After a bad breakup with his boyfriend/boss, Luca Elliot is left without a job and crashing at his best friend’s apartment. Luca is getting increasingly desperate in his job search and, with no leads on his side of town, he crosses over to the supernatural side to look further. Luca has never crossed the border; his mother was always quite clear growing up that he should stay away. But he is without many options, so Luca takes a chance. He is surprised how comfortable he feels there and is delighted to fairly quickly find a job working at a supernatural club. Luca also finds himself totally attracted to his new boss, a fae named Cair, but he is also determined not to get involved with his boss once again after the last time ended in disaster.
Growing up, Cair had always longed to visit the human realm, so when his parents offered him a bargain, he readily agreed. Cair can spend 100 years in the human realm, but when his time is up, he will return home to the fae realm and never go back to the human one again. Now, the 100 years is almost up and Cair is due to return home. When an adorable human shows up in his club asking for a job, Cair is stunned to realize that Luca is his fated mate. However, the timing is horrible as humans can not live in the fae world and Cair must return home soon. As much as he wants to be with Luca, to claim him and bond together, Cair knows that he will have to soon leave Luca behind. So for the sake of both their hearts, Cair is determined to resist the call to his mate.
As Luca spends more time in the club and with Cair, he finds himself more comfortable in the supernatural side of the city. He loves his job, and Cair spoils him with a great apartment and lots of gifts. As much as both men try to deny the attraction between them, staying apart is almost impossible. Cair is also keeping secrets from Luca, wary about revealing the truth about their bond while knowing they can’t act on it. But, eventually, the pull is too strong and the men give in to the attraction simmering between them. Not only that, but both of them are falling hard and fast for each other. But with the clock ticking on Cair’s time in the human realm, their chance at happiness just may be over before it has even really begun.
Cair is the first book Eryn Hawk’s new Veiled City series. This appears to be Hawk’s debut work and I think the author does a nice job here overall. Luca and Cair make an adorable couple. Luca is lively and friendly and fearless. He is strong willed and fights for what he wants. And Cair is much more stoic, powerful, and controlled. Everyone defers to Cair, so there is a part of him that loves Luca’s fire, loves that he has a lot of determination in a small package (at least compared to Cair, who is a giant of man with huge horns). There is a nice feistiness to Luca that contrasts well with Cair’s solid steadiness. The attraction between the men comes through well from the start and there is a nice sense of tension as both men try to resist one another — plus, lots of steamy scenes when they finally give in. The plot here is pretty much exclusively focused on the men falling for one another and then facing the conflict of Cair’s departure, but I found that the characters are able to carry the story well. I also enjoyed how things come together in the end and how Luca fights for his man.
While I really enjoyed the relationship dynamic, I think where the book suffered a little is in the world building. The set up is really interesting, with this divided city in the human realm that has humans on one side of the magical border and supernaturals (aka “monsters”) on the other. But I don’t think Hawk develops this world enough. It feel like a great outline, but nothing ever colored in and fleshed out. We know that there is a fae realm that is across the Veil and where humans can not go (hence, why when Cair returns home, Luca would not be able to follow). And then in the human realm there is this split city. But the book doesn’t really go much beyond that and we really only get some basic surface world building. We are given the name of their city, but no sense of place at all in terms of where it is, or even if it is supposed to exist in our real world. We learn nothing about the politics of this shared city or how the humans and monsters interact with each other. I know most humans don’t go to the monster side, but are their monsters living and working on the human side (like Luca does in reverse)? Are there other cities out there that have this divided human/monster half? Or is this the only one? Does this city have the only entrance to the Veil in the human realm? There are just some basic concepts here that needed some fleshing out to help orient the reader to this world. I also found other things either not explained or just confusing. For example, we are told that humans can not cross into the Veil at all, but most don’t even cross the border to the other side of the city because they believe the fae will attack them. This is validated when Luca’s friend, Alex, crosses the border and wonders why more humans don’t do the same, to which Cair replies that they think the fae will kill them, but it doesn’t matter because they can’t cross the Veil anyway. Which makes no sense because the border within the city is not the same as the entrance to the Veil. The one Alex is talking about is the border he literally just crossed as a human.
There are other topics outside of the larger world building that also feel undeveloped. For example, Luca’s past relationship is set up as the roadblock for why he doesn’t want to get involved with Cair, but we get only the most cursory explanation of what happened that was so horrible and left him so wounded. I would have loved more detail here to really develop this conflict. Or even more about Luca’s relationship with his mother, who spent his whole life telling him not to cross the city border and he feels this sense of guilt for his actions and, again, I would have loved to understand their relationship better as it impacts him now. Some of these various issues do get addressed eventually, and in some cases there are reasons we don’t get the full information right away. But I just felt like the author has created this really interesting framework that just doesn’t get developed to its potential.
Despite this, I did still find myself intrigued enough by this world and the characters that I enjoyed the book and would be interested in reading on. The next two characters look to be a fun pair, so I am looking forward to their story. I think there is more the author could have explored here to really make this story sing, but I still think it is an engaging book and a fun read for those that like fated mates and urban fantasy style stories.