2.5 stars: This is not my fave Mary Calmes paranormal book.
What I liked: Probably my favorite part was that one of the MCs was not the typical gorgeous Jory character. Roman was badly scarred in an accident, and still has those scars (including on his face.) Sometimes he is mistreated by others because of his appearance, but love wins in the end, and part of this fairy tale ending is that he not only finds true love, but also a group of people that only recognize him for his real self, and not for his scars. That’s a nice change, and I’ve always liked it when Calmes explores “non-traditional” MCs and gives them a good HEA, like with Joseph in Nexus who is blind, or Landry in Mine who was bipolar. I’m always a fan when authors bring in characters with disabilities and give them the awesome HEA they deserve, just like everyone else.
What was harder: That’s where the boundary pushing really ended. Roman is still ridiculously wealthy, which adds to the fairy tale-ness since he is pretty much all-powerful, even with his disability and fear of rejection. The other MC, Quade, is more from the Alpha Jory school where he embodies the traits that everyone is in love with him, is gorgeous, etc.
Overall, I found the story uneven, and a slog to get through. Playing the Mary Calmes Drinking Game was helpful to add a scavenger hunt layer to the reading. If I wasn't reading this for Team Bingo, I probably wouldn't have finished it.
I don’t hate-read though, so I’ll just leave it at this not being my fave of her paranormals. I DO think that if you love Calmes’ style and her bright HEAs, you shouldn’t let my grousing review deter you. Go forth and read with joy, and love what you love. Quade doesn’t need to justify his love for Roman, even with Roman’s scars, and you do not need to justify your love of Mary Calmes.
And if you want to drink along the way, here is my MC Drinking Game Score Card
The Mary Calmes Drinking Game for Old Loyalty, New Love
If one character hosts a TV show, take a drink. (NOPE)
If one character caresses another character's cheek, take a drink. If they only just met and they're basically strangers, take two. (There is a lot of cheek caressing and cupping. Be prepared with your beverages.)
If there's an Hispanic best friend (m or f,) or best friend’s partner, take a drink. (Not this time.)
If there’s a pregnant character, take a drink. If there’s a birth, take a drink. If the MC is the birth partner for a pregnant character, take two. (Nope.)
Take a drink if someone is kidnapped. (Debatable. Some unseen side characters are held against their will. This could be discussed over a Mary Calmes working group on the amount you should drink.)
Take one drink if the MCs name starts with a J. (Nope.)
Drink on each mention of the word “dessert,” or on consumption of a dessert (this includes pie). (TWO actual pie sightings, plus more mentions of pie.)
If there’s a surgeon or doctor character who does not perform a medical procedure on the MC, take a drink. (If they’re a neurologist or neurosurgeon, take two.) (There is a medical professional, but they extract blood from the MC, so doesn’t count.)
If the story mentions Chicago, take a drink. If the story is set in Chicago, take two. (YES! Chicago is slid in right before the end.)
One drink for each mention of a jazz club. (Nope.)
Every time you encounter waggled eyebrows, take a drink. (NOT ONE. I think this was avoided because Roman’s eyebrows were burned off in the accident.)
Take a drink if the MC entertains a small child. If they're 6 years old, everybody drinks. (YES, and yes to one of the kids being six.)
When one MC dances with a woman, take a drink. If he dances with multiple women at a work event, or a partner's work event, take one drink for each dance partner. (Nope.)
Every time one MC calls the other “baby”, take a drink. (Hmmmm...I can’t remember. I think they used “love” and other endearments.)
If there’s a festive family party or special occasion, take a drink. (Yes! You can also debate about the “festive party” mentioned at the end. It is kind of off-scene.)
Every time tongues are tangling, take a drink. (Hmmmm...my guess is yes. I glazed over the tongue tangling. I vote for the book-specific extra drink option for every time blood is drunk while there’s biting while kissing.)
On the word “peacoat”: everybody drinks. (Nope, but there is an absolutely unnecessary description of a new overcoat near the end. I got really excited here because I was wondering if a peacoat sighting would happen after.)
If someone makes a newspaper swan, take a drink. (Nope.)
One drink if there’s an ex-boyfriend who wants to get back with the MC (double if he’s batshit crazy). (YES to the ex, and no to the crazy, but it is extra awkward.)
One drink if one MC is/has been literally or effectively an orphan. (YES!!)
Also the added rule of: Drink if someone is described as golden all over/tanned, and the answer = YES.
If you want to really mess yourself up, take a drink every time someone says “Mate”.
And remember, as Emma says, always read Mary Calmes responsibly! :D