Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trusted Bond (book) by Mary Calmes

Trusted Bond is m/m paranormal romance, the second book in Calmes' Change of Heart series. It's published by Dreamspinner Press.

This review contains spoilers.


Jin is worried that Logan only loves him because of his reah pheromones and the mate bond they share. Logan is upset that Jin still doesn't trust him and is more inclined to turn to Crane (Jin's best friend) rather than him when he's in trouble. Things come to a head when Jin is almost raped by a werepanther from another tribe, and Jin tries to hide what happened to keep Logan from killing the werepanther on his behalf.

While Jin and Logan are still working through their relationship issues, circumstances result in Jin being kidnapped and transported to Sobek, the secret werepanther capital. As he desperately tries to get back to his mate, his powers increase and go out of control.


After I finished this book, I spent some time trying to list what I liked about it. The best I could come up with was that it was a relatively quick read and  that Jin and Crane were nice together and would probably make a good couple if Crane weren't heterosexual (not that that's stopped Calmes from pairing up characters before). Unfortunately, the book's actual couple was Jin and Logan.

I liked the first book in this series, Change of Heart. It had lots of problems and wasn't really very good, but it was fun, and I enjoyed it enough to reread it. I wasn't expecting more than that from Trusted Bond and was actually looking forward to a few hours of guilty pleasure fun, but I didn't even get that much. Trusted Bond had all of Change of Heart's issues and then some.

Jin continued to be a Gary Sue who others either adored or wanted to rape. Unless his emotional pain needed to be heightened, in which case they hated him because he was gay or because he was a male reah (reahs are only ever supposed to be female). The dialogue was awful, featuring enough instances of “hafta,” “gonna,” and “wanna” to make me twitchy. Everyone's pattern of speech was pretty much the same. And the world-building was an incoherent mix of made-up words (although at least this book came with a glossary), Egyptian-ish lore, and new super-powers for Jin.

I maybe should have included this warning earlier in my review, but this is not a newbie-friendly book. If you haven't read Change of Heart, absolutely do not start here. Trusted Bond was a confusing read, even for me. I had to wade through the sea of made-up words, try to remember who everyone was, and decipher what was going on. Early on, I stopped to check and make sure I wasn't accidentally reading a later book in the series. There were several characters Calmes seemed to expect readers to already know. Was Abbot in the previous book? What about Laurent?

Anyway, even after I got a better handle on who everyone was and what was going on, I still felt like the story was a mess. One that relied way too much on rape threats and attempted rape. There were at least three potential rapists in this book. First, there was Abbot, whose attempted rape of Jin got the ball rolling on one part of the story. Then there was Laurent, a former lover of Jin's, who kidnapped him and teetered on the edge of either raping Jin or killing him. Or both. Finally, there was Ammon, the semel-aten (the tribal leader in Sobek, who I guess could be considered the top leader, except not, because he doesn't have a reah – seriously, the world-building sucks).

Jin claimed that Abbot's attempted rape of him wasn't Abbot's fault – Jin missed Logan so much while he was gone that he exuded pheromones that caused Abbot to react to him as if he were in heat. Never mind that Abbot arranged for three of his friends to help him out, meaning that the attempted rape was premeditated. Jin resisted telling Logan any of this because he didn't want Logan killing Abbot on his behalf. This gave Logan the opportunity to complain that Jin wasn't relying on him enough, didn't trust their relationship enough, didn't love him enough, etc., while Jin worried that Logan only really loved him because he was a reah. It was basically the same kind of stuff Change of Heart was filled with.

The whole thing with Laurent was more magical reah adoration, mixed with creepy, insane obsession. This entire portion of the book made my skin crawl, and there were a few points where I thought Calmes had just written a fade-to-black rape scene. It was all very vile, and I wasn't sure why any of it was even necessary. Everything involving Laurent could have been cut out of the book, and all Calmes would have had to do was figure out some other way for Jin to suddenly be transported to Egypt. Maybe he could have flown to Egypt willingly. Radical concept, I know.

