Title: Monkey Wrench (Were Menagerie #2)
Author: Xara X Xanakas
Length: 48,917 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters (Monkey!), First Times, Cops/Crime, Drugs, Sexual Abuse/Assault
Rating: So So
**Beware, this review contains a big spoiler (I’ll warn beforehand)**
Twenty-year-old virgin Aaron Thorne has a lot of irons in the fire. He’s on a career-making case investigating a new party drug that induces shifts in werecreatures, and his friend is the prime suspect. Outside of work, a literal silver fox has captured his attention. And just when life start going smoothly for Aaron, a tall, dark, scowly bobcat shifter named Iggy appears and sweeps him off his feet.
After being attacked in the course of his investigation, Aaron starts to feel like he has something to prove. It’s a good thing he’s got all the energy of his shifter animal, the spider monkey. He’s going to need it to solve the case, sort out his love life, and decide what kind of man he wants to be.
I really liked the first book in this series, Snakeskin Boots. It was typical shifter fare, but with some rather interesting were animals and also an awesome sense of humor (the eggplant references didn’t bother me, lol). It was also incredibly hot. This sequel is a departure from that first book in many ways, which took me by surprise. If that was the only thing about this book that changed, I wouldn’t mind so much and I’d be able to get behind this book in it’s own way. But… I found that this story had a lot of problems. The only thing that saved it from being a Not Feelin’ It rating was the first half which I really enjoyed and the involvement of Jeff and Brad from the first book, who I loved.
Aaron was introduced to us as the sweet, virginal blushing monkey shifter in the first book who had a major crush on Brad. Here, we get to know him not too long after that. He’s now a shifter cop and he and some of the enforcers of the were council are working on an undercover operation to discover the maker of a party drug that is causing shifters to lose control of their animal and shift in front of witnesses, usually at the rave where they’ve been drugged. Though he used to have a major crush on Brad, he’s become quite close to him now through his friendship with Jeff and he’s now an unofficial little brother.
Along the way we’re introduced to his friend Miles, who is a culinary school student and a regular human, a sexy silver fox named Gerry who is an uncle to one of the little boys he coaches in little league, and a scorchingly hot bartender named Iggy. All are likely candidates to his affection, but Aaron is betrayed when one of them horribly assaults him. Aaron has to deal with his embarrassment and his feelings of inadequacy over the attack because of his career as a police officer. As the events related to the undercover case progress, he’s horrified to learn that his assault might have something to do with the case they’ve been working on.
Now, SPOILERS Coming, look away if you need to!
There is one HUGE problem with this story that really affected my enjoyment of the story. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to blurbs, because honesty, I usually don’t read a book just after reading the blurb, so I forget all but the basic story is about. Looking at the blurb now, I can see which of those “suitors” I mentioned above is mentioned in the blurb and I might have not had to deal with this mess, but I didn’t, so I didn’t know who to expect. And this is where the problem lies. Aaron is dating Gerry for most of the book and it isn’t until the book is almost over, around 70%-75% that we even meet or hear about Iggy, then Aaron feels the pull of the “mating”, or a strong connection across the crowded bar (on a date with Gerry) and he dumps one for the other. It isn’t callous, because Aaron is so sweet and earnest, but it still bothered me. We don’t get to know anything about Iggy or even see them together. And you could say that the story is really about Aaron and his evolution and all that. Sure, it is true — but I do not want to read the story expecting one character of becoming the romantic interest and finding out that another guy is waiting to take over, especially a character that we’ve never even hear of before. That really bothered me, and spoiled my enjoyment of the story.
Okay, SPOILERS Over!
Aside from that one thing (though admittedly big thing) which spoiled my enjoyment of the story in the end (makes you wanna read it now, doesn’t it?), I liked the story. The first half is especially good though there is little romance at all and the story is devoted to Aaron and his assault. I like the brotherly dynamic between Aaron and Brad and Jeff. The first book is devoted to showing the sexy side of the relationship between those two and it was nice to see a difference side of Brad here. The whole usual gang was back along with a few new characters. I think the overall problem just stemmed from a lack of direction in the story. It meandered quite a bit and seemed to decide on one path then change and choose another. I wanted it to do as the first story did quite well and choose a path and commit to it. At the very least, I really liked Aaron and his journey was quite interesting to read. I wanted him to find love and get everything that he deserved. Even though he comes across as helpless, I liked that he has a core strength and even though the assault damages it, he regains it over the length of the story. The saving grace of the story for me was the fact that Aaron changes and grows.
I would recommend this for fans of the series and author, but not on it’s own. Though it probably could be read as a standalone, it is better enjoyed after reading Snakeskin Boots and I’m not sure if I would have liked the story at all if I hadn’t read that book because it doesn’t stand up well on it’s own. And I think that the problems I had with the book are ones that most other readers will also have. So, read if you want but don’t expect perfection. I’m very much looking forward to future installments of this series, but I’m really hoping that the author can turn it around and not make the same mistakes that she made in this one. Also, just a note: there is no sex in this story, which was a HUGE change from the first book, which was packed with sex. That was okay though, even though I was a tad disappointed, because it made sense for sweet, virginal Aaron not to jump into bed and go slutty with wild abandon