Abandoned at birth, Jason was raised in the foster system and learned early on never to trust anyone or let anyone too close because they always want something in return. It’s a lesson that’s governed his life, and since he was 16, he’s been on the move. Jason never stays in one place for too long, and he doesn’t make friends. But he’s been living and working at the Roadhouse for six months. Jason says it’s because his bike is broken, and until he fixes the machine, he can’t go anywhere. But the truth is he doesn’t want to leave. He has friends for the first time, though he won’t admit it, and his life is pretty good. Until a spaceship crash lands in a nearby field and the burning man that emerges claims Jason as his.
Jason think he’s going crazy. The burns on his body are shaped like hands, and he only sort of remembers what happened. Clyde is attentive and caring, but Jason has been avoiding the man since he arrived, and he doesn’t want to let Clyde get to close. Trajin is his friend with benefits, his best friend really, but Jason doesn’t want to let Trajin in either. And the others in the Roadhouse, Dan, Pat, and Genna, are all worried when it’s clear that Jason is acting differently than normal. Clyde does a little digging on one of his trips, and he discovers Jason’s backstory. Everyone keeps warning Clyde away, that Jason is a runner, but Clyde is drawn to the younger man and can’t just leave it alone.
Meanwhile the alien, Ano ki, has begun making contact with Jason. He is Jason’s mate and all he wants is to bring Jason home again. They are fated to be together. But every time he makes contact with Jason, Jason panics and Ano ki is forced to wipe his memories. But all is not as it seems with Ano ki.
When the truth finally comes out, about who Jason is, what Ano ki wants, and what is looming on the horizon, Jason is floored. He has no choice but to accept his fate and prepare for battle. The preparations take their toll on Jason, and it’s only with Clyde’s help, as well as that of his friend’s both new and old, that he is able to make it through. But the worst is yet to come, a battle is imminent, and only if Jason finds the strength in himself and who he is meant to be with, can anyone hope to survive.
I don’t want to give anything away, so I purposely got pretty vague up there. This story had some good stuff going for it, especially in the last third, and that’s where the real truths come out. I had issues with this story, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who thinks it might be a read for them.
This isn’t a traditional romance by any means. It was much more a sci fi tale with romantic elements, ones that were very important to the plot, and there is an HEA at the end. But don’t go into this expecting anything resembling what we know are a good portion of mates stories. This is not that, and that part actually worked really well for me. Again, no spoilers, but it definitely doesn’t work out like anyone is anticipating.
What I really liked was pretty much an ensemble cast, and we got to know the main characters fairly well. Jason has had the world against him since pretty much he was born, so he understandably has a chip on his shoulder. His personality, actions, and motivations felt real and I liked watching him learn to trust and accept those who had become his family. I liked that after so long, he was finally getting so many people to love him, both as friends and as more. I liked that as he grew and changed within himself, he came into his powers as well. Jason is really the main focus of this story, his journey and his growth, but he definitely had a few other MCs along for the ride, as well as secondary characters. But again, I’m going to be vague here because too much information will give away too much plot and I don’t want to do that. I’ll sum up by say the characters were, for the most part, done really well, and any slight inconsistencies could be forgiven.
That’s not to say that this book is without fault. You can see by my rating I definitely had some issues with it. But there were two big ones that really worked against it for me. The first was the head hopping. Some readers won’t care if the POV shifts within paragraphs multiple times, but for me, I find it jarring and incoherent. It happened a great deal, though usually only between two characters at a time, and it pulled me from the story every time. This style of storytelling just doesn’t work for me, so I had a hard time really getting into the groove of the book. And every time I did, the POV would hop to another head and I’m be yanked out yet again.
The other big issue was the pacing of this story. This book is long, and while I like a good long story as much as the next reader, I have a problem when a good number of the scenes are dragged out for way too much time. There are scenes in this book where the message could have been conveyed without all the long, drawn out conversation and explanation. It grew a bit tedious for me and really slowed down the pace. And this happened time and again throughout the first two-thirds of the novel. I wanted to move on, to get to the next part, the next action, the next plot point, and I was stuck in pages and pages of things that did nothing to further the plot. There were times when I was speed reading just to get to the next part. Going hand in hand with this problem, was that I felt that certain plot points were unnecessarily convoluted and dragged out. I can understand the author trying to keep the reader guessing, however I was just confused, not understanding why certain characters were behaving a certain way. When it was explained, much later, at least I understood. But at the time it was overly frustrating, and way too drawn out, so it dampened my enjoyment a great deal.
Now, that being said, the last third of this story really picked up the pace and made reading it at all worth it. Not only was the truth revealed and the secrets all brought out into the open, but the action picked up and everything that was happening actually happened for a reason. If the first two-thirds had been like this, I would have found it a more enjoyable read. But the ending did a lot to salvage things for me, and I at least finished the book satisfied with the story.
So basically, I very tentatively recommend this story to any reader who is looking for a tale that gives mates a different twist, and where sci fi and romantic elements share the page. While I definitely had some troubles, the things that worked ultimately rescued this book for me.