smash & Grab coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Dalton is a raptor shifter who works for an organization that protects fossils from falling into the wrong hands. When Dalton hears a private collector is trying to steal a newly found dinosaur egg fossil, he moves in to stop him. But not before the thieves almost get their hands on both the egg and the paleontologist who is working on the specimen. Knowing the bad guys will be on their tail, Dalton decides to take Simon with him as he brings the egg to the organization headquarters for safekeeping.

Simon is totally bewildered when men break into his lab and try to kill him. And while he is relieved to be rescued, he isn’t quite sure what to make of Dalton, who shows up, kicks some ass, and demands Simon come with him. But Simon knows he is in over his head and doesn’t know what to do beyond follow Dalton. Dalton may be annoying and a bit crazy, but he also has saved Simon’s life. The road trip between New York and Dallas takes some time, and as the guys get to know one another, Simon comes to really like Dalton. The man has made no secret of his attraction to Simon, and soon they are acting on their feelings for one another. But the thieves are still on their tails and if they aren’t careful, Simon and Dalton won’t make it out alive.

Smash & Grab is the first book in Maz Maddox’s new Relic series and the story is fun and easy. There is a light tone here and a sense of playfulness I enjoyed. It is clear that Maddox has a passion for dinosaurs and the book is peppered with dino details that enhance the story without being overwhelming. Dalton and Simon are a fun opposites attract pairing, with Simon the geeky paleontologist who doesn’t do much beyond work, and Dalton a hot pink-mohawked ball of energy and chaos. Dalton helps bring out Simon’s more playful side, and there are some nice moments where the guys let loose and have some fun. And with Simon in his care, Dalton becomes more serious and protective. I do think that Dalton is too pushy before Simon is showing interest, however. For example, insisting on sleeping naked in bed together before Simon has indicated he is comfortable or interested didn’t sit well with me. But overall, I found them a fun pair.

I am all about the non-traditional shifters, so as soon as I saw this story featured a dinosaur shifter, I snatched it right up. I think the world building could have been further developed here, however, considering we are dealing with such an unusual paranormal twist. We do learn more about where Dalton comes from, and while the fact that he can shift between human of all things and dinosaur didn’t really make sense to me given the backstory, this is one of the things you just have to go with in this type of book. But some other aspects of the world building are really under-developed or too simplistic. The organization where Dalton works has seemingly endless technology and hacking abilities, making them able to monitor the bad guys and track everything with what felt like unrealistic ease. I also found the bad guys sort of cartoonish and there seems to be so little urgency about them. Even when they are after Simon and Dalton, they never feel like a real threat, or at least no one seems to act like they are in a consistent way. One minute, Simon has to come with Dalton because the bad guys will kill him since he saw their faces. Then later, Simon is being told that they won’t bother him as long as they don’t think he has the fossil. We are told the bad guys have connections with police, so it’s not safe for Simon to tell the police what he knows. But then Simon and Dalton travel without taking almost any precautions to stay hidden.

I also found it somewhat confusing whether the bad guys knew that Dalton and company were dinosaur shifters. The team is supposed to keep it a secret, so presumably no one knows. But then when the thieves witness a dino shift, they are scared of being attacked, of course, but later don’t seem to be phased at all at the existence of dinosaur shifters. Also, once the bad guys know that shifters exist, when Dalton and his team are threatened, why don’t they just change into shifted form right away, since there is no longer anything to hide?

I found this one a lot of fun and it is a cute story. I just thought there was too much here that didn’t feel fully developed. Even with the lighter tone, I still wanted some aspects to be more fleshed out and to make more sense (at least to me). But I still had a good time reading this story and I am looking forward to seeing what is next for the series.