Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 8 hours, 56 minutes
Ted Farnsworth is not your typical bear shifter. He is gregarious and extroverted where his kind are introverted isolationists; no one understands his craving for friendship and closeness. If that wasn’t enough to make him an outsider, his impetuousness, short attention span, and absentmindedness make Ted a frustration and annoyance to his clan and a danger to the supernatural Secrecy Pact. When his desire to make a friend and be seen gets Ted into trouble with the Supernatural Council, he has to cut the antics. Fortunately, he recently signed a marriage contract for his magically guaranteed perfect match. Now he has his marriage to beaver shifter and builder, Rusty, and his plans for them to build Ted’s perfect wilderness retreat together to look forward to.
When the day of Rusty’s arrival comes, Ted’s shocked to find an uptight, frail, and rude stranger on his property demanding to know where Casimir is. Not only does Mr. Quentin Bertrand-Harrington, with his designer clothes and disdainful looks, make Ted feel like a grungy, uncouth idiot, he makes it clear that Ted and his home will never be good enough for someone like him.
Having refused to have sex or consume human energy in decades after almost killing his companion, incubus Quentin Bertrand-Harrington believes marrying a vampire is the most logical thing to do as he can’t kill something that’s already dead and it would stop his grandmother’s attempts to marry him off to human hosts. When he’s dropped off and left groggy and disoriented in the middle of nowhere in front of a derelict house instead of the mansion he expected, Quentin’s shocked and dismayed. Not only is the suppressant that sublimates his cubi nature wearing off, he’s confronted with a delicious temptation in the form of a giant bear shifter—a temptation he believes he is completely unequipped to handle, so fixing this heinous mix-up ASAP is paramount. However, contracts signed in blood can’t just be dissolved, and as the two men wait for the full moon and collect the ingredients for the escape ritual, they learn that they may be more compatible than they thought on first meeting and that what’s perfect on paper may not be perfect for their hearts.
Single White Incubus (book one in the Supernatural Selection series) is a fluffy opposites-attract, forced proximity story about two outsiders finding love with someone who complements them, sees them for who they are, and appreciates the qualities that others of their kind deem abnormal or irregular. As a spin-off from E.J. Russell’s Fae Out of Water series and the fourth book in her Mythmatched Worlds universe, I was hesitant to pick it up as I haven’t read any of those books, but it stands alone well. The characters from the previous series who show up fit into the plot naturally, and as there isn’t much that happens in the story, they serve as sources of color, insightful banter, and information. The world building is solid and incorporated into the characters’ lives as blood magic and supernatural shenanigans drive the plot conflict.
I’m intrigued by sexless/sex avoidant cubi (incubus & succubus) stories and found Quentin and his backstory to be compelling and sympathetic. As a member of the oldest and most powerful cubi dynasty in the “Upper” world, he comes from generations of wealth and expectations—one such expectation is endlessly marrying willing human hosts to keep him nourished. However, as a very empathetic incubus who cares about consent (too much according to his family) and after being traumatized by almost killing the only host he ever had, he won’t do it. He’s become a repressed, standoffish individual who values control, fears his nature, and has no support system as none of his family understand his “hang ups” and apparently consider discussing fundamental things about their existence indelicate.
Ted is extremely trusting, desperate for friendship, and sees the best in people, making him careless when it comes to secrecy; add in the fact that he doesn’t have the best memory or attention span and doesn’t think about consequences, he’s an easy target for his pack leaders, the Supernatural Council, and humans. As a character, he’s sunshiny, easy going, and likable. His simplistic outlook can come across a bit dismissive and insensitive at times, since even though he’s in hot water with the Council and admits to being uninformed about cubi, he brushes off Quentin’s worry about his openness, as well as Quentin’s fears about his nature and how it affects people he feeds from. However, Ted is never mean-spirited and is quick to apologize. They balance each other well as Quentin is organized, detail-oriented, and helps keep Ted focused, while Ted helps Quentin relax and feel more comfortable with himself.
Admittedly, it took me a while to get into Single White Incubus as I am not fond of bad/miscommunication-driven stories and pretty much everything in the plot could be cleared up with conversation. When the MCs meet, neither man is at their best, with Quentin falling into prickly snobbishness and Ted getting angry and storming off; they’re both adamant about correcting the partner switcheroo as quickly as possible, but don’t do the simplest things to solve it—from letting the person trying to help finish speaking, to constantly forgetting to charge phones/make calls. Fixing their situation is so difficult because they signed blood contracts without reading the final version, yet they remain cavalier about getting the escape clause specifics right despite the extremely severe consequences. However, once I started seeing the story as a comedy of errors, then all the many, MANY things that get hand-waved for hijinks and dramatic reveals are easier to accept.
There are some overarching intrigue/suspicions introduced towards the end that seem like they are mostly there as set up for how bureaucracy in this world works/later reveals in the series, as it doesn’t really have much to do with Ted and Quentin’s relationship. Honestly, I felt the page time could have been better spent seeing Ted and Quentin bond. Individually, there is plenty given to understand Quentin and Ted, and there is definitely enough there to show their chemistry and how they fit together. I just wish to have seen more of their relationship development. The pair fall in love in 19 days, but there are only a few of those days that the listener is privy to. Most of their on-page time together is the first couple of days, then a time jump to the day of the ritual where the MCs’ inner monologues convey their feelings and what they have been up to for the past two weeks. The MCs tell the listener they have strong feelings for each other, but also show how much they still don’t know about/trust in each other, so for me, the depth of their bond would have been more believable if there was more time with them not at odds and becoming friends.
However, Greg Boudreaux does a wonderful job portraying how intensely Ted and Quentin feel in all their moments together, as well as the different quirks each man has—from Ted’s irreverent teasing, to Quentin’s protective prickliness. Boudreaux deftly handles Ted’s boundless good cheer, benign carelessness, and tendency to pout, making the character’s extreme energy tangible. He also helps keep Quentin’s sometimes entitled and abrupt attitude and stiffness understandable, as well as showing how consuming his underling fear of himself and hurting people is. The narration speed is deliberate without being too slow and all the character voices are well-developed, distinct, and fit their personalities. Boudreaux’s performance helped keep me engaged in the story, and I can see people who enjoy light-hearted, instalove PNR featuring prickly MCs who just want to be loved and the good-hearted walking sunbeam that just wants to cuddle and sex them to pieces having fun with the audio version of Single White Incubus.