Shift Series: Bearly Married & Trust the Wolf // I Started Nervous And Ended Wanting More

24 January 2019

So… there’s an author I had on my radar whose books I was dead excited for… but was also hella nervous about I feel like I got to know Zoe pretty well back in her blogging days so when she announced she’d disappeared in the blogosphere to write a book I was excited. And then when she emailed over a copy of them I suddenly got all kinds of nervous because what I about if I didn’t like it? Can there be anything worse than trying to break that news to someone? And then it was agreed that if I didn’t like it I’d read and we’d never speak of it again. I’ve probably got her all twisted about it actually because I got these books ages ago and I’ve said no words to her… well, these are all my thoughts. Good and bad. I am not going to avoid any negatives but I am so totally invested in reading the next book in the series so you know it’s not all bad.

Source: Author/Newsletter

Genre: Paranormal romance

My Rating:
Love is a great reason to marry someone, but so is desperation.

Alexandre Thibault needs to marry an heiress: his clan’s finances are decimated, and his cousin is challenging him for leadership. He has even found the perfect woman—a pure-blood bear shifter with a hefty dowry—though he never expected the attraction between them.

Christine Bergeron will do anything to escape her family home, though exchanging the city for the Canadian wilderness isn’t as easy as she’d imagined. Especially when she’s in danger of losing her heart to a man who might never love her back.

But as enemies threaten their family, Alexandre and Christine will risk everything to keep their safe haven.
Bearly Married is a prequel novella and it was released as a freebie for joining her newsletter but she sent a copy across in case I hadn’t grabbed it already. It was such an easy novella to read and whilst it had that annoying problem of leaving me wanting more it was in no way unsatisfying as a novella. It was a great introduction to the characters of Alexandre and Christine who play a more significant role in Trust the Wolf (although you have to wait for them so patience is a virtue).

This novella was the first time I’d read any of Zoe’s writing and like I said at the start, I was all kinds of nervous but I want in with an open mind and the writing style I liked. I didn’t instantly love either Alexandre or Christine. I was trying to figure out their world and everything which was happening and so whilst that was happening I wasn’t certain what to think of them. Especially as they come together in some weird archaic arranged marriage. But as I began to figure out their world and how things worked in this shifter realm I began to like them. Especially as you caught glimpses of how Christine is badass and will not take things lying down when her new husband she barely knows tries to stick in a role without any consultation and expects her to be happy with it. And when Alexandre accepts her push back without blinking an eye and actually praises her for it I figured I was going to like these guys.

They were a cute couple who had some crazy stuff going on considering the shortness of this novella. I lot of story was packed within its pages. I think my biggest grumble is I felt like a lot of the secondary characters didn’t get developed enough and I found myself needing more. I didn’t mind shifter culture wasn’t explained too in depth as this was just a prequel and that was to come, but I would have liked more… but that’s a grumble I have with all novellas. It was enjoyable and it did get me excited to continue with the series.

Trust the Wolf
Published: 24th January 2019
Source: Author
Genre: Paranormal Romance
My Rating:
You never forget your first wolf.

Emilia’s first encounter with Jason is memorable: it’s not every day you see a stranger change into a wolf. Her attraction to him is undeniable, but the secret he shares shakes the foundations of her life.

Jason’s need for Emilia unnerves him. It’s his job to report shifters without proper ID, yet he can’t make himself do it this time. The decision bites him in the tail when he discovers exactly who she is. He must keep his distance—or there will be hell to pay.

Their fates entwine when rogue shifters learn of Emilia’s identity and will stop at nothing to get to her. Emilia and Jason will have to fight together or risk losing everything.

But most of all? Emilia must learn to trust the wolf.
I’d enjoyed Bearly Married and I was intrigued by where Trust the Wolf would be going but I was still a touch nervous because a full-blown novel is a different kettle of fish to a novella. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though. There are no doubts to be had about that. I mean, I am eager for the next book to be in my hands because of the little snippet at the end of the first book… it was nowhere near enough to satisfy my cravings.

I will begin with my grumbles to get them out of the way. They are minor things of the grand scheme of things but it did affect my enjoyment.

First off, I struggled to get a clear idea of what I felt like the main characters would look like. Now, I am not saying I have a specific person cast in a role every time I read a book, but I tend to have some kind of fuzzy image in my head as I’m reading. My fizzy image for this book was fuzzier than usual. Now, this is partially the way I read. I have a habit of unintentionally skimming as I read and so skip things without realising (this is especially confusing in sex scenes when you’re like how did they get in that position?) and so I often find myself going back and rereading a scene and this was something which did happen here. There was a description of characters but my brain did not process it and I skipped bits without realising but other books my fuzzy image still develops... I didn’t get that as much here and it bothered me as I read.

