Master of No One is a contemporary, urban fantasy set in our world that includes ancient shapeshifting chimeras who live amongst the ignorant humans. A chimera is the ultimate predator, stealthy and deadly, but chimeras maintain human forms nearly all the time. Chimeras that have lost the ability to maintain their human guise will be destroyed by Council assassins. And the first stop for an assassin includes dropping in on Aleksander, the chimera poisoner.
Aleksander is deeply unhappy with his life and hates being responsible for the deaths of so many of his fellow chimeras. He’s also frustrated that the Council sends him two human “grounders” to help him reconnect with his human side. Unfortunately, Aleksander’s poisons have not been working well lately and he’s spending days on end brewing and rebrewing elixirs that are not potent enough to kill a cat. Constance, who has been with Aleks for nearly a year, is desperate to provide service to her new master. She is embarrassed that none of her attempts at connecting with Aleks have had any effect; he mostly ignores her until Kirk arrives.
Kirk wants nothing to do with satisfying the dominant needs of another male. He’s newly awakened to the existence of chimeras and only accepts his role because an injury has permanently relegated this vital beat cop to a desk job, and, if he doesn’t, the chimera will kill his younger brother who had agreed to be Aleks’s grounder, but disappeared. Kirk won’t stand for Aleks shunning Constance, and his presence in Aleks’s home forces Aleks to confront his tragic past, as well as his terrifying future. All his mistakes are leading to lapses of memory and near self-poisonings, as well as instability in maintaining his human form. Aleks fears, rightly, that the assassins will soon be called, but this time to deal with him.
Kirk, a better-than-average investigator, takes matters into his own hands, though. Through manipulation and some dumb luck, he’s able to trigger Aleks’ protective response for Constance, even while Aleks is in his chimera form. This story is a bit more MF or MFM, than MMF, but the whole thing is a power dynamic with some very light BDSM. Aleks, under such strain, is goaded into giving up his dominance for brief moments of bliss with Constance. Mainly, having some sexy times with his grounders is good for Aleks’s mental health, but he’s too proud to use their assistance on the regular. Meanwhile, Kirk is having a bit of a sexual identity crisis as he falls deeper and harder for Aleks, a male he’s not planning to work for for more than a few months.
This is a VERY slow-developing romance, with many fits and starts due mainly to Aleks being a supercilious snob. I kinda wanted to throw a shoe at his head. He looks down on Constance and Kirk for being human, but his whole chimera life is falling apart because he won’t try to engage with them. I think the author did a decent job of trying to get the bond development right, so that we could see this triad needs to be built this way, but it takes a very long time for the so-called genius intellect to get his thoughts in line. Kirk does a masterful job corralling/dominating both Aleks and Constance, and he mainly steals the limelight in this book. Constance almost seems like a throwaway, until late when she takes charge of her own needs in the second half of the book.
There are some serious double crosses and climactic chase/fights moments that help shed light on both Aleks’ history, and his future happiness. It’s an interesting story, though it’s heavier on the intrigue than the romance, which may trouble some readers. I think the love story only begins in the second half of the book. It’s listed as the first book in a series, and I’m sufficiently interested to wish to read on, mainly because I’d like more of the romance that was finally evident in the last few chapters.
Note: This is the second edition of the book, but seems to be unchanged for those who may have read a copy previously.