The Druid Next DoorRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Environmentalist Bryce MacLeod has built the community of his dreams, with environmentally friendly homes and beautiful natural wetlands. The only thing ruining it all for him is his surly neighbor who doesn’t seem to care at all about following the community rules.

Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick has been cursed and forced out of Faerie. After attacking the Queen’s consort, his punishment is to live in the Outer World with a hand that doesn’t work until he can make reparations for his actions. The fact that he was thwarting an evil plan against the Queen at the time, not to mention saving lives, doesn’t seem to matter. Mal has no time to worry about Bryce’s rules; he has bigger problems with managing the curse, not to mention the Unseelie who are out to get him.

The guys start out at odds, but when Mal realizes that Bryce is a druid and he doesn’t even know it, it is time to call for help. Mal’s brother-in-law David was raised by druids and David’s aunt comes to help with Bryce’s education into his newly realized abilities. Unfortunately, her idea of helping means supernaturally tethering the men together so Mal can teach Bryce about the magical world. The two men can barely stand each other, but now they are forced to remain within feet of each other.

When an unknown supernatural offers Mal a chance to get back the use of his hand and perhaps even return to Faerie, he is eager to jump at the chance. Of course, he probably should have asked a LOT more questions about just what he would have to do, not to mention who this stranger is. Keeping the secret from Bryce when they can’t be separated isn’t easy either. It is even worse as the men realize that as they are growing to care for one another, a bond is forming between them, one they may not be able to control. Now Mal and Bryce must face life or death tasks and an enemy seeking vengeance, not to mention a questionable bond, but it is all made a bit easier together.

The Druid Next Door is the second book in E.J. Russell’s Fae Out of Water series. I loved the first book, Cutie and the Beast, so I was really excited to continue the series. I am happy to say I found this book just as enjoyable, and Russell continues her creative world building and great characters with some fun banter and quirky humor. This story features new MCs, however, I think it is still best read after the first book. We meet Mal and witness the key event leading to his curse in that first story, so while it is recapped here, I think it is nice to see it first hand. Also, there is a lot more world building set up in the first story, so coming into this book with more background on not only the world, but many of the side characters, is really helpful.

I love a good opposites attract, enemies to lovers story and found this one a lot of fun. Bryce is kind of uptight and geeky, a scientist with laser focus on his community and using it as a model for further environmental projects. He has no patience for Mal, who seems to not even bother to follow any of the rules. Of course, Mal has many secrets that are affecting his behavior, he just can’t tell Bryce about them. These guys are all hating on each other at the same time that they are totally hot for each other. And the forced tethering together, while maybe a bit hokey, works well here. Not only does it force the men to learn to work together as they deal with their problems, but the sexual chemistry and constant awareness of each other makes the story sizzle.

Once things move away from hate and into attraction and fondness, the guys run into the stumbling block of the supernatural connection between fae and druid. Apparently as higher begins, druid traditionally have a dominant role over their fae partners and a mate bonding can also occur. Russell explores this in some interesting ways as Mal struggles with his desire to be more submissive to Bryce sexually, something he has never been into. Not to mention Bryce is fearful that Mal’s attraction to him is based less on real feelings than coercion from the bond, and Bryce definitely doesn’t want Mal forced into anything beyond his control. This conflict plays out well with some real issues for the men to deal with, but at the same time, not bogging the story down as they handle many external conflicts as well. At times things walked a bit too close to the line of submission = weak for me, as Mal is really upset about his desire to bottom and be the more submissive partner. But overall I think this is an interesting dynamic that plays out well.

Plotwise this book further develops some things that were started in the first story, namely dealing with the fallout from Mal injuring the former consort, who is none to happy with him. Mal also gets himself drawn into this quest from an unknown supe and he doesn’t quite know whether this guy is good or bad. I enjoyed following along with the challenges these guys face and learning more about this world, especially the Unseelie side that is touched on more here in this book.

The end of the story sets things up for Gareth’s book and I am really excited for this one. We have known about Gareth’s lost love for two books now, so I can’t wait to see how things play out. I really an enjoying this fun series, and like how the books are building on one another. So I can’t wait to finish up this trilogy and see how it all comes together. If you like fun fantasy with a bit of humor and snark, and some nice world building, definitely check this series out.

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