Author: M.L. Rhodes
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Kellesborne Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: Extended Novel/72K words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A very good story but I wanted a bit more.
Emrys Andrews grew up in a quaint New England town in a big, close-knit family. In school he was never a brain or a jock, and he wasn’t in the popular crowd, but he had good friends and was known as an all-around, nice-guy geek. His family, however, wasn’t exactly average. You see, Emrys lived in a town steeped in a rich history of witchcraft—Salem, Massachusetts. And the members of Emry’s family were, you guessed it, honest-to-goodness witches. Still, life had always been pretty great for him except for one little problem. While the rest of his family totally rocked the witch power, Emrys was, let’s say, magickally challenged. Even his family tended to avoid him when he did magick, as most had been victims of his wayward spells.
David Jennings was everything Emrys was not—sexy, popular, athletic, and a perfectly normal non-magick person. In spite of their differences, all it took was one look into David’s twinkling blue eyes and Emrys was a goner. He kept his crush secret, however, because his magick was usually at its worst when he was emotional or his adrenaline was pumping, and around David, he couldn’t control either.
When an unexpected encounter finally throws them together, Emrys discovers he’s not the only one who’s been fantasizing from afar, and sometimes opposites not only attract, they make a perfect chemical, and magickal, bond. As it happens, though, David’s family isn’t average either. They keep secrets. And when those secrets come to light, David’s forced to leave town and never look back. Brokenhearted, Emrys tries to move on without him. Years later, David returns, and comes to Emrys for the kind of help that only a witch can offer. Unfortunately, Emrys’ abilities are still as wretched and unpredictable as ever. But with David’s life on the line, Emrys knows he has to find a way to control his power once and for all to save the man who’s always been his perfect mate.
It’s been a long time since I read a new book by M.L. Rhodes so I was really looking forward to having her magic envelop me.
Emrys and David first saw each other at 16 across the high school football field but didn’t speak or make any effort to meet, despite Emrys falling deeply in love with David immediately, the way soul mates do. The night of their high school graduation they met by accident and a bit of magick gone awry as Emrys’s magick was never stable. They spent that evening getting to know each other and shared their most intimate secrets. It was then David told Emrys that he had been in love with him for some time but he had his own reasons for not trying to pursue a relationship or even a friendship with him. They ended up staying awake most of the night and shared all the details of their lives in between the most incredible sex. After a magical night in more ways than one, the next morning when Emrys woke up David was gone, perhaps forever.
Emrys grieved for David the entire time he was away, for three and a half years, not knowing if he were still alive or if he would ever see him again. They couldn’t communicate with each other which made the situation worse. He did have a very supportive family who loved him, but even they couldn’t make him feel marginally better, and he refused to date despite everyone’s efforts to fix him up.
Life went on and Emrys resigned himself to never seeing the man he loved again until one night, while working at his part-time job in his sister’s veterinary clinic, David walked in, but it was clear that this was not the joyful reunion Emrys had hoped for since the day his lover left. When David told him why he was back it was the death knell to his hopes and dreams of having David in his life forever as his worst fears seem to be coming true..
I don’t think I’m the only reader who has mentioned this, but the blurb is quite long (almost as long as this review) 🙂 and I’m not sure that it didn’t give away too much of the plot. Despite the length of the blurb, Familiar wasn’t quite what I expected as the MCs first night together covered about half of the book. The romance picked up again when David returned to Salem, but this time the lovers were facing almost insurmountable odds against being together forever; it didn’t matter from which angle they viewed their situation, their problem could not be fixed and it looked like one or both of them would not survive.
There is no doubt that M.L. Rhodes’ writing ability sets her above most M/M authors; her strength is in her characterizations and this book was no different. I liked this story but I was a little disappointed because I felt that although the characters were great and David was well drawn, I didn’t get to know him as well as I wanted to. YMMV, although I felt sympathetic towards him because he didn’t have much of a life. So what did I like best about Familiar? Emrys, who was delightful. He’s sweet, gentle, unassuming and he loved David to the exclusion of almost everything else in his life, but he was also tough when he needed to be. Because this story is told from Emrys’s first person POV, as is always the case with 1st person it wasn’t as easy to get a sense of who David was except those times when he and Emrys were together, but he did shine during a terrible fight with the crooks who held them captive. His entire focus during their ordeal was on protecting Emrys so I knew he was brave and resourceful and that Emrys’s love for him was returned in spades.
For those of you to whom this is important, there’s mucho sex in this book as ML doesn’t shy away from having her MCs show their versatility in bed, 🙂 and she’s one of the few authors whose sex scenes I read because they are not boring. There was also a lot of magick which made the story very interesting and unusual.
I kept hoping for an epilogue to this story so that I could see Emrys and David grow up into adulthood beyond 21 years old. Obviously they had grown during the 3 and a half years they were apart and some of the changes were alluded to in the book, but most of them were told rather than shown. The loose ends were tied together quickly so that readers could get a glimpse of what the guys’ future would look like now that no one could harm them.
The characters in Familiar are flawlessly drawn, even David’s rotten mother, I loved how resourceful Emrys’s sister Morgan was, the pacing was just right, and the other secondary characters were fully fleshed out. However it would have been a more satisfying story for me if the ending were extended beyond a few weeks, to a few years in the future so I could see the MCs grow into their full potential. I’m hoping for a sequel.