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.
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.
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.