REVIEW: Exhale by Joel Abernathy
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.
Other paranormal/shifter series you might be interested in:
Big Bad Wolf
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it