Trusted Bond (Change of Heart #2)

TrustedBond

Title: Trusted Bond (Change of Heart #2)
Author: Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Genre: M/M Paranormal, Shapeshifter
Length: Novel (282 pdf pages)
Rating:  5+ stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cole

This review contains what could be considered spoilers

Review Summary: This novel far surpassed the previous book in the series, Change of Heart, and gave me what I most wanted:  more between our two heroes, while also giving us a whirlwind adventure that spanned the globe.

BLURB

Sequel to Change of Heart (reviewed here)

Jin Rayne is having trouble adjusting to the new life he’s supposed to love. Instead of adapting to being the mate of tribe leader Logan Church, Jin can’t get past the fact that his lover was straight before they met. He’s discovered the joy in belonging to Logan but fears his new life could disappear at a moment’s notice, despite Logan’s insistence that they are forever, end of story.

Jin wants to trust Logan, but that desire will be put to the test both by a rival tribe leader and by a startling revelation about Jin’s existence. At stake is Jin’s life and his place in the tribe. If he’s going to survive to see Logan again, he’ll have to release his fear and freely accept the bond, for only then can he truly trust.

Change of Heart Series

REVIEW

We left Jin and Logan at the end of Change of Heart dealing with the fallout of a war between two tribes, issues of trust only newly cemented, and Jin reluctant to accept his place as his tribe’s reah, the heart of the tribe. The novel opens with Jin at home and Logan (the semel) away visiting another tribe. Logan is to be home in three days, which will allow Jin to heal himself before Logan sees him and learns what happened. While the semel was away, a guest from another tribe had cornered Jin, and seemingly enthralled by Jin’s presence, tried to rape him. Jin fought alongside his sheseru (the reah’s protector) to stop him. In the process, Jin was badly injured, enough that even with his superior skill at healing, when Logan comes home three days early to surprise his mate, Jin is still terribly battered.

As events unfold, we see that not only was the were-panther who assaulted Jin after him, but two other parties are after him as well. A mated reah is usually safe with their semel, however, there is something about Jin that is different. Not only is he the only known male reah, but he also has powers that make others marvel. He can change back and forth from human to panther form so fast that anyone watching would see him as almost invisible, not one form or the other. He’s also extremely intelligent. He was raised to take his father’s place as the sylvan (the teacher of the tribe and who is the master of were-panther law) of the old tribe before being beaten and exiled for being gay and a reah. Jin is unique and powerful, making other semels tempted to take him and make him theirs.

The story is centered around an annual trip to Sobek, the capital city of the were-panthers. Every year, the semel-aten (the top semel who resides in Sobek) holds court for all the semels and yareahs (a chosen mate to a semel) all over the world. Because Logan has mated to Jin, a true reah, they are the guests of honor. Yet, days before they are to leave for Egypt, a man from Jin’s past comes to their home to try to take what he believes to be his — Jin. This sets off a series of events that leave Jin alone, having to rely on his own strength and power as he tries desperately to make his way back to his mate. And when Jin is kept away from his mate for too long, who knows to what ends he will go in order to reunite them?

What made this sequel so much better than the first book of the series was that there was so much more room for Jin and Logan to come together. The first book focused mostly on the world-building and the initial mating of the two. This book already had a foundation to build on, so we get to spend more quality time with our two heroes talking to each other, actually expressing their fears and allowing themselves to lean on the other. Even before Jin is forced into his odyssey of sorts, he is starting to realize how lucky he has been to find a family and tribe that will welcome him with open arms. He’s lost that once before and he’s afraid that if he allows himself to accept their love, he might lose it all again. So he creates problems and tries to talk Logan out of loving him. He has no idea of his worth, of what he brings to the lives of those around him. Most especially, he doubts that they indeed love him and not just that he is a reah.

