Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Enchanted Ink is a tattoo shop where witches draw spells into the skin — spells of health and protection, strength and vigor. The demons who opened a shop up nearby, though, draw curses into the flesh of unwitting victims, and one of their victims just so happens to be a man destined to be Luca and Ash’s third.

When Luca sees their human mate on Youtube and finds out he lives in the same city, he warns Ash to not get too eager. It’s up to the Fates to decide when the three of them will meet; rushing it or interfering in the plan could cost them their mate bond. That doesn’t stop Ash from poking around to get a look at their human, Colby. But on their first meeting, the sound of his voice sends Colby into convulsions of pain, as the tattoo on his arm starts eating his flesh. Ash races him to Enchanted Ink, but even Luca can do little more than slow down the spell. Can Colby wait until the Autumn Equinox when the full coven can come together and break the spell?

This is the first book in the Enchanted Ink series and, in this world, witches bond with shifters and humans both, forming triads that are more powerful together than they are apart. Ash, a squirrel shifter, is Luca’s familiar and mate. He moonlights as a police officer for the protection and service of the coven. After all, if the coven needs a ticket to go away or an investigation to … stop, Ash is there to make it happen. He’s not a good cop, but he’s a good coven member. The focus of the story is on the magic, Luca’s lack of magic, the magic of the mate bond, and the search for how to break the magic spell, along with conversations about whether or not Colby will willingly join Luca and Ash as their third. There is nothing wrong with that, but shifters — or familiars, as they’re called — are just a hand wave in this book.

Ash, one of the shifters in question, is a worrier. He’s always tugging on the strings of power in his and Lucas’ relationship, wanting to control him, protect him, and tell him what to do. And yet with Colby, he holds back, doing as Lucas tells him, which leads to him sometimes feeling left out and more of a third wheel than a third partner. Ash’s a sketched out shape of a character that hasn’t quite been filled in.

Lucas, the witch, is prickly and proud, arrogant and pushy. He’s used to having the answers and the power, and when his magic is being drained by the constant need to keep Colby’s curse away, he still tries to use his magic as much as possible, until Ash gets Colby to agree that Lucas should stop doing that. Colby, uncertain of the reality of demons, let alone magic and mate bonds, can’t help but show some interest in the two men who really, really, really want to fuck him, but any glimmer of either reciprocal lust or even just a lonely man reaching out for comfort is met with Lucas all but swallowing him whole. And even so, Lucas won’t back off, won’t slow down, won’t give Colby time or space.

Colby has been the adult ever since his parents died. His older brother, Daniel, has Downs Syndrome, and Colby takes care of the day-to-day things in his life. It’s left him feeling like he always has to be the strong one, so when he has a chance to lean on someone else, even for just a moment, he does. But it’s always about sex, and the reality of the mate bond — of having no choice, no say in the matter — rubbed in his face. So Colby pushes the men away, and then pulls them in again, and then pushes them away. Added to that, the scars caused by the demon curse leave him feeling, in his own words, ugly. How is it possible that now that he’s damaged (also his own words), anyone can find him worthy of love? Fortunately, both Lucas and Ash are quick to shut that down, and it’s understandable that Colby, whose life has been turned upside down in the matter of days, will have some reactions, and not all of them the ‘right’ ones. I appreciate that Colby isn’t the perfect victim, but he — and Lucas and Ash — are far from a perfect throuple.

Luca and Ash have a constant back and forth over who’s stronger, who’s tougher, in a dynamic that is probably meant to come across playful, but was delivered in a way that makes me think this is a constant debate between them. Most of their conversations reveal issues that haven’t been previously addressed, hurt feelings, anger, and control issues that make them feel more like a couple just figuring things out, rather than an established pair waiting for their third. And, for me, their relationship didn’t work. It was too hostile, too tempestuous, and with too many control issues — all of which show up again in their reactions to Colby, pushing at him when he makes it clear he’s not ready. When Colby does willingly interact with Ash and Lucas, it’s with an air of sulky resentment still lingering around him, mixed with self-pity at his scars.

I understand Colby needing time to get used to the idea that demons exist, that he’s been cursed, and that he suddenly has not one, but two men in his life, in his bed, and in his heart … but the man goes from begging to be be fucked to all but kicking them out of his house. He deliberately tries to hurt them, only to turn to them for comfort. Some of this can be explained away by the curse covering the mating mark, since after he’s healed — and his oh-so-ugly scars are gone — the three of them have such amazing sex that Colby’s personality does a 180 and he’s sweet and pliant again.

The world building was interesting, though slightly weightless. Magic has a cost, yes, but it can also do everything and anything at all, at the same time. The characters were fine, but I wasn’t personally a fan of the relationship between them. Overall, it’s an okay book, but not one I ever see myself revisiting.