“First Line Fridays” is by Hoarding Books and is all about the first line of a current/upcoming read. Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda’s Voice, where you turn to page 56 (or 56%) in what you’re reading a find a snippet that jumps out at you. The idea to combine the two came from Kat @ Here There Be Dragons“
I found this meme on The Writerly Way. And I’m doing this on a Thursday just to be difficult.
Flesh And Bone: Bleed – Joel Abernathy
My purpose, carved deeper into my soul than their names carved in my flesh.
The man who took everything from me, my own personal devil in shifting flesh.
My pack. The high-born family of wolves I’ve sworn my life to protect, even if my dying breath is pledged to another.
My everything. Friend, confidant, enemy, lover. Most dangerous of all, he would become the reason I lived if I let him. He is the one thing I won’t allow Dominic to take from me. Love is not a luxury I can afford, but the sweetness of revenge has nothing on the taste of him…
I knew I would like this so much better than the first book!
If ever there was a time to use the expression “my heart was ripped to pieces“, this is it. Very apt cover there.
First, a fair warning. The MCs were tortured on and off-page, there is implied sexual abuse, transphobia, consensual knife-play, among others.
Also, very, very angsty and emotionally wrenching because circumstances were harsh and brutal but the person who was harshest to Mason was Mason himself.
Bleed picks up on the Ursache pack life 5 years after Exhale. Nicolae and Jack has established their family but Mason still felt like the perpetual outsider. He was constantly out of the loop and has yet to earn his father’s respect despite being his second after so many years. His relationship with his father was strained and antagonistic because Nicolae couldn’t spare him the affection he showed his other children. Here again, the Ursache Alpha made himself unlikable until the last part where they had the talk.
Like most Ursache, Mason is arrogant, authoritative and excelled at many things. And just like his father, at first, second and third glances, he’s a hard to man to like. Witness book one, where even the usually nice Jack called him The Prick (in fairness to Jack that was before he knew his stepson). Though nobody could deny he would do anything for his pack. What nobody knows is that he is secretly in love with his bestfriend Vasil. Secret because mating between two male alphas is frowned upon by the very traditional wolf society. What they also don’t know (and what I sensed from the get go because with a dad like Nicolae) is that Mason needs a hug. Like yesterday.
Vasil is the Ursache pack enforcer waiting for his date with the devil. It was 15 years ago, when he was a young soldier in a pack war and was caught and tortured by a mysterious sadistic psycho named Dominic, who killed his entire family. He was rescued by Nicolae and since then, he’s biding his time when he could finally have his revenge.
Unlike Mason, Vasil is well-liked by all. He is a genial fellow, a very tough soldier, a skilled fighter and trusted bodyguard. He is a loyal friend, confidant, rival and Mason’s second in the pack. The two men have been friends since childhood.
Vasil never entirely got over the nightmare and felt like he would never be whole again. He has his dark secrets which were indeed fucked up given what he had gone through but that’s the way they are, him and Mason.
“Creepy and kind of fucked, but…sweet.”
I grinned. “Is there any other way to describe our relationship?”
Hugging them both. (つˆ⌣ˆ)つ⊂(・﹏ # ⊂) ⊂(・﹏・⊂)
Bleed is almost epic in its scale. It is a story of vengeance, betrayal, family, love, friendship, responsibilities and loyalty. It is a well-conceived, well-executed friends-to-lovers romance told in both Mason and Vasil’s POV where the internal dialogues were raw and pain was a tangible presence permeating everything. And that was before actual pain was inflicted.
Bad enough that their relationship was up in the air. Worse that Mason had to sacrifice his personal happiness to save his stepsister, Ellie, and the pack. The devil came calling for Vasil, who was all ready to kill or be killed because he had nothing to lose. That’s what he thought. He was dead wrong.
The story then proceeded to earn its horror tag. Not just with one but two monsters! And it went on for months! If I thought Jack had the raw end of the deal before, fate was just downright cruel this time.
The story didn’t end with the rescue. There was the aftermath to deal with. Battered bodies to patch up and a lifetime of scars bear.
But speaking of health concerns, how are they having sex in the shower when one is fresh out of surgery and no longer has the wolf healing ability?
That boggled me slightly but who cares. This has one of the hardest earned HEAs I’ve ever read and the boys can take whatever happiness they can get.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Flesh And Bone: Exhale – Joel Abernathy
Two men haunted by the same ghost…
Falling for “the other man” in my marriage was never part of the plan. Then again, according to Nicolae Ursache, I am the other man, and human wedding vows don’t apply. Not to werewolves.
Nicolae is a smug, arrogant alpha male stereotype–and I do mean alpha in the literal sense–but when the same people who killed my wife kidnap my teenage daughter, he’s my only chance at getting her back. The fact that Nicolae was my wife’s rightful mate means that we share a mutual interest in bringing Ellie home, but I never could’ve imagined how he planned to do it.
I will do anything to protect my daughter. Even if it means becoming the plaything, or worse, of the man I loathe most.
This dark shifter romance contains mature subject matter.
**NOTE: There is no mpreg in this universe.**
Because of the slew of enjoyable shifter stories I came across with, I grew to like the genre though I tend to avoid the omegaverse ones because there are some aspects I found unpleasant. Going in, I thought this was the usual shifter thing but to my surprise, I inadvertently found myself in an omegaverse. By the time I realized, the book has sunk its claws deep into me and wouldn’t let go. This was largely due in part to Joel Abernathy’s skilled storytelling and mostly to Kurt Graves’ excellent narration. They both did it so well, I finished the book even though I wasn’t into the main characters or the omega business.
Exhale piqued my interest with the “falling for the other man in my marriage” premise, something we don’t see often. The plot follows several threads. One was about a father’s love for his daughter who was caught in the middle of family politics. Another is about a man dealing with his wife’s loss and his hate+attraction to the man his wife supposedly cheated him with. Third, a human trying to come to grips with the fact that were-wolves exists and he was now somehow part of this world.
The story is told in Jack Mullins’ first person POV. I didn’t actively like the guy but I did feel sympathetic. He lost his wife, his daughter was kidnapped and then his wife’s other man showed up at his doorstep. Jack was whisked away to Romania and given no choice but to bond with the bastard in order to get his child back. Jack’s most outstanding feature was his devotion to his daughter, Ellie, who was trans. He would do anything for her, even mate with the man who was supposed to be his wife’s mate. He was played by two giant assholes and he did his best to make the most of the fucked up situation. He got his HEA but it didn’t feel that rewarding, IMO, given what he went through and what he turned out to be. Jack deserved better.
Nicolae Ursache is one of those giant assholes. I almost DNF’ed the book because of him. He said a lot of hateful, humiliating things so him going from hate to like to love would have been more convincing had we had his POV. He became tolerable later on but I kind of wished he suffered more.
The world-building focused primarily on the wolves, their hierarchy, conflicts, traditions and lifestyle. Magic and other supernatural creatures were mentioned in passing and ironically, this I am more interested in. I wanted the scope to be bigger than just the wolves, maybe bring in those haints or witches but well, it’s not that kind of book.
What really made me want to continue with Flesh and Bone series were the secondary characters. I found myself wanting to know more about them. Mason, Nicolae’s son, I feel sorry for the guy. Andreii, the feral pup, I want to see how he turns out and Vasil, the enforcer, I really liked his amiable personality. They have their own books so yay! I’m happy the author also gave Ellie her own romance within the stories, if not her own book, so that thread is worth following up too.
Overall, I wasn’t wowed but Exhale did it’s job well as a series opener. It grabbed my attention, kept me engaged and made me look forward to the next book.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it