Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars
Narrator: Mark Westfield
Length: 8 hours, 9 minutes
Calvin Summers has been best friends with Ethan Hobbs since they were children. And despite Calvin being the human in the pair, he’s always looked out for and protected tiger Therian, Ethan. Ethan has some difficulties, including severe social anxiety and selective mutism, and he’s always been picked on. Calvin has always been there for him, and they have a bond that can’t be broken. But lately things have been moving toward more in their relationship. Calvin is in love with Ethan, and ready to take things to the next level. But Ethan doesn’t do so well with change, and his fears keep him from taking that next step with Calvin.
Destructive Delta is back on full duty, and they’ve been keeping up a rigorous training schedule in addition to the numerous call-outs. Sparks is training them for something, though they don’t know what, and it’s taking its toll on the team. But they are determined to do whatever is takes to make the best of it and to succeed, because if nothing else, the extra training makes them better.
Calvin and Ethan finally take that next step when a bomb threat and a hostage situation in the line of duty make them realize they need to stop wasting time. They have always had each other’s backs, have always been there for each other, and nothing is going to change. They just have to readjust their thinking. But it isn’t easy, and they need to trust in the relationship they’ve always had to see them through to the next step.
This sixth book in the THIRDS series was all about emotion and feels, with a healthy dose of military politics and secret organizations thrown in. I loved that it focused more on the relationship, as Calvin and Ethan have been dancing around and toward each other since the very beginning. We’ve gotten glimpse of them, have seen them in tender, intimate moments, as well as some sexy compromising ones. And what it comes down to is that Calvin and Ethan deserve to be together. So I was glad to see it as the primary storyline, and I really enjoyed how the job, missions, and training were used to accent and flesh out that aspect.
As always with this series, Cochet manages to write characters that are consistent without being stale and who grow without changing into something unrecognizable. Calvin here definitely came to terms with some things about his past and about his life, and I liked seeing that. But he was ready and waiting for the next thing to happen. Ethan, on the other, had definite challenges. I think Cochet did a really good job of portraying someone with social anxiety and selective mutism. Both aspects seemed rooted in his character and were tactfully and believably written. Ethan had to work hard to overcome these difficulties, and it was something he struggled with constantly. It was one of the reasons he was so hesitant to officially take that next step with Calvin, and this made sense to me.
I did, however, find some plot inconsistencies in the first half of the book when it came to the romance and relationship side of things. There were a couple things mentioned, things that Calvin and Ethan had done together or said to each other, that made it hard for me to believe that it took so long for Ethan to commit. As I said, Ethan doesn’t deal well with change, even when it’s something he wants, so it made sense that he would need time before they finally got there. But I did have a little bit of trouble, knowing what he was thinking, and not fully understanding why he wasn’t there after about the first third of the book. To me, it dragged on just a little bit too long. But when they finally took that last hurdle and were together? It was worth it.
The action side of things happens in a few big spurts. This actually worked really well for me. While I was missing a little bit of the constant action from previous books, I really liked that each of the missions or trainings sessions in the story worked to further the plot. They weren’t long or drawn out, they were exactly what they needed to be. And a good portion of it is a set up for the big cliffhanger at the end of the book, which of course is a direct set up for book 7. Be prepared if you’re against cliffhangers. I didn’t have a problem with the fact that we were left hanging, I like that anticipation to build, though I do have to question some of it and I’m hoping for answers when the next book comes out.
Now for the downright gushing part of the review; let’s talk about the narration. Look, I love this series and I love the writing. I’ve read a couple of them as well as listened to them in audio, and I’ve enjoyed them in both formats. But Mark Westfield makes these books for me. He takes a great story and makes it exceptional. The effects he peppers in are just icing on the cake. He gets the feeling of these stories just right, and really bring out the story as it is written. Here, he had a particular challenge in Ethan, as the character has certain emotions, thoughts, and feelings that need to be conveyed. Westfield nailed it for me. He really brought Ethan to life. He also has a great consistency with the characters’ voices throughout all of the books, though Calvin loses some of his southern twang that he had in earlier stories. It comes and goes a little bit in this one, with some passages barely sounding like it at all. But it wasn’t too big a thing. Really, Westfield just embodies these stories. I definitely recommend this book, and especially in audio version. And I really encourage you to pick this one up if you haven’t already.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.