A large portion of this book takes place in the made-up city of Sobek, Egypt, the secret werepanther capital. It seemed as though many of the residents of Sobek spoke English as their first or possibly only language, and the sense of place was, in general, terrible. In Sobek, Jin met several people, some of whom couldn't believe he was a reah because he was male and some of whom instantly accepted what he was and thought it was just wonderful. Many women were jealous of him because his magical reah pheromones might steal their mates away. They only softened towards him after they realized he already had a mate and was being kept from him by Ammon, who thought it might be interesting to have sex with a male reah.

By that point in the book, I was just tired of it all. Tired of every man reacting to Jin in one of three ways (adoration, hatred, rape-y lust), tired of every woman reacting to him in one of two ways (jealousy, friendliness), and tired of Calmes having no apparent plan. Then Jin gained some amazing new powers that some people considered horrifying and some people recognized instantly (even though the possibility of these powers had never been brought up even once before in the series), and I started skimming.

One more thing I hated: the solution to the problem of Logan's tribe's heir. Jin's arrival to Logan's tribe magically led to both Logan and his brother becoming gay (or bisexual, but I think “gay” is probably more appropriate in this case). Jin paired up with Logan, Koren paired up with Domin, and for some reason any children Delphine might end up having don't count (my guess is because she's female?). My preferred solutions to this problem were either adoption or that the men get their heads out of their butts where Delphine was concerned. But those solutions weren't good enough.

No, Jin and Delphine had a surprise for everyone. You see, Delphine would be Jin's yareah. She froze some of her eggs, he froze some of his sperm, and Delphine and Markel had already lined up a surrogate to carry her and Jin's child. Because Delphine is Logan's sister, that meant the child would have some of Logan's DNA, and it would be almost like he and Jin had had a child. Perfect, right?

And so very gross. Delphine and Markel lined up a (so far) nameless surrogate and planned to limit Jin and Logan's exposure to her, so they wouldn't have to experience the discomfort of realizing that someone else had to carry their child. I was horrified at the very thought, horrified for the surrogate, whoever she turned out to be, and horrified that everyone's one and only reaction to this news was happiness that so perfect a solution had been found. Also, on a more minor note, I was annoyed by the in-series misuse of the word “yareah,” which is what the chosen mates (not soulmates) of semels are called. One, Jin is a reah, not a semel. And two, if Delphine was going to be called Jin's yareah, didn't that mean she couldn't be Markel's yareah? If you're going to create a world with complicated terminology, use it correctly.

If I continue with this series, it will be because I already bought a couple more books in it ages ago, when Dreamspinner Press was having a nice sale. I'm now kicking myself for having bought them. And they're e-books, which means I can't even offload them to a used bookstore.

  • On the Prowl (anthology), recommended primarily for the novella "Alpha and Omega" by Patricia Briggs - The first full book in Briggs' Alpha and Omega series is actually Cry Wolf, but lovers of the soulmate trope in particular should start with the novella. It feels a little wrong to recommend this as a read-alike for Trusted Bond, because "Alpha and Omega" is so much better in just about every way, but I'm doing it anyway. Like Jin, Anna isn't used to having a safe home with packmates who care for her and want to keep her safe.
  • Moonlight's Silver (e-novella) Rayne Auster - Ankerite is a half-breed, his form trapped forever between human and wolf. He can hide the wolf-like parts of his appearance from humans well enough, but real werewolves always figure out what he is and try to kill him for it. He's on the run when he's found and rescued by a werewolf named Linden. Those who'd like another m/m paranormal romance with an emotionally vulnerable main character might want to try this, although it is unfortunately very short and suffers a bit from this.
  • Without Reservations (e-book) by J.L. Langley - This is the second book in J.L. Langley's With or Without series - personally, I prefer reading a series in order, but this sounds like a better fit for fans of Trusted Bond than the first book in the series (full disclosure: I haven't read this or any of Langley's other books). In this book, Chayton Winston, a veterinarian and werewolf, ends up mated to Keaton Reynolds, another male werewolf. This is another "gay for you" m/m romance: Chay is a heterosexual man, but, like Logan, he doesn't want to let his mate go. Like Jin, Keaton doesn't trust Chay's feelings for him.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - Jin's Gary Sue-ishness reminded me an awful lot of Anita Blake. This series starts off as a fairly decent urban fantasy series, but, beware, later on it becomes cringe-worthy, awful supernatural erotica.

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