Centuries ago, Drew and his brothers were cursed by being turned into gargoyles. For a hundred years, they sleep in their stone form, only to awaken for 25 years, and then repeat the cycle again. The only way they know of to break the curse is to fall in true love. While in their time awake, the brothers have a mostly human form (with a few gargoyle add ons, like wings in Drew’s case), as well as a “stone skin” form that they maintain when they are out of the public eye. Given that the brothers must acclimate to a totally new world every time they awaken, they are helped out by a family who has served them for generations and knows their secrets.
Josh is the personal assistant to the brothers, a job passed down from his father and held by his family for years. He takes care of all the brothers and thinks of them as family. But Josh has a special place in his heart for Drew, yet he doesn’t dare admit his attraction. So when Drew offers to come with Josh to his high school reunion and be his pretend boyfriend in front of some old bullies, Josh is both relieved and concerned. But to his surprise, there is a connection and an attraction that flares between both men and they decide to act on it, even if they must keep things casual. With Drew and his brothers only two years from their next century of sleep, there is no chance for anything long term between Drew and Josh.
Things get shaken up in town when a shifter pride arrives causing trouble. While the brothers usually try to stay out of paranormal politics, the pride is determined to provoke them. When they begin to threaten Josh, Drew knows they need to take the situation seriously. But no one knows what the pride wants, or why they are looking to pick a fight. As Josh and Drew begin to fall harder for one another, both men begin to hope that there could be something more between them. But with the pride threatening at every turn, and a curse taking Drew away in just two years, finding a way to make it work won’t be easy.
Stone Wings is the first book in Jenn Burke’s new Gargoyles of Arrington series. I was excited as soon as the author did a stop on the blog to reveal the cover, as I love Burke’s work and the premise sounded right up my alley. And I think she does a great job here both developing the relationship between Josh and Drew, as well as setting up the larger world for the series.
This story mixes a lot of my favorite tropes, starting with the fake relationship. Josh is worried about his reunion, since he is notorious among his class for having been publicly dumped on prom night. Drew offers to come with Josh for moral support and to help show that he has moved on from the past. It gives the men a chance to break out of their boss/employee dynamic, though in reality, Josh is very much a member of the family. So this was a nice way to give the guys a jump start to romance as they start to see one another in a new light. At first, they decide to just act on their attraction, as they know their relationship has a time limit, but they end up having feelings involved as well. I did enjoy the men together and there is a sweet and sexy dynamic between them. They seemed to move a little abruptly from hookup to real feelings, but I did really like them as a couple. I particularly appreciated that while Drew may be bigger and stronger (and immortal), Josh is a confident, determined man who can stand up for himself and feels very much an equal partner to Drew.
Burke also sets up the larger world building here, both in terms of the gargoyle lore and the brothers’ curse, as well as the gang that comes into town. There is an interesting backstory that is revealed over the course of the book in terms of how and why the men were cursed, who attacked them, and how that is having ramifications in present day. We also learn about their two other brothers and what happened to them. Burke does a nice job differentiating the three brothers and giving them enough personality to feel distinct. We spend time with all three men, so we get to know everyone, but also this feels very much like Drew and Josh’s story.
My only complaint with regard to the world building is that we get very little information about Josh’s side of things. We are told his family has been serving the brothers for generations, and the job of assistant gets passed down from one to the next. I thought the idea was really interesting, especially since each time these guys wake up, one hundred years has passed, so they need to learn so much about the world in order to adapt and pass as human. But I do feel like this is really not developed when compared with the gargoyle side of the world building. We never learn how Josh’s family was chosen for this job or why. It also wasn’t clear to me what happens during the 100 years these guys are asleep. Do they still employ Josh’s family in some way? Do they get other jobs? Also, Josh has siblings, so I wasn’t clear why he was picked for this role after his father, rather than one of them. I also really wanted to know how it works when at least one generation of Josh’s family, if not two, are likely to live and die in the hundred years while the gargoyles are asleep. So are they just learning how to care for the men and somehow training their kids, even though the brothers aren’t awake at all during their lifetime? I know most of these things don’t really matter, but I felt like the set up here is this idea of the two families bound together, and certainly Josh’s role as assistant plays a part here in this book, so I wanted it to be better developed and explained.
Overall, I found this a fun start to the series. Josh and Drew get their happy ending, but there are some open series threads that I assume will play out across the next two books. I am definitely looking forward to continuing on to see what awaits the other two brothers.