The characters in this novel were so much more 3-dimensional. We already knew the main characters from the first book pretty well, but some of the secondary characters that carried over into Trusted Bond were much more well rounded. We got to know the whole family better, especially Delphine, Markel, Mikhail, and Yuri. Some new characters were wonderful, including little Femi, the daughter of the semel-aten, who stole every scene she was in. The pace was set at a fast clip as Jin seemed to flee one cage only to enter another, all the while doing everything in his power to find his way back to Logan. The visit to Sobek also explains quite a lot about were-panther history and government as we get to see the mythology of their homeland through Jin’s eyes. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book, how Mary Calmes created this race of beings around Egyptian mythology and spirituality. The setting also said quite a bit about how different politics were in this part of the world. Jin, who was raised in and is now part of a very modern tribe, has to navigate the antiquated political formalities, all of which portray a harsh and restrictive society, especially against women, and even more against reahs. Then, because Jin is a male reah, when they don’t know how to treat him, they subjugate him to a submissive female role.

Jin’s struggle to keep a hold on his humanity was really the heart and soul of the book. The logical human viewpoint he adopted after the pain he endured was at war with the passionate panther inside him. Having to live at the mercy of everyone else made him learn to trust in himself. The road to absolution, to peace and family with Logan, may not be how he expected, but he starts to roll with the punches. I really love Jin and though Logan can seem too perfect at times (beautiful, loving, forgiving, affectionate, etc.), I could believe that he existed within the context of the story because of the bond he shares with Jin. If this were a story about two regular joes, who were perfect looking with no flaws, I wouldn’t believe the story. However, because its a fantasy, it didn’t bother me.

As she continued the world-building, Mary Calmes allowed Jin and Logan to work through their issues by playing off of each other, through both strong dialogue and really hot sex.  I could tell early on that this book was coming together in a way that the first hadn’t.  All of the ingredients were there, but for some reason, it is only now that all the elements of the story came together.  Jin overanalyzes everything, ad nauseum, often to the detriment of his relationships.  Now, he is turning outward, and staring to make roots in his new tribe.  I loved Jin’s relationship with Delphine, which was cemented in the beginning of Change of Heart, but which we didn’t see much until now.  However, the most interesting bond that Jin forms is with Yuri, his protector and champion. Though it is completely asexual, their attraction to each other is fierce — based on protection, love, and common goal, they make an excellent team.

Mary Calmes is currently working on the third book of this series and I’m looking forward to that installment. I can’t wait to visit Jin and Logan again and see what adventure lies in store for them next.  Those that love paranormals, shifter stories, and/or stories of travel or odyssey will love this.  If you’re squeamish about blood or violence you might have a problem with certain scenes, but it wasn’t overly indulgent in those things, so it didn’t bother me.

Highly Recommended.  Enjoy.

Author

26, male, gay, baker, knitter, sometimes writer, and voracious reader of all things | contact me: cole.riann[at]gmail.com

56 comments

  • I have read EVERY book by Mary Calmes and I can honestly say that I’ve loved all of them, but of all of them Change of Heart and Trusted Bond are my favorite books by her, and Trusted Bond totally wins out as my all-time favorite. I think it’s probably because I see myself in Jin. I’m excited about the third book, I can’t wait to see where Mrs. Calmes is about to take this couple. If you’re interested in some of her best works, I recommend: Timing, Tooth and Nail, and The Guardian. Definitely three of my faves.

    Reply
  • After your review for the prequel to Trusted Bonds, I decided to give them both a try and they’re great! Thanks for the review!

    Reply
  • I listened to Change of Heart on tape and enjoyed it, but haven’t been too thrilled when reading her other books (I tried 2). I think listening on tape is easier if there are editing or character issues because it goes by at a different pace and I’m usually doing other things (like driving). I might wait on this one to see if they the audiobook because I would like to revisit the characters and see what happens next.

    Reply
    • I am so ADD, I absolutely cannot listen to audiotapes. I can barely make it through a paragraph and I’m already doing and thinking about something else. I really wish I could! But then again, maybe its good that I can’t. I once swore I would never ever read an ebook, being a true paperback purist. Siiike.

      Reply
  • Ooooops, I’m bad! I was skimming through CoH during football and couldn’t find the refence to Russ’s interview. It’s been a brain draining week. I must be mixing-up books.

    Fun discussion though!

    Thanks Cole for being a great moderator!

    Reply
  • “From reading all of your comments, it seems like these things bother you guys a lot more than they do me…”

    Well, part of this probably stems from the fact that some of us have read many books by this author; I remember being surprised by others’ comments about her when I was in the position of having read only one or two of her books.

