Title: Change of Heart, Trusted Bond, Honored Vow, and Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart series #1-4)
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 74,682 / 91,717 / 97,139 / 68,260 words (respectively)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (Overall)
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex (Overall)
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters, Big Cats, Mating, Alphas, Egypt, Action/Adventure
Rating: Really Like It (Overall)
Change of Heart
As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them. But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.
Jin Rayne is having trouble adjusting to the new life he’s supposed to love. Instead of adapting to being the mate of tribe leader Logan Church, Jin can’t get past the fact that his lover was straight before they met. He’s discovered the joy in belonging to Logan but fears his new life could disappear at a moment’s notice, despite Logan’s insistence that they are forever, end of story.
Jin wants to trust Logan, but that desire will be put to the test both by a rival tribe leader and by a startling revelation about Jin’s existence. At stake is Jin’s life and his place in the tribe. If he’s going to survive to see Logan again, he’ll have to release his fear and freely accept the bond, for only then can he truly trust.
Jin Rayne is still growing into his frightening new powers as a nekhene cat and his place as reah of Logan Church’s tribe when he learns that a sepat, an honor challenge, has been called. Logan, who has never wanted to do anything but lead his small-town tribe, must travel around the world to Mongolia and fight to become the most powerful leader in the werepanther world.
Logan won’t be the only one making the journey. As his mate, Jin must fight with him to honor his commitment to Logan, his culture, and his tribe. But the trial is long, involving a prolonged separation between the two men, and Logan’s humanity is at stake. In order to make it through the nightmarish sepat, Jin and Logan must accept their fates, trust each other, and honor the vows between them no matter the cost.
Crucible of Fate
In the secret city of Sobek, Domin Thorne is making his way as the newly chosen semel-aten, the leader of the werepanther world. He aspires to make sweeping changes—he’s set goals for himself and the people he chose to bring with him, modeling his reign after that of his friend, Logan Church. But Domin may have set too lofty a goal: his normal leadership style isn’t working. While juggling a homesick Crane, a moody Mikhail, a bullwhip-wielding Taj, servants with murderous intentions, a visiting ex, and a mate on a dangerous goodwill mission, Domin has to figure out his new role alone. He also must determine how to deal with a conspiracy, all the while falling hard for a man who, for the first time in Domin’s life, reciprocates that love. Whether Domin is ready or not, Fate has stepped in to teach him a lesson: internal threats are just as dangerous as external ones.
Change of Heart and it’s sequel, Trusted Bond were my first introduction to Mary Calmes’ work. As two (CoH & TB) of my very first reviews — ever — and in the first week at my gig reviewing at Jessewave, I hadn’t quite settled into my own rating system. So I wasn’t sure if my feelings and ratings would stay the same (then, 4.25 stars and 5 stars, respectively), because I didn’t have much to compare them with. I hadn’t even joined Goodreads at that point! It was later December of 2010.
I knew though, that if I were going to get caught up on this series and read the third book and the fourth, released just this week, that I’d need to read them all again. As much as I love a book, you have to understand, I very, very rarely re-read romance books. There are just so many that I have waiting to read for the first time that I rarely allow myself the luxury of going back to a favorite book. It has to be good, really good. So I was so happy to find out that I loved these books the second time around just as much as the first. And with a whole different arsenal in my possession — better analytical thinking and also a much wider breadth of experience reviewing m/m in particular — I found that I appreciated this series in ways I couldn’t the first time I read it. But really, I just loved Jin and Logan again and I doubt they’ll ever stop being one of my favorite couples.
I love Mary’s work, and in the past I’ve said that her paranormal/fantasy work has been so so while I tend to adore every contemporary she writes (which is the opposite of how I usually feel about romances). But re-reading this series has made me change my mind about that. This is my favorite series of Mary’s over all of them, and it is very paranormal.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, it works as a trilogy. The latest book, number four, deals with all of the same characters but with a change in focus from Jin and Logan to Domin and Yuri, two favorites from the first three books. It is a shifter world, focused on big cats and here’s your class on werepanther 101. We meet Jin in the beginning of the first book and he admits himself to be a “reah”. On the run with his best friend Crane (called a “beset”, meaning a companion of a “reah”), we don’t learn much about what Jin’s identity as a “reah” means other than that he’s extremely rare and everyone wants a piece of him, especially “semels”. A “semel” is the leader of a pack or tribe and are always male. They all wish to find their true mate (a “reah”), which is always a woman, but they’re so rare that most of them end up having to take a “yareah”, or a chosen mate. Now you see why Jin is so unique — he’s the only male “reah” known in existence.
In typical Mary Calmes’ fashion, they have enemies, lots of enemies. Everyone covets Jin so much, for his unique qualities and simply for the heart that pulls people to him which makes up a “reah”, that they’ll do just about anything to separate the two. The first three books follow the two as they travel the world making enemies and allies. Two of those are Yuri and Domin, from their tribe in Lake Tahoe. Yuri is Logan and Jin’s “sheseru”, the physical arm of the “semen” (Logan). He is in charge of security, specifically he is Jin’s protector. Domin was once a “semel” just like Logan, but due to his bad choices lost his tribe and was assimilated into Logan and Jin’s, becoming the “maahes” of the tribe, or the prince, whom acts as an emissary to the tribe. They have their own sub-plots during the series, only to be brought together at the end of the third book. Crucible of Fate takes over their story in Sobek, Egypt, their new home. But that is getting ahead of things!
There is something about these books that grabbed me and still hasn’t let go. I could analyze and critique, but the basis of it is that I love these books. And even though there are books I love more than others (in particular, the first and third), I know now that I’ll always love this series. She’s taking it to places that I never, ever expected, but I love it. It isn’t something that is just good, it is addicting, and I was sad when I finished Crucible of Fate.
With this last book in particular, I have to admit that I found it just a little disappointing. Right off there is an acclimatization necessary because it is the first story not about Jin and Logan. No matter how much I love Yuri and Domin, I was sad to say goodbye (even though they’re still there, sometimes) to Jin and Logan. Of course, I warmed up to getting their own story, but Domin’s voice is quite different and much more pessimistic, which took some time to get used to. All of that I could work with — it simply takes time after you’ve been with another character’s POV for so long. I did wish, however, that there was more romance in this book. So much of the love story between Yuri and Domin happens off page in the third book, when they’re first getting together, and then in Crucible of Fate their lives are focused on more pressing issues. But I missed that connection. They were together in a minority of the book and if I didn’t think that there would be another sequel coming (I see no reason it will stop here), then I’d be more upset. I’m hoping that with the way this one ended, that the next one will have them together for more time. And I’m certainly excited about the direction the series is starting to take for Domin, as well as getting to know quite a big part of the world that we weren’t privy to before.
So, while I loved this book because I loved the series, I’m more excited about the next book than I am about this one. It was satisfying enough, but since my expectations from the series are so high, it didn’t quite meet up. Also, reading directly after the third book made it difficult to live up to. Honored Vow, which I read for the first time in this read, I absolutely loved :)
So, please read this series! It is such a guilty pleasure read and there should be no negative connotations with that phrase here. It is simply that they are a pure pleasure to read and now that I know I’ll love them again and again, I’ll just have to make sure to read them all again the next time another book comes out.