the way Cochet seamlessly makes all those parts fit. The characters in this series show amazing consistency, even as they grow and change, and that is not always an easy thing to write.

I thought the lag in action was a bit of a nice break in the beginning, and it was nice to see the team interacting on different levels. But I’ll admit that I was ready for the action to pick back up again before it actually did. The mastermind behind the drug was not a surprise to me, nor were the lengths this person went to, including messing with medications and kidnapping. Honestly, this part worked for me, but I wish it had been expanded a bit more. It doesn’t really get going until the last third or quarter of the book, and then it feels a little rushed. I would have liked it to start being peppered in a bit earlier in the storyline, so I could really settle into it. I definitely finished the story with more questions than answers, and though I’m certain that was what the author wanted to a degree, I think I was a little more dissatisfied than what she intended. It worked, but I needed a bit more.

I’ve been listening to this series in audio, and I continue to be downright amazed at the narration. I cannot praise it highly enough. Mark Westfield does a phenomenal job, and has since the beginning. This book might be one of my favorite in that regard, as we don’t just have Dex and Sloane as in previous books. This book is told primarily from Ash and Cael’s POVs, and Westfield has already established their voices in earlier books. What the narrator does amazingly well is not only keep those voices consistent, but give their energy and emotion to the narrative passages as well. When Ash is the POV character, there’s no doubt it’s him, even when he isn’t speaking. Westfield does such a fantastic job of embodying the character that I feel almost like I’m watching it instead of listening. It’s truly fantastic in audio, and I think I liked it more than I would have had I read it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the narration on this series is outstanding and it brings something extra to the stories. I recommend this series in general, but I wholeheartedly recommend it in audio. And I can’t wait to see what he does with the next book in the series.

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

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