    I actually am a fan of hers for the most part – I tend to view her books as a sort of escapist change of pace – but I have to admit, she tends always to write the same type of protagonist and the same type of relationship dynamic. After a while, they start to blend together and/or feel a little tedious, and flaws that might be easy to overlook in just one book become more difficult to ignore when you encounter them repeatedly in book after book; the accumulation gives them greater weight.

    Nonetheless, as I said, I do enjoy her imagination and even her characteristic too-perfect protagonists and fairly rigid relationship roles/power dynamic as long as I don’t overdo it (someone above compared her to Jet Mykles, who also has a typical dynamic, and though JM’s feels a bit less extreme to me than MC’s, it’s true that I likewise enjoy JM’s work more when I don’t read too much of it at once).

    Change of Heart wasn’t my favorite of her books, but I’m still looking forward to the sequel, and I too enjoyed your review and appreciate all the thought and care and detail you put into it!

    Reply
    • Very succinctly put, Justacat. I had a feeling it might be a case of reusing similar characters and plotlines over and over and I’m not getting it because her voice is still new to me. I think I’ll check out a few of her other books just to see if I can pinpoint a lot of these things people are talking about for myself.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • “The protagonist in a Mary Calmes book tends to get progressively more Gary Stu-like the more she writes them.”

    Yeah, I can see that. I think it may not have bothered me because maybe when I think if Jin, his foremost attribute to me is the pain he endured and still carries and how it has made him so weak inside. I’m trying to find a way to explain what I’m thinking, but its like Jin is a study in duality. There is the real Jin (that even he doesn’t remember) coated in a thick veneer of what is ultimately a “gary-stu” caricature. Does that make sense? Probably not 🙂

    About Russ: I have to admit, it might be wrong of me, but I tend to trust that the author is going somewhere when there is a loose end left untied, etc, especially when its a series. I just assume it will somehow come back around in another installment. Maybe that’s because these are the first of Mary Calmes’ work I have read, and therefore I don’t feel as if I’ve been let down in the past. In chapter one, Jin tells Crane that it was important that Russ go to LA to a “recruiting conference.” We aren’t told exactly what for, but there are lots of instances in the novel where tribe members are living with other tribes for various reasons. Maybe I assumed, but it always seemed from the first time Jin came to Logan’s house in CoH that Russ was sort of the diplomat of the family. As to children, who knows? Maybe Papa Church ( 🙂 ) wanted the semel to reproduce. And the plan that came later was concocted by Jin and Delphine. I don’t know, but I hope we’ll find out in another book. Even Russ not coming to Egypt didn’t bother me as he wasn’t the only one to stay behind.

    From reading all of your comments, it seems like these things bother you guys a lot more than they do me. Sometimes they might irk me a little, but unless they are completely devoid of explanation or reason, I usually give them a pass.

    Reply
  • That’s why Trusted Bond fell short of my expectation.

    It was like the plot got twisted halfway, things go dramatic with action thrown in the way to camouflage the shortcomings.

    But it is still good,and hopefully she would able to rectify the shortcomings in the third volume.

    Reply
  • Hi Sam!

    Good call about Papa Church. I was thinking it had something to do with Russ going into law-enforcement and living outside of the pack. I think he was the first in his line to to this. Maybe this was enough of a aberation for Papa Church to feel desperate?

    Good question!

    Reply
  • Hi Sam,
    just read your comment after I posted mine.

    I noticed and wondered briefly but, astonishingly, it didn’t bother me that much. Interesting.

    Reply
  • Hi Cole,

    well, I think you are perfectly right, we obviously have different pet peeves. 🙂

    I, like Sirius, thought that CoH was kind of magical, but I’m also glad that my issues with TB weren’t so serious that they ruined the series for me.

    There are so many more things to explore in this ‘verse! Jin hoping to be a father – I so want to see that! – and Ammon and Logan’s job offer, as you pointed out. And many more that were hinted at.
    Love Domin, too, by the way, and Markel grows on me. I hated them both in CoH. *lol*

    Maybe I will do a re-read in the near future and see if some of my perceptions change. Sometimes a different mood can alter the whole experience. 😉

    Reply

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