Tested is the second book in Liv Rancourt’s excellent Soulmates series. It is a menage/polyamorous story and the identity of the third partner is not revealed until partway through the first book, Soulmates. Therefore, this review is going to spoil his identity (as does the blurb for this book), so if you absolutely don’t want to know anything, skip this review and start off with Soulmates.
Trajan, David, and Connor are committed to one another and trying to move forward as a triad. However, trust is still not easy to come by, especially between Trajan and Connor. Trajan loves Connor and wants a life with him, but after Connor faked his death and disappeared for years, it is hard for Trajan to fully trust him. But the men are trying to make it work, and that means Connor stepping away from the Elites and into a job as a private investigator. Trajan is continuing to manage his many businesses, and both he and Connor hope that David might want to ultimately work with one of them.
When David is helping Trajan check out a site for a potential new restaurant, they end up discovering the body of a murdered kitsune. Connor gets involved in the case, as the police aren’t so interested in murdered supernaturals, though he is working with LAPD’s supernatural liaison. As more shifters end up dead, Connor is determined to figure out the connection among the victims, as well as who wants them all dead. But that isn’t Connor’s only case. His former boss at the Elites has dragged Connor into another investigation, one being demanded by an incredible powerful near god who wants him to track down a missing elven princess. Connor wants nothing to do with it, as he promised Trajan he’d stay away from the Elites. But she is not taking no for an answer and has made it clear that Connor’s failure could lead to Trajan’s death.
When David learns that Connor is keeping secrets, he finds himself torn between his lovers. Their bond as partners, as well as a pack, is still so fragile that the tension between Connor and Trajan may be too much strain. When it turns out that Trajan has some secrets of his own, it makes things even more complicated. But David, Trajan, and Connor care deeply for one another and they are determined to make it work. However, with a killer on the loose, they may find their lives at risk, even as they deepen their connection to one another.
Tested picks up shortly after Soulmates left off, with our three guys living together and trying to make it work. As the title suggests, the men are struggling here as they are dealing with past betrayals, as well as current secrets. David finds himself frequently in the middle, particularly as things are still a little fragile with Connor and Trajan. They are each keeping secrets from one another, often for good reasons (or what seems like good reasons) and David is caught between them. I really like this triad and find the mix of personalities and supernatural abilities make for a fun mix. I particularly enjoy the dynamic between Trajan and David, as they are so “grumpy and sunshiney” and there is such a palpable chemistry between them. Connor came in a little later in the game, so he still feels a little on the periphery to me, especially since he spends a lot of his time here off on his own investigating. I wish that in the aftermath of the last book we had some more time with these guys really connecting and feeling solid. We get there in the end, and see flashes of it throughout the story. But given that they don’t all really come together until late in the last book, I wanted a little more time here to see these guys solidifying their relationship versus so much stress between them. That said, it is clear that while their decisions may not always been great, these guys are all in with one another and when they are all in sync, they are so good together.
There are two main investigations that are happening in the story. The first deals with the murder case, starting with the kitsune. Connor gets very involved helping the LAPD liaison to investigate and find the killer. I found it an interesting storyline and it comes together nicely. The second case is the missing elven princess, which is how Connor gets tangled up again in the Elites. Since Connor can’t tell Trajan he is involved with them, this causes a lot of tension and some lies and misdirection about where he is and what he is doing. On top of that, Trajan faces his own threats that mean he has a secret he must keep as well. I think Rancourt does a good job setting this up so that it make sense why the guys make the choices they do. Of course, they would both be better off just being honest, but they have legitimate reasons that seem to make sense for keeping things hidden. For me, however, this left these guys sort of at odds with one another throughout so much of the book, as I noted above. But on top of that, I found myself sort of confused by Connor’s behavior. He initially gets involved in the murder investigation because Trajan and David find the body. But this is not his case; he was not hired through his job as a PI, nor does he work for the police (maybe they are paying him?). Yet Connor spends almost every moment working on it, constantly gone from the house. In the meantime, his case for the Elites has a firm timetable and Trajan’s life is being threatened if Connor doesn’t deliver. Yet Connor seems to barely take time to investigate or express any real concern about getting the job done. He sort of fits it in around the other case, and I just found myself so confused why his partner’s life is on the line and he doesn’t seem to be addressing it with any urgency. In addition, these guys desperately need to talk, to spend time together and strengthen their bond, and Connor seems to be constantly running off to investigate the murders instead.
We get a chance to reconnect with Sheena here, as she is Trajan’s best friend, and she once again gets involved to help. I love her and her friendship with Trajan. We also see David form a bond with an older, lesbian biker pack leader, and I really enjoyed their connection. David has lost his pack and even though he is not part of hers, it gives him that wolf connection, as well as an older shifter to go to for help and advice (and to help in return). So I like the role of these women and the way the guys are building this found family of other supernaturals.
I am really enjoying this series and excited to hear that Rancourt has another installment in the works. The mysteries are well done and I just love the relationship among the three men. I wished for more time for these guys where things were solid as they dealt with various challenges, but I do feel like we left them in a good place. I can’t wait to see what they will face next!