People with the power to Craft are small in number. Guy Keaton has the power to manipulate wood, though he refuses to use it in his woodworking business. Theo Fraser has the power to feel others’ emotions, which he hopes will stabilize the Council—a body responsible for governing the use of Craft powers. When these two meet by chance in the woods, there is a charge in the air. Theo knows exactly what the thrum of energy means: he has found his soulmate. Guy, on the other hand, is still nursing a broken heart for having lost his wife to cancer a few short years prior. Not to mention Guy doesn’t even know he’s attracted to men and never wanted a soulmate in the first place.
Guy and Theo’s brief meeting in the woods is sweet and friendly, but ends with a bang when Guy accepts Theo’s offer to ‘test’ if Guy is at all interested in men. Rather than a deadfish nothing, Guy’s WoodCrafter power goes berserk. This is all the confirmation that Theo needs about their soul-deep connection. For Guy, however, it’s another complication in a life he feels is complicated enough. He feels like he’s betraying the memory of his wife, whom he loved deeply. He feels like he has no control over the situation. Yet he also feels an undeniable need to be with Theo.
Just as Guy begins to process this whirlwind of changes, an anti-Crafter attack hits far too close to home. On top of that, Theo’s father, the man who disowned Theo for being gay twenty years ago, appears causing trouble. Soon, Guy and Theo must deal with Theo’s power-hungry father while trying to stay alive.
I picked this book because I was intrigued by the idea of an unwilling soulmate. I think Leaf did a great job painting Guy as a good person, devoted to his deceased wife and his grown son, and not ready to “move on” just yet. This gave Guy wonderful depth. It also made his meeting with Theo rather bittersweet and not a little bit angsty from Theo’s point of view. That said, it was also clear from almost the moment they lay eyes on each other (and definitely the moment they shake hands) that there is some major attraction. It was almost comical how aroused these two were in each other’s presence. There was sort of an innocence on Guy’s part because he thinks it’s just rando-raging erections at the most inappropriate time. The meeting scene between Guy and Theo covers a lot of ground, but doesn’t really resolve their relationship status. It takes Guy quite a lot of waffling around and lots of encouragement from his son to even entertain the idea that he can bond with the man who is his soulmate.
There is a strong thriller aspect to the last third or so of this story and it all ties into Theo and his involvement with the Council. Theo has been newly elected as a Delegate—the specifics of what this Council do, how much authority they have, how out in the open they are, and what tension there may be between Crafters and non-crafters isn’t exactly well developed. This made it hard for me to appreciate just what kind of role Theo has in this Council and why it’s so important that Theo is a empath. This actually ties into one of my criticisms of the writing. It seems like Theo explains that he is an empath—the first on one the council in 50 years—every time a new character appears on page, even if they are a character Theo would know. The result came across like making a mountain out of a mole hill because I never really understood the depth of this importance. For that matter, I didn’t understand why the combination of Guy’s WoodCrafting and Theo’s Empathy would be THE “power couple” pairing in this world. Even though there is some justification because Guy the WoodCrafter meeting and bonding with his soulmates allows Guy to create the soulmate rings worn by bonded pairs, it still felt like a contrivance for the powers the two MCs had.
On the whole, I thought the balance between Theo and Guy was a bit skewed, too. Guy has a backstory that gets a lot of on-page attention and provides some major hurdles. I liked how Guy’s decease wife was not just something Guy had to come to terms with, but something that we see Theo processing on-page, too (albeit in sometimes weird ways…like how a conversation about the dead wife lead to a bout of phone sex). All we get to know about Theo is that his parents kicked him out and disowned him for being gay. This dynamic figures prominently into the machinations leading up to an attack on Theo, but I felt like it fizzled on page.
Overall, the ending of the story is a bit too fast paced to really satisfy as a thriller type story, but I thought the characters’ interactions were compelling enough to keep things interesting. The main story here is about Guy and Theo coming to terms with the power of their connection as soul mates. There is a lot of sexual tension, dabs of angst on many levels, and delicious consummation of their relationship. If you’re looking for an easy summer read that highlights relationships and throws a bit of action (albeit somewhat rushed), you’d probably enjoy this book.