I also had some issues with the pacing, but this again a me thing. I didn’t get totally invested in the book until like 20% of the way and I could see some interesting storyline developing, but before that, I honestly didn’t know where the book was going. But then at 50%, it seemed to have stalled a little and I was like where’s my action? And then action happened, but it hit 80% and I was questioning where the action had gone again and wouldn’t if there would be a book that sort of fizzled out. But then I felt like I was on a bit of a rollercoaster to the end so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I think I would have liked a more constant pace of story… but then I’ve probably complained in reviews before that the book was moving too fast and couldn’t keep up. I guess I can sometimes be fussy. This one didn’t hinder my enjoyment, but since I was never sure what path the book was going to take I was very aware of the pace of the book and it took me out of the story at times.

Like I said, it wasn’t all bad because I am making grabby hands at the second book and there was plenty which kept me reading.

First off, I liked Emilia. I admit, when I first started reading I thought she knew she was a shifter so it was fun to see her reactions to this whole new world which was revealed to her. And I loved that even when this whole other world was revealed there was never any doubt that she would still want her old life. There seemed to be a constant assumption in the shifter world that once you’re a shifter the human world would be forgotten and shifters would be #1 which grated. It was good to see Emilia speaking some sense and putting folks in their place. I have to say, because I read the novella first I was constantly trying to figure out how it connected with this book and so I sort of called it with Emilia’s heritage (why yes, I did high five myself) but I still wasn’t spot on so I really enjoyed seeing her heritage revealed and how that affected both her but also how other characters (namely Jason) saw her.

I was frustrated by Jason in the book, though. I was there enjoying Emilia’s shock and reactions to shifter society whilst wanting to shake Jason. The man was all kinds of hot and cold (and occasionally arctic) with how he was with Emilia and I just so did not have time for that. It was explained pretty well why he was bouncing back and forth with how he felt for Emilia but damn did I want to give the boy a shake and tell him to sort his head out or get lost because I do not have patience for folks being messed about and there was a touch of that at the start. Thankfully, he figured himself out sharpish before I got genuinely annoyed with him otherwise we would be having a very different discussion about my feelings for this book. It was written well his struggle with himself and you couldn’t hate him too much for it because there were reasons!

I have to say the best part of this book was the relationship between Emilia and Jason but especially the sexy times (without being weird). The romance was so strong, though! Like, I knew Zoe could write good romance from the novella but damn did it shine brightest in this book when she had more time to develop the relationship. From the sexual tension building between the pair in a shifter club to a mutual masturbation scene during their road trip right up to when they actually have their bow-chicka-wow-wow moment later on. All were written well and I may not have been fanning myself, but it was close guys. The romance and sex were written so well and there was no cringing (seriously, I’ve had folks use decidedly unsexy language which throws me right out of a book so this is important to note). One moment which clearly stood out for me was when Jason backed all the way off during a heated make-out session towards the start and the couple had banged into a wall or something and Emilia let out a sound which he interpreted as him hurting her as he was being too full on and she then reassured him that it was good and more would be appreciated. I love little moments like that because they feel genuine, but also I like to see couples in romance discuss their boundaries. I don’t need an alpha male dominating with his whips and chains, I want mutual respect and a demonstration that it’s a partnership. I think that moment both set the tone for their romance together but also demonstrated what kind of romance author Zoe is. She will not be writing overbearing alpha males and unbalanced sexual relationships where the male dominates and the meek woman is just along for the ride. She wrote a woman who knew her sexual pleasure and was not afraid to grasp it with both hands and so what she wants. Why is there not more of that in romance?

Now is it a romance review if I am not complaining about folks not using their words? Yeah, there were moments of miscommunication and withholding of information which was annoying because you just know that’ll blow up in their face later on, but instead of falling into the trap of using that as a plot device to push Emilia and Jason apart it actually brought them together. It made them both question what they wanted from the other but it didn’t break them! And another time Emilia had shifted into a bear and was wondering around and you questioned if the designated bad guys were going to get her because woman wondering around alone, feels like a plot device to get her captured and in need to rescuing (boring, because why would want another example of how women need rescuing when we totally don’t) but nope. She gets told she’s leaving shifter territory and to get her ass back in the opposite direction to stay safe. And she even does some rescuing of her own later on, because Emilia's a badass like that. I just felt like this book was refreshing in not falling into the usual plot device traps which can be boring and have you rolling your eyes.

Look, I enjoyed this book. I do still have unanswered questions, but the kind of unanswered questions you expect to see explored in later books. I enjoyed this book a whole lot, far more than I think even I realised when reading because I write this up into more coherent words (you guys did not see my original word vomit take on this book, it was 2000 words long and I wrote it in like half an hour). I am eager for more, especially from the small glimpse I got of Truth or Bear. I am hoping as I continue on my questions about shifter politics and the story behind the bad guys (called the Guard) and I’m hoping we get to see more of the characters I’ve grown to love in this book. Look, it’s a debut, I am not claiming there is perfection, but it’s showing strong potential for some good stuff. I still need to learn more about the shifter world because from what I saw I do not get why Emilia would want to join (they’re a touch controlling in their government) but I do think there is a really interesting world to explore and I can’t wait to return and see this world from a new perspective.

Have you ever read a book by someone you sort of knew and felt nervous about it? And have I convinced you this a series to check out and give a chance?

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