stone heart coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Teague O’Reilly has watched his two brothers find true love and break the curse that turns the men into gargoyles. The brothers were cursed to a cycle of living in (semi) human form for 25 years, then turning to stone for 100 more. Drew and Rian are now human, but Teague doesn’t see any hope for himself to end the curse. He is sure that being asexual means he will never find someone to be his true love. But even worse, with bear shifter Chris Holt having bound their souls together, even if Teague’s true love is out there, his soul is too connected to Chris to ever find him.

Chris made the decision to bind Teague’s soul to his out of desperation. After his bear sleuth was cursed by the same woman who cursed the O’Reilly brothers, Chris was desperate to save himself and his family. But he had no idea that binding their souls would inhibit Teague’s chance to find true love and break his own curse. Chris shares a bond with Frankie, a mountain lion shifter who recently joined their group, and the two shifters recognize one another as mates. But more than that, both men also feel a pull to Teague as well. Frankie and Chris know that the three of them are meant to be together, but they also don’t want to scare Teague away, especially as things are still tense between him and Chris. They know Teague isn’t due to shift back into gargoyle form for two more years, so they figure they have time for Teague to recognize their bond.

Unfortunately, Muirloch, the woman who cursed them, isn’t gone for good after all. When she starts stirring up trouble, Teague is worried about the danger to his family and decides he needs to go off grid for a while to stay off Muirloch’s radar. Frankie and Chris are not about to let their man go off on his own when he’s in danger, however, so they go along as Teague heads to a remote cabin. The time alone with Teague gives Chris and Frankie a chance to open up about their feelings for both Teague and each other. Teague can’t help but be wary, however; he has been burned in the past by people who claim to accept his asexuality, but then end up wanting more from him than he can give. But Chris and Frankie are clear that they want Teague just as he is and, soon, the guys are finding their way to a three-way relationship. However, Muirloch is determined to have Teague as her own and is not giving up. Now, it is going to take all they have to stop her before she destroys any chance they have at happiness.

Stone Heart is the third book in the Gargoyles of Arrington series and closes out the trilogy. The books each feature one of the O’Reilly brothers, so there are new MCs in each story, but there are overarching series plot points that make reading these books in order beneficial. The romantic conflict here is set up at the end of Stone Skin, as Teague realizes that Chris deceived him and rather than conducting a pack ceremony, he was really binding his soul to Teague’s. And even worse, this puts Teague at risk of not being able to find his true love and break his own curse, as the connection to Chris would interfere. Author Jenn Burke sets things up well here in that we see how truly remorseful Chris is about what he has done. It is also clear that he had no idea what he set in motion in terms of the risks to Teague and was just trying to protect his family. So there is an early enemies-to-lovers vibe here as Teague and Chris are at odds, but Teague recognizes pretty early on that Chris’ actions were out of desperation and not malicious, so it doesn’t take too long for things to settle down. It sets up this interesting conflict, as both Frankie and Chris see Teague as their mate, but he doesn’t recognize them in return. And, of course, time is ticking as Teague’s curse will have him returning to gargoyle form. On top of that, we have Muirloch stirring up trouble, which adds to the urgency.

The guys get away just the three of them and that gives them a chance to develop the relationship between them. The connection between Frankie and Chris is pretty much set by the time the book starts. They are really just biding their time until Teague is ready before they share their feelings with him. While the early stages of Frankie and Chris’ relationship are briefly touched on in the last book, I did wish we saw more of things developing between them here, as it’s pretty much a done deal by the time this book starts. But it does give them a chance to turn their focus on Teague and show him how much they care about him. At first, Teague is wary, particularly with how they will handle him being asexual. But the other guys are very respectful of Teague’s boundaries and they include him in their affection and their intimacy without having him feel pressured to join in the sex. So there is a nice dynamic here that I liked among the men.

Aside from the relationship, the biggest hurdle is Muirloch, who is responsible for the brothers’ curse and Chris’ sleuths’ inability to shift into their bear forms. We get resolution on both the curses and the final showdown with Muirloch, so things tie up nicely here. Some of the conflict is resolved by a third-party that felt like it came sort of out of nowhere, so that wasn’t my favorite aspect of the conclusion. But in the end, we get a nice happy ending for the triad, as well as the brothers overall.

I don’t see too many gargoyle shifter stories and I think Jenn Burke has created an interesting world here. The series does a nice job balancing overarching series threads with the individual romances in each story, and I think fans of paranormal romance will find a lot to enjoy with these books.

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