Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrator: Michael Dean
Length: 7 hours, 48 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Griffin shifter Victor Eastaughffe might not like children, but he will do whatever he has to for the kids Nick Smith has rescued and made part of his pack. Victor travels to the compound to be onsite to handle the financial component so that everything can be done on time and with efficiency. When toddler Red Panda shifter, Gus, worms his way into Victor’s heart, Victor isn’t sure what to do. But whatever Gus needs, Victor will do.

Orsen Riggs is a bear shifter who was in the right place at the right time and ended up with a job with the Smith pack building the new cottages. It’s a dream job and almost too good to be true. When he meets Victor, the attraction to the red-haired griffin is instant. And though Riggs doesn’t know what to do with Gus either, because children are so rare in their world, he knows whatever Gus and the rest of the children need, he’ll do.

Victor and Riggs quickly act on their attraction. What’s more, Gus has just as quickly become the child of their heart. However, they will do what’s best for Gus, even if that means letting him go. But the connection between Victor and Riggs is deeper than either man expects. Mates aren’t real. Except maybe they are. When Riggs gets injured, Victor panics. His world has shifted and everything he thought couldn’t be, is. It’ll take some hard work, but these men are meant to be a family. If only Victor can just accept that it’s not temporary.

This is the first book in the Chosen One spin off series, Magical Mates. This series focuses on characters we have mostly met before finding their mates, as well as adopting children from the Smith Pack. They are rescued children who have had a horrible start in life who now need to be showered with love and protection. Timeline-wise, it comes after the original Chosen One series (as well as after the Hellhound Champion series, only the first of which is in audio at this time). This universe is complex and intertwined and, in my opinion, is best enjoyed as close to the series timeline as possible. Blake has helpful info on her site to give readers reading, or listening, order.

I was excited that Victor gets his own story, as he caught my interest back when he was first introduced. He’s prim, proper, uptight, and refined. Even a bit stodgy. But it’s clear he has a good heart, and that was only expounded upon here in this book.

Riggs is Victor’s opposite in that he’s a man who works with his hands, he’s big and burly, and he’s definitely more laid back and easy going than Victor. I liked the instant attraction between them, and the way that Victor doesn’t really know what to do with it. He hides behind business in order to keep Riggs close, and when they get to the physical side of things, it’s clear the two men were made for each other. Blake does a really good job of using their personalities to showcase how they are dealing with the relationship and the events around them. And even though Victor is the one to ultimately put distance between them, unable to believe they are really mates and that he’s a part of Nick’s pack, it doesn’t last terribly long and he’s the one to swoop in and save the day.

I loved these two together, and their relationship with little Gus. The author does a good job of not making their relationship only about the kid, but also incorporates Gus into their interactions. And Gus really acts like a child around two years old, which is truly welcome considering many authors don’t accomplish that. But the bond between the men is enhanced by their love for Gus and the HEA moments are made all the sweeter because of the kid. The chemistry works at every level.

I enjoyed this book immensely and even more so listening to it. Dean once again showcases his ability to really get the feeling of the scenes down, especially ones with heightened emotion. I found myself entranced in the scene where Gus goes missing, or when the fae show up, or when Victor comes back. My one complaint is the same as it’s been throughout these Universe books. The character voices aren’t wholly consistent. While I do make some leeway for the sheer number of characters, it always twigs my ear. Here, Riggs has a great southern drawl that’s not too pronounced that really adds to his character. But Victor wavers throughout the series, his tone and “accent” shifting as the story goes on. And when Sawyer makes a cameo, his voice is completely different from the one used in earlier books, which immediately shocked me. I’ll allow that this may not bother all listeners, and perhaps it’s even more discordant because I’m listening to all these books back to back, but it’s the one thing that really works against the narration for me.

If you’ve been following along, you know I’m a fan of this ever expanding universe that Blake has created. Listening to the books has been a treat, for the most part, and I’m enjoying them in a whole new way. If you’re a fan of paranormal with complex and an ever evolving world, definitely pick this one up.