Couple of years later, I picked up book two, Wolf and the Holly, on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised that this time, everything clicked!
The series features three couples with three interconnected story arcs. The POVs for each book alternate between Devon, Jesse and Fletcher. Devon’s POV was the one I least enjoyed. This is why the first book didn’t work for me. Meeting the rest of the characters, Jesse, Fletcher and their friends made the books 100% more enjoyable.
Rowan Harbor is a town with a secret, one that everyone works hard to protect. Once in a while, threats from the outside put the town in danger. It’s up to the Town Council to keep their home safe. Devon and Jesse are members of the Council. Fletcher is a deputy. His partner is Wade, Devon’s boyfriend and Jesse’s brother. We also meet the other town folks, all special one way or the other. Most of them not human.
This is a review of books 2-4. Review of book 1, Blackbird in the Reeds here.
2. Wolf and the Holly – Sam Burns
Five years ago, Jesse dropped out of college and came home to Rowan Harbor to find safety with his pack. A broken man, he’s been living as though the world is ending—allergic to responsibility and spending most of his nights at the local bar.
But he can’t avoid growing up forever. On the night of his thirtieth birthday party, he finds his childhood friend Isla unconscious, attacked in the middle of their peaceful hometown. The wolf inside him wants to protect its people from the slick-haired, smooth-talking vampire who’s brought trouble to town, and Jesse can’t run from his instincts any longer.
Now that his inner wolf is out of its cage, it’s picked the most inconvenient moment to find its mate. Sean Anderson—recently back from college and much changed from the skinny preteen Jesse once knew—is just what he never knew he needed.
This book was a complete game-changer. I enjoyed Jesse’s story so much! I now understood why people loved this series.
The first parts of the story meandered the way Jesse meandered his way through town and through life. He was a thirty year old college drop-out eking a living through bookkeeping for small businesses. He was feeling worthless. I was kinda feeling Jesse’s pain. I’m not a college drop out but I’m know that aimless feeling all too well.
What made this book so enjoyable was how things that were so blah in the first book suddenly seemed so vivid here. The characters stood out when before they were so forgettable. The humor popped out. I had a new appreciation for Devon’s brand of deadpan snark. And for a book about a character feeling so lost, it made me eager to see where the story was headed.
The romantic element wasn’t introduced until about halfway through. It was insta the way fated mates are insta. I totally didn’t mind that fact because I liked the way it was executed. It left a lot of room for developments. I would love to know more about Sean. Jesse and Sean’s story will be picked up on book 5, Stag and the Ash.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
3. Fox and Birch – Sam Burns
Fletcher Lane wants to protect people. It was why he became a deputy. A month ago, it was why he killed a vampire who kidnapped one of his friends. Now, that death has started a cascade effect that’s tearing his life apart, leaving him possessed by magic that whispers to him in ancient Gothic.
While he’s already fighting for control of his own mind, he has to hold it together when strangers come into town looking for the dead vampire. They say they’re bounty hunters, but Fletcher knows that’s a lie. They’re the same kind of murderers who killed Fletcher’s mother. When one of them puts up a kind front, Fletcher knows that people who hunt the supernatural can’t be trusted. However nice Conner Mason seems, the worst thing Fletcher could do is fall for his act.
OMG, these two dorks! It’s like they’re trying to out awkward each other. I love them!!!
Probably the most adorable installment so far because Fletcher and Connor!
This is another variation of the theme of finding oneself but the author was able to make it different from the other characters’ stories. This featured a more mundane threat to the town compared to the more nebulous a.k.a magical threats of the previous books.
Fletcher flees when faced with the unknown. It’s a gut reaction that developed from a past trauma that resulted in his mother’s death and him and his father being on the run until they found Rowan Harbor. Now Fletcher is dedicated to keeping their sanctuary safe as the town’s deputy.
Connor came with two other bounty hunters who were out looking for a vampire. From the get go, Connor stood out because he was the one who seemed genuinely concerned about Fletcher’s discomfort at seeing the man who killed his mother. Then he proceeded to make the most awkward attempt at hitting on a guy. Fletcher returned the favor by making the most awkward attempt at coming out as a shifter. Score: 1-1.
Their story continues in book 6, Adder and Willow. Who will be the dorkiest one yet?
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
4. Hawk in the Rowan – Sam Burns
Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.
Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.
This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA
I put this book on hold because as early as the first chapters, I already know this book will be so damn hard to finish. I just couldn’t connect with Devon. I liked him better when seen from another person’s perspective. I was even warming up to him in Jesse’ book. But once again, with him telling the story, I was bored, bored, bored. I really don’t give two shits about his personal issues. I’m only finishing this for the sake of continuity.
More of Devon and Wade on book 7, Eagle in the Hawthorn.
2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book
The Devon debacle aside, this series has many highlights that makes it worth committing to. Don’t take my word about Devon’s books because many fans liked him so it’s probably a me issue. I recommend exploring the quirky charms of Rowan Harbor and see for yourself why people come and stay.
The Rowan Harbor Cycle: Blackbird in the Reeds – Sam Burns
Devon Murphy has never believed that there were fairies at the bottom of the garden, but when he’s in an accident on his way to his grandmother’s house and comes face to face with the biggest, baddest wolf he’s ever seen, he’s forced to reconsider.
When his grandmother asks him to look into a string of suspicious accidents, he finds a much bigger mystery to unravel. From his childhood best friend to the too-attractive Deputy Wade Hunter, everyone in Rowan Harbor seems to have something to hide. Devon has to get to the bottom of it all before the accidents turn deadly.
Such a beautiful cover! The kind that gives you high hopes but unfortunately, the story didn’t make me feel anything, positive or negative. I wasn’t bored but I wasn’t excited either. There was no one to hate but nobody I warmed up to. The dialogues were funny enough but it wasn’t the laugh out loud kind. The romance was passable but forgettable.This book is the definition of average.
Blackbird in the Reeds is the first book of the Rowan Harbor Cycle. Devon is a returnee in the small town of Rowan Harbor where everybody is related to every other person and there is a small town fear of outsiders. Devon reacquaints himself with the town folks and meets Maria Leon, a teacher who was considered an outsider by everyone. Maria experienced suspicious accidents and Devon’s gran asks him to investigate. Devon also cross paths with the deputies and when he shook hands with one of then, Wade Hunter, they got zapped by static electricity. Apparently, that was a sign and the way everyone was teasing Devon about it was cheesy but well, that’s what small town folks do.
Everyone was pleasant and genial enough (except for Helena Mackenzie who was the designated pain in the neck) so I didn’t feel there was much going on in terms of conflict. It’s nice that it’s angst free but it also felt shallow in a way. It added to the mediocrity of the thing that the narration was flat. The voices for the characters were distinct but the person telling the story had almost no emotions. The world building needs some work but there’s a lot of promise. I could only hope the author is able to maximize all that was set in this first book in the succeeding installments.
Jesse’s book is next. I’m not sure if I would read it.
2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like