billionaire's familiar coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Ethan Lumin has always lived a life of wealth and privilege. His family is part of an elite group of powerful witches who make their own rules and live outside the dictates of the Coven. As is tradition, now that Ethan is approaching 30, he must choose a familiar from within his family’s circle and take his seat on the Shadow Board. Ethan’s parents have controlled every aspect of his life since birth, and while he knows he is lucky to live so comfortably, he is beginning to chafe under the lack of choices in his own life. Ethan has no interest in bonding with a familiar, certainly not one of his parents’ choosing, and has been putting it off as long as he can, but time has now run out.

Axel Hollins is a fox shifter and his family hates witches. There is a long history of animosity between the two groups, with witches hunting and killing fox shifters for fear the foxes will take their magic. Like many shifters, Axel has also been taught to fear witches who will try to bind shifters to them and steal their magic. Axel had dreams of being an artist, but his father refuses to hear of something so impractical, so Axel works for the family business, working ride share on the side. When Axel ends up picking Ethan up one night, the men immediately recognize one another from the attraction they shared on the street earlier that day. In fact, the spark is so strong that the men decide to forget the ride and head back to Ethan’s house for a night of fun.

The next day, however, things turn into a nightmare when the men realize they are fated mates and have accidentally bonded as witch and familiar. Both men are horrified and know their families will be furious. While Ethan was expected to bond with a familiar, his parents would never accept someone outside of their elite circles. Lumins bond with familiars for politics and power, not because they have a personal connection, and certainly not as fated mates. And Axel has been taught all his life to fear witches and the dangers of being trapped as a familiar. On top of all that, their bond is still so new that their magic is wonky and things feel out of control.

The men have no idea what to do or where to turn, but they are determined to stick together. While their families may hate each other, Ethan and Axel find a surprising bond that is more than the sexual attraction that brought them together. They support one another and give each other the confidence to dream beyond what their families insist is their future. But there is still so much unknown, both about their bond and their magic. While Ethan and Axel have fallen hard for one another, not everyone is happy about the fact that the men are mates. In fact, some want to see them split apart whatever the cost.

The Billionaire’s Familiar is the latest installment in T.J. Nichols’ Fated Mates series. While some of the books do feature connecting themes and side characters, this story stands alone quite well. I think the story is enhanced if you come in know the basics of the world building, but all the key things are explained here and you should be able to jump right in. I have read most of this series, as well as the spin off Outcast Pack series, and I think this was my favorite of the group. What I really liked is the way Nichols takes the established world building, but really develops it in interesting new ways in this story. Given how many books are out, I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to still find new directions to take the world building. In this case, we learn more about this group of wealthy elites who operate outside the bounds of the normal rules for witches and familiars, as well as more about the particular magic involved with fox shifters. It really brought some fun new developments to the series and I think it was a great way to shake things up a bit. This story does give us a conclusion for the Axel and Ethan, but things don’t fully tie up with the some of the larger issues involving the Shadow Board and the various shady dealings going on. It seemed like the ending to the book came a little abruptly, but it does look like there will be two more books where presumably this plot arc will continue to develop.

I really enjoyed Ethan and Axel together. There is a sort of Romeo and Juliet vibe with their feuding families and each man being raised to hate the other. But while they do need time to fully understand how so much of what they have been taught is untrue, the men are generally much more open and accepting than their families and connect with one another fairly quickly. Ethan, in particular, could have been an unlikable character considering how he is used to his name and his money opening up every door. Yet, Ethan has chafed against the rigid life his parents planned for him and he is open to learning the truth. He is privileged, but not snobby or obnoxious. Nichols sets things up well in that both men are so out of sorts and out of their comfort zones, neither knowing quite what is happening, and so they rely on one another and quickly find a true bond. There is also some nice chemistry between them and they are an appealing couple.

As I said, things don’t fully wrap up here with the larger series arc and so the ending felt like it comes a bit fast. But I really enjoyed the way Nichols expands the world here and am very much looking forward to continuing on with the upcoming books.

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