Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Manuel Pombo
Length: 3 hours, 28 minutes
Riley Murrough is living his life quietly, working in a coffee shop and wondering if he’ll ever use his art degree, when he’s accosted by face-melting demons at closing time. Running for his life, he’s luckily rescued by four tigers—who can shift into men. The largest and fiercest of them, Khalon, turns out to be the king of the Soldati, an immortal race who keep the peace between realms. This meeting turns out to be fated, because Riley is Khalon’s destined mate. To neither of their pleasure.
Khalon is infuriated to be mated to a puny human, no matter how beautiful he is. He considers this mating to be an insult, and plans to bring Riley to the Priestess to ask what has gone wrong and ask for a new, suitable, mate. Riley thinks this could be the most unbelievable of all the incredible happenings of this night. He’s not keen to stay in Khalon’s realm, but can’t leave due to the high likelihood that the demons will return to murder him—in an effort to cause Khalon pain. The journey to the Priestess is not going to be smooth, but Khalon is determined to be rid of Riley at the soonest chance.
I loved how Riley put Khalon in his place, time and time again. Khalon is more than a little insufferable, and his disdain regarding his human mate is amusing—because the reader knows that this isn’t the cruel joke Khalon imagines. It’s all the more fun to experience Khalon’s humbling as he and Riley build a bond through trial and triumph. Khalon’s nearest friend, Rayner, is a great confidante, one who isn’t afraid to call attention to Khalon’s prejudice and encourage Riley to feel welcome. There are so many moments where Riley proves his strength—of body and heart—which helps cement the bond that is growing, no matter how little they wish it. This enemies-to-lovers romance is really charming, with appropriate levels of awkward and just a bit of sexy. I loved how Khalon got his priorities aligned, and his sacrifice in the end demonstrates the long emotional distance he travels.
The narrator, Manuel Pombo, has a deliciously rich brogue, that lends itself to making this story feel both magical and exotic despite the setting in rural New York. I love the growling/purring of his voice, and his expressiveness really lifts the humor—which is liberally applied. The pace is excellent, and the emotional aspects are easily experienced in audio. I had no trouble envisioning this story unfolding before me, distinguishing each character from one another. I’d easily read on/listen to the sequel, or another book narrated by Pombo.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.