Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Scott R. Smith
Length: 8 hours and 36 minutes
While working on a carpentry project in a remote home in Washington, Jason Thorpe suddenly finds himself witness to a grotesque and violent act against what looks to be a young boy. After rescuing him, Jason takes the events as a sign and moves to New Orleans. A year later, Jason is reminded of the strangeness of the events and people in Washington when he assists an injured man in front of his shop, and everything he thought he knew is turned on its head when he learns that vampires, or rather vampyrs, are real. Soon, Jason becomes entrenched in the vamypr politics of the Quarter, and when their prince, Varic, summons him to a meeting, Jason feels obliged to meet him. While Jason tries to understand the instant and overwhelming connection he feels for Varic, the two men must also deal with violent attacks and an unexpected threat to their lives.
Reviewing a Mary Calmes book can be very difficult, particularly her paranormals, and His Consort is no exception. For fans, Calmes’ trademark quirky and disjointed (sometimes nonsensical) dialogue, paired with an amazingly attractive, yet oblivious, MC with a huge heart, generous spirit, and a sassy/snarky female best friend (who believes yelling at people when they scare you is the best way to show love) really hit the mark. Additionally, Calmes world building is always unique and special. It is clear that Calmes enjoys taking common mythos and reinventing and adding to them in some way, but there does seem to be a formula for all of her books. A reader’s appreciation of Calmes’ particular writing style and way of storytelling and their familiarity with her work and how much in-depth world building may override any shortcomings will influence much of their overall enjoyment of the story on its own. However, Scott R. Smith’s narration brings this book to life enough that in audio form I found any shortcomings could be more easily overlooked.
I really enjoyed Calmes’s take on vampires. Their politics, social structure, and existence are interesting and not quite filled with the layers upon layers of draconian laws and rules as some of her other paranormals. How Jason fits into the world is intriguing too, and it all connects well to the motivations behind the expectedly over-the-top confrontation in the last act. That being said, the rest of the story is just a bit boring. The problem with having such a tried and true formula is that the creativity Calmes shows in her world building doesn’t always extend much to her characters. For example, Jason’s best friend is the usual gorgeous, interfering, and loud female who is there mainly for innuendo and yelling. Additionally, while I enjoyed Jason having a military background, for all the emphasis on Jason’s logical mind, abilities, training, etc, this is undercut by the fact that after he meets Varic, he becomes an emotional, irritating basket case that makes assumptions left, right, and sideways and can’t seem to catch a clue.
Usually, the formulaic nature of the characters and their interactions are offset by something charming or quirky in the story or having secondary characters that are fun and unique in some way. Unfortunately, for me, no one in the story was able to pull this off, so I was left in the odd position of finding the world and its politics much more engaging than the two MCs. To be fair, Varic and Jason are likeable, and there is enough backstory about Varic and his family given in the many info dumps that the reader is able to get a good sense of who he is other than, of course, beautiful, demanding, and arrogant. I just couldn’t find anything uniquely compelling about the two or their relationship for it to stand out.
To be honest, reading this would have been a bit of a trial for me if it weren’t for Scott R. Smith’s narration. As many of Calmes’ paranormals novels have both MCs knowledgeable about the world, this is the first time I’ve had to deal with characters having two very different conversations, and without Smith’s attention to detail and his believable, spot-on portrayal of Jason’s emotional state, I would have had a harder time. Additionally, Smith is able to imbue all of Jason’s wonder and curiosity into his performance so that the info dumps, impatient attitudes of the information givers, and sometimes tedious back and forth of the dialogue are more bearable. Smith does an excellent job with the material—he is engaging, his pacing is well done and matches the action of the narrative, and he gives the many characters distinctive voices. Listening to Varic give history lessons in his calm tone, which is colored by his obvious joy and affection for Jason and his curiosity, makes it all worth it.
Calmes always delivers on compelling, distinctive world building, and His Consort and its take on vampires is no exception. As for the romance, it’s Calmes’ standard paranormal instalove fare; however, Smith’s handling of the material is wonderful and makes the great parts of the book shine while smoothing the more ragged edges.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.