Rating: 4 stars
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As the head of the dragon council, Grimbold Drake knows they have made a mistake by letting the clans run their business unchecked. With new research into the role of dragonets (those formerly known as “disgraced”), it is becoming clear that these omegas have been treated unfairly and, in some cases, suffered untold abuse. This lapse is made even clearer when Grimbold meets Swallow Brand, a young omega from the Topaz clan. Wally (or “Walter” as Grimbold insists on calling him) was horribly abused by the dragons of his clan. Grimbold’s son, Geoffrey, and his Topaz mate, Ian, are now trying to find someone to help care for Wally, and while they are just coming to Grimbold for advice, as soon as he meets the young man, Grimbold is determined to protect him.
At first Wally is terrified of everything about his situation. He has been raised to believe that dragons are horrible and abusive, and that Amethyst dragons are particularly cruel. Wally is sure that Grimbold’s seeming kindness and compassion are all a trick intended to lure him into getting in trouble. He can’t even conceive that Grimbold would actually care about Wally’s well being or be interested in a “disgrace” like him. However, Grimbold is patient and caring and does everything he can to help Wally feel safe. Even as Grimbold’s dragon calls to him that Wally is his mate and truly meant for him, Grimbold takes his time to avoid rushing Wally into a connection before he is truly emotionally ready. But as Wally’s heat approaches and threats from his past return, it becomes clear that Wally knows just what he wants… and that is a life with Grimbold.
Swallow is a spin off of Virginia Kelly and Piper Scott’s excellent Forbidden Desires series. While it’s not officially part of the trilogy, in many ways this story feels like a direct connection to those books, both in plot and characters. I think to best enjoy this book, you really need to be familiar with the original trilogy. I loved the first three books, so I was thrilled to see that the authors were continuing that world with some spin-off stories. I was particularly interested here as Grimbold is not always the most sympathetic of characters in the original stories, particularly with regard to his sons. Here we get to see his softer side as Grimbold immediately feels tender and protective toward Wally and determined to help care for him. Wally has no background that allows him to believe that anyone would actually want him or be nice to him, so he is wary of everything Grimbold says and does, and Grimbold is careful to give Wally the time he needs to get comfortable and to make decisions about their future. There is a nice tension here as Grimbold’s dragon is clamoring to claim Wally as his, but Grimbold himself wants to make sure Wally isn’t pressured into anything. It makes the men ultimately coming together fully feel more hard earned.
One of the hallmarks of this series for me is the world building and I liked that we continued to explore some of the elements of mating and the dragon/dragonet connection here. We also get to interact with many favorite characters from the main series, including Harry and Everard (along with Darwin and Steve, of course), as well as Perry and some of the Opal clan. I also enjoyed how we see Wally very slowly come to accept that he is not the mistake or disgrace he has always been led to believe, but that he has value of his own and is worthy of love and affection. The story is a nice journey for him and it ties nicely with a lot of the larger series themes.
This story is a novella, so it’s shorter than the original trilogy and I think it suffered a little bit due to the length. We get a nice build up as we see Wally getting to settled with Grimbold and slowly coming to realize that he won’t be harmed, as well as the early stages of their more emotional connection. The story then jumps several months, taking us past a lot of the get to know you time until things heat up again, both with their relationship and some outside issues. I really appreciated things don’t happen lightening fast and it is important here that we see Wally has time to heal and to settle. But that time jump felt like we skipped over some things I would have liked to see.
That said, I loved how this story came together at the end and things are sweetly romantic as it all ties up. There are some nice threads dropped here that I am hoping we get to explore in future books, as I really love this world and the authors are doing a great job exploring it throughout the series. So if you are fan of the Forbidden Desires trilogy, definitely pick this one up. And if you haven’t had a chance to start the series, I can highly recommend them all to you.