Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrators: Tim Paige, Greg Boudreaux, and Michael Ferraiuolo
Length: 10 hours, 50 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
Nineteen-year-old Bel Adams is a R’iyah mage of the highest order. What makes a R’iyah mage special and unique is their demon powers, inherited in this case from Bel’s many times removed, yet still active in his life, upper-level demon grandfather. Bel’s red-eyed vision is able to see through bodies, objects, walls, stone, magic, you name it, and he’s been educated since young childhood to tame his sight with the bulk of his magic powers. Bel’s a high-level mage in the Magic Alliance Division, aka MAD, but when he’s actively using his demon-vision, he’s physically vulnerable, unable to protect himself, so he requires a human familiar capable of defending Bel while working on the difficult cases he’s called to address. Bel summoned his first familiar three years ago, and that guy bolted almost immediately, causing Bel intense pain. But, he’s trying again because he can’t continue working in MAD without a steady familiar—and he wants one desperately. Human familiars and their mages generally become partners in work and life, and Bel’s kind of lonely.
Thirty-two-year-old Nico di Rossi is an adrenaline-junkie Army Ranger who’s bored of the service. Nico’s the kind of guy who craves adventure and excitement, so all the paperwork he’s stuck with now is wearing on him. He doesn’t think he’s got another several years in him until he gets his retirement. So, Nico’s rather intrigued by being summoned into Bel’s life as a familiar. Sure, it’s disorienting, but wow, Bel’s young, cute, and vulnerable-looking at first glance. And, the missions he’s served with MAD seem so dangerous and fun. Nico is definitely down for being Bel’s familiar, but he recognizes his limitations: Nico’s an offense specialist, and he knows that Bel needs someone to stick by his side. So, he asks Bel to bring in his ex-boyfriend, Garen Dallarossa, to help train Nico to do the job of a R’iyah familiar.
Thirty-year-old Garen Dallarossa is part gargoyle and former Army Ranger. He’s currently working as a bodyguard in the Secret Service, but he’s quick to respond to Nico’s request to train him. He takes a 6 months leave, because, well, Garen would do anything Nico wanted, and being close with him for months on end could mean a reconciliation. But, Garen’s also intrigued by Bel, who is so grounded and mature, and beautiful.
Bel is attracted to Nico, but he’s afraid to love him and get hurt again. Nico’s attracted to Bel, but he’s still in love with Garen and can’t choose between them. Over the early days together, each man recognizes that their attractions are spanning the two others in this working triad. Nico’s assessment of his skills is entirely accurate—he’s quite bad at being Bel’s bodyguard. With Garen remaining at Bel’s side as a bodyguard, however, Nico’s able to run point keeping most threats from getting within 5 feet of Bel. The more danger they experience together, the more Bel realizes he needs both Nico and Garen, and asks Garen to remain on their response team. Staying with them permanently is a boon, because then Garen can pursue Nico—but Nico’s falling for Bel, facilitated by the magic bond that links them. While Bel sees that they have a love bond, he’s sad that Nico won’t be “his” in that way, unless they can come to a more open arrangement. Bel doesn’t think he’s poly, but he’d be willing to explore that with Nico and Garen, and Garen’s having similar poly urges.
This is a sweet and interesting MMM paranormal adventure/romance. I really loved the narration, with chapters featuring the POVs of Bel, Nico, and Garen each having a different voice actor. Bel has the most chapters, and Greg Boudreaux is phenomenal at bringing the emotion. His deadpan humor had me smiling for hours on end. Michael Ferraiuolo does a great job making Garen sound mature and steadfast, yet playfully flirty with Bel. And, I could hear his despondent longing for Nico. Tim Paige took Nico’s chapters, and I could easily sense Nico’s energy and exuberance in those moments. Nico’s such a fun character and the lighthearted voice acting gave me a great sense of Nico’s needs and two-hearted love for both Bel and Garen.
There’s lots of adventure here, and some thwarted sexytimes. I adored all the secondary and supporting characters, including Bel’s demon-grandpa. He’s a dirty old man—and he dotes on Bel and his older R’iyah mage cousins. Bel’s fellow mages are all so helpful and understanding, and the magic moments truly are dangerous. The stakes are high, both personally and professionally. I love how assertive Bel strives to be, wooing both Nico and Garen. Their poly development seems to take a long time, but it’s really less than a month; barely more than two weeks once Garen arrives. For me, the pace seemed reasonable. There are a few aborted attempts to connect physically, and it was meant to add to the comic relief. It made me giggle, so mission accomplished. The sex, when it happens, is delicious, but also playful and sweet.
This is a first book in a series and I adored it. I’d read on in a heartbeat.
This book is already on my wishlist. After reading your review, Veronica, I want to read it even more!
This is a great series. Wonderful on first read and on the second and on the third….
Yes, I agree! I am really enjoying it and excited for the third book