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Bloodlines  - Robin Saxon, Alex Kidwell

3-3.5 stars: This is actually a hard review to write because I really dig this series, I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the main MCs, and was looking forward to this third installment, but this one was just waaaaaaay too long, with pacing issues, and focused a lot on side characters that I personally was less interested in. So in the end, was less a fun read.

What I liked: This is the third book, sequel to Blood Howl and Blood in the Sand, which follows human mercenary Jed and his sweet werewolf lover Redford through their adventures. The first book is where they meet, when Jed has a job to kidnap a recluse, only to find his job to be a hot, sweet, shy guy (with wolf-like tendencies on the full moon.) I love Jed and Red’s chemistry, so very much enjoyed their story. Book 2 sees them off to Cairo as they try to solve a mystery with emo vampire buddy David and his bookish lover Victor. Book 2 was fun, but the POVs split between Jed & Redford and David & Victor, and I only felt really invested in one couple, but it was overall a fun read.

In book 3, we get more Jed & Redford time. Yay! I don’t know why, but their chemistry totally hits my buttons. Love gruff hired gun Jed who is so marshmallow soft for his werewolf. Love sweet Redford who doesn’t always get Jed’s leering jokes, but is along for the ride because they loooove each other. It is sweet times, and I could read them all day.

And this time, they are on an adventure to help book 2’s Victor (now sans emo vampire David), and his werewolf friend Randall, and Randall’s two werewolf brothers. (It is getting crowded in this story.) Off the whole group goes to find a big werewolf clan to help heal Randall’s brother. Along the way, relationship conflicts ensue, there’s some conflicts with evil hunters, and Jed wonders if he’s been caging in Redford’s wolf too much.

The Jed & Redford parts were fun, and for those who enjoyed the last two books, you will get more of the warm and toasty chemistry that only the mixture of explosives and love can make.

What was harder: Okay. I love me some J&R time, but this book was too long. ARe tells me it's over 239,000 words (Over 600+ pages), and it really felt that long. I thought it was way too much, and I didn’t always find what was there as necessary. Scenes ran too long, or dialogue, or things that probably could have been skipped. It didn’t feel like a “tight epic”. It reminded me more of a sprawling serial fanfic which is updated in chunks, but doesn’t read tightly as one controlled story, or it reminded me of written out role-playing sessions, when characters dialogue and dialogue to figure things out, but I don’t always feel the necessary weight of those scenes.

For me, it felt like a very long draft that needed a heartless cold bastard of an editor to go in and cut out the darlings. (This sex scene--too long! This dialogue scene--not needed!) I’m not the bastard for the job since I would be all, “Nooooo, not Jed & Red time! They are my PRECIOUS!” But there is someone out there who could be that heartless, and that’s what it really needed. A jerky, snarling, evil editor (who has your best interest at heart.)

My other issue is more of a personal reader issue. I don’t normally do well with multiple pairings in one book. My mind tends to focus on one couple. (Outside of say, Pride & Prejudice. I mean, who doesn’t love Jane, and want her to have her Bingley??) Part of the issue might also be that the other couple is compared to Jed and Redford, who are very lovey and colorful and have a lot of energy.

For book 2, I didn’t really care about David and Victor’s failing relationship--I found them emo and colorless, and in book 3, I wasn’t super into Victor getting his HEA on with Randall. For one, they are *both* very emo, their characters felt very similar to each other, and they had a lot of repetitive relationship conflicts. “I can’t be with you, but I kinda want to!” “No, I can’t be with you, even though I like you!” There’s a lot of that, dragged out over several hundred pages, and it just was flat to me. And each chapter has a POV shift, and I would get to a Victor or Randall chapter, and feel deflated, and feel double-deflated when it went from Victor immediately to Randall, and triple-deflated when it went to Victor-Randall-Victor. (And those chapters are long!)

Having a 239k story with what felt like half of it focusing on a couple that I didn’t feel attached to, it just made the story drag on even more.

And then again too long, pacing issues. (Like from 75%-95% not much happens except some relationships issues are resolved, and some set-up for the next book. That sounds good, but for a story this long, that’s…45,000 words for what ultimately felt like not much happened. I was somewhere in the 85-88%, thinking, “...is this it? Was that part in the early 70% the climax? What?” Something exciting happens near the end, but it didn’t fix the overall pacing issues for me.

For those nervous about endings, it ends very well. There’s definite set-up for the next book, but you don’t end nervously or worried about the MCs, so you can go into the installment fine, even if you have to wait awhile for the next one.

There is a lot of set-up for future books. It looks like the next secondary pairing will be with Randall’s brother Anthony, who I find still very emo, but marginally more interesting than Randall and Victor, so will be positive.

I do think if you enjoyed book 1 and book 2, you should definitely check out book 3. A) It might work better for you than me and it has a lot of what was great about the first two books and B) it’s definitely not a volume you should skip since stuff does happen.

So, if you’re into the series, go in and enjoy yourself. If you haven’t read the series before, I recommend book 1, Blood Howl. It is fun times, and one of my fave comfort re-reads.