Title: (Mates #1)
Author: Cardeno C
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Buy Link: Wake Me Up Inside (The Mates Series)
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Rating: 4 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: A sweeping tale of first love and true mating that is undeniably sweet.
Blurb: Zev Hassick is surprised and confused when he finds himself attracted to his best friend. His very human, very male best friend. Zev is the son of the pack Alpha, regarded as the strongest wolf in generations, born to lead. And everyone knows a male shifter has to mate with a female of his own kind to keep his humanity. So shifters can’t be gay, right? Jonah Marvel wants a relationship with Zev, his best friend, the man he has loved since childhood. It wasn’t easy to maintain that relationship over years spent living apart while Jonah studied to become a doctor. And then things grow more difficult when Jonah becomes his own patient. Before he can make a life with Zev, he has to understand his past and cure the unexplained ailments that plague him. Zev and Jonah know they’re destined for each other, but they’re facing traditions ingrained over generations and long-buried secrets that may threaten any future together.
Review: I must begin by saying I grappled with the rating of this novel. Its sweeping scope and lengthy cast of characters as well as its involved plot line made for interesting reading. However I also kept coming back again and again to a few nagging elements that, for me, bogged this story down and kept it from being completely enjoyable. So I finally settled at the four star mark and left it at that.
Now to the monumental task of unpacking this story for you–for the above word, complex, does not begin to describe this novel. I do want to place a bit of a disclaimer here before I begin. I am familiar with this author’s work and have found it highly enjoyable. While I realize his stories are often sweet and lacking in any real angst and that is a turn off for some, I feel he delivers a consistently good story, and Wake Me Up Inside does not disprove that idea.
Onward we go. Since the blurb above does a really good job summarizing the basis of this story, I am going to add some other basic plot points and mix in my pros and cons with them–a bit different from my normal format so bear with me please.
The tieing: Zev is the destined Alpha of his pack. His family which owns a major ceramics business that keeps the pack solvent and financially afloat is to be run by him one day as is the pack–this is the way it has been done for generations. With that leadership has come a highly bigoted hatred of all things non-wolf.
Here is where we begin to understand the concept of tieing. A male wolf ties with a female wolf in order to subdue his inner wolf and release hers. Stay with me-yes this was a bit confusing. So, given this deeply ingrained belief, a pack member is left with the very real idea that a male/male tieing could and should never happen. Well someone forgot to deliver that bit of news to Zev’s wolf cause he is crazy happy and wants to tie with Jonah–not only a man but a human–we’ll get to that little snafu in a moment.
This tieing theme swamped the book–was one of its main focuses all 250 pages. And to be honest it is the first major problem I had with the story. The idea that this and a few other plot points were simply belabored–repeated over and over in each phase of Zev and Jonah’s maturing process. It was there from the very beginning and Zev worried over it from the time these two were toddlers till they actually finalized the tieing.
I wanted to yell more than once–“enough already–I get it–this is ‘wrong’–let’s move on.” Unfortunately I was not loud enough so we had to endure what I felt was a “hammering over the head” of this concept. Honestly–it was simply over-analyzed and referenced way too often. Not, however, as often as the human versus wolf mating concept. Not by a long shot.
The “human” factor: Zev’s pack, and many others, shared an intense mistrust, bordering on hatred, of all things human–or “half-souls” as they called them. As Zev begins to realize that Jonah is his “true mate” he also recalls over and over how his pack–his parents–everyone but his sister and her mate seemed to accept the fact that humans were beneath their contempt. This made it supremely difficult to have a human for a mate–not to mention a male one.
This idea was presented again and again as an almost insurmountable problem. And yet…when the mating finally occurred and Zev’s father was confronted with it–well, to be frank, it was truly anti-climatic. This fear that the pack would deny the bond–give Zev and Jonah huge amounts of grief over the mating ended up being resolved in a few pages with Zev’s father almost immediately acquiescing.
I really shook my head at this–did I miss it?–the big confrontation? No. It simply wasn’t there and for the first time Cardeno C’s penchant for little or no angst actually worked against his story line. It left this reader really disappointed over the lack of the big “moment”–one which the entire story had alluded to eventually happening. It was disappointing to say the least.
So what did work–well, a lot, quite honestly. The sweeping developing love story between the two men, presented in flashback format was incredibly sweet, sexually hot and so slow moving that you really wanted these guys to mate already and get the deed done! The anticipation of their full mating (read intercourse) was a tangible thing and the anticipatory build up to it was well crafted and allowed for the reader to really examine the character of each man–learn what made them tick inside.
The only drawback here was an incongruency that ended up really bothering me. Zex had a naivete about sex (the mechanics) that bordered on stupidity. Friends, I am sorry to be crass but I was expected to believe that Zev was a gay man and at the age of 19 had never heard of the concept of anal intercourse?
This from the guy who had dragged his pack into the 21st century, re-engineered their floundering business into a thriving one–traveled extensively to promote that business–been through high school and some how had failed to understand how two men interact sexually? Sorry, my willing suspension of disbelief left the room at this point. I simply could not buy into this “innocent” act of a future alpha who seemed to completely understand all the aspects of female to male bonding. It did not ring true that he could be this unschooled in the way of gay relationships.
Wake Me Up Inside was a well written story with two main characters who captured your heart and who drew you into their lives hook, line and sinker. The plot twist concerning Jonah’s past and the growing love interest between he and Zev was compelling to read and fascinating to watch unfold. The flaws that I pointed out were a side issue that could be easily dismissed, particularly if you enjoy the author’s style and want a sweet love story to while away a few hours of your time.
All in all, the novel has a great many positive points and once again Cardeno C gives us a really nice story that reaffirms our belief in love and the forever quality that we all seem to seek in a relationship. So, as usual I leave this to you, dear reader. While this story’s style may not be something you normally read, I do believe that you would not be unhappy in giving it a try. If you do, please let me know what you think–as always, I love to hear from you!