Reviewed: April 24, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Pride, Book 7
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 407 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Lou "Crush" Crushek is not a happy polar. He hates change, and since he got word that he is being transferred to the NYPD's shifter division, he's been downright depressed about it. He likes his job with the NYPD just fine, being undercover and playing the badass to catch the real bad guys. No need to fix something that's not broke.
That depression is the only reason he goes to the party at a friend's house. It's certainly the only reason he starts in on those deliciously jiggly Jell-O shots from hell. Crush doesn't remember much after he slurped down the eighth. He blames the depression! And the lion! It's always a lion's fault!
When he first wakes up with a raging hangover and a traitorous body responding to a naked feline female sprawled on top of him, Crush still thinks that a job transfer is the largest impending change in his life. Poor, deluded bear. He hasn't learned the meaning of the word change. He hasn't, after all, actually met the female tiger shifter using his naked body as a pillow.
Marcella "Bare Knuckles" Malone is a fixer, a killer, a daughter, a mother, a KZB agent, and a hockey player, and that's just the short list. She's also a feline, and come on...what feline could resist swatting playfully at such a comfy but uptight bear as the unknown male she wakes up on top of? It's so much fun trying to make his head explode! After all, it's not like they had sex. She just needed to sleep off the booze and he was a better - and more comfy! - option than those damn yipping canine breed shifters sacked out in the other rooms.
That's why she teases him so unmercifully until he stomps off in a polar-sized snit...which really is fairly large. Most. Fun. Ever! That's also why she keeps teasing him every time she sees him. Which, as it turns out, is fairly often, what with his transfer, her job, and both of their ties to hockey. Woo hoo! Fun times had by her!
That is, it's all fun and games until she finds out he was transferred because his cover was blown, he's got bears after him, and the job that she's working on with the combined forces of the NYPD, the Group, and the KZB has suspiciously similar bear-prints all over it. That changes things considerably.
Because she's a Malone, and a feline, and inherently Cella...what that changes the game to will also likely make a poor polar's head explode. Either that or some other freakishly large part of him, anyway. Woo hoo!
I'm a fan of this series. A huge, squealy, pre-order-as-soon-as-possible, jiggle-butt-booty-dance-when-it's-released, laugh-maniacally-when-I-see-it-on-my-Kindle fan of this series and this author (including her G.A. Aiken nom de plume). And no, the booty dance ain't pretty. Doesn't matter. I love these books, I love this series, and I love, love, love Laurenston.
Of course I adored this book. First, I can't help but smile when it comes to the bears. Between Lock and Bo, and now Crush, the bear shifters are my favorites for the male leads in the series. Okay, true, Bo is a mighty bear-cat, but he's mostly polar when he's in man form, so he counts. Anyway, I fell hard for Crush. His cute hockey fan geekiness, his by-the-book mentality, his morality and his utter disgust with Cella's apparent lack of same all just tickled me to death.
And how could I not totally adore Cella for who she is, how she is, and how funny it is to see her torment the poor guy? Loved that! I also loved that there was much more to Cella than meets the eye. Honestly, between the issues with her family and her daughter, her hockey career, and her job with the KZB, I think Cella may be the most layered character I've seen in the series. Looking beneath the snark and the feline hijinks, there is actually quite a lot going on to make Cella the way she is. There are glimpses of insecurity about her daughter's happiness and her own worth as a mother, struggles with feeling hemmed in by family, intimacy issues, and issues with both careers. And with all that, when she wasn't driving Crush out of his mind, sparring with Dee-Ann, or just being a tiger shifter, she was a decent, hard working female who people can trust and rely on.
The story behind all the feline and polar craziness was solid, too, if a little hectic. After the conclusion of the three book arc of hybrid pit fighting in the last book, I wondered what was going to fill that hole as the series continued. I like what Laurenston did here to kick off a thread of external plot conflict that is a threat to the full bloods. Woven in beside several other plot threads and individual character threads, it helps to make the whole of the plot one complex, layered, wacky, and wild story that I was able to really sink my teeth into. No pun intended.
Not everything, though, is a bed of roses. I'm all for a subtly evolving romance in my...uh...romance...but wow - there's subtle and there's non-existent, and I think this one tilted a little too far towards the non-existent for me. The conflict between Cella and Crush was great for laughs, the sex was - as always for Laurenston - smoking hot, but I almost fell out of my chair when love was brought up, not only because of where it happens in the book, but because I didn't see it evolving in the story.
Yes, I expect love to be a part of a romance book. I also, oddly enough, expect it to be featured, shown, alluded to, mentioned, given evidence of, thought about...something...as the relationship between the two main characters develop. I can't say that happened between Crush and Cella, and that disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, I loved the scene where they express that feeling for each other - totally loved it - but I didn't really believe it at that point given everything I read leading up to it. They just didn't seem to be there yet. And considering that was at the end of the book, I have a problem with that.
I also felt a little short-changed in relation to Crush's issues with his transfer. This book is pretty Cella-heavy. We see everything related to her as a character pretty well wrapped up by the end of the book, but the same can't be said for Crush. I had no idea if he got comfortable with his transfer, or if he'd get there eventually, or even what his job would be like in that division. His initial discomfort and uncertainty with it had been such an issue in the story - for more than just his hating the change it denoted - that some resolution or attention to that issue would have been nice.
Also, the number of secondary and ancillary characters that make an appearance in this book are a problem for me. It's the same problem, in fact, that I had in the previous book. There are so many characters in this story, both old friends and new acquaintances who get introduced, that Crush and Cella don't actually spend all that much time in the same scene, not to mention alone together.
It's like the series has taken on a character snowball effect. It started small at the beginning of the series, just a handful of characters packed together, but with each subsequent book, more characters are met and rolled up into the mass of the story, getting bigger and bigger with each book and each character. It's great to see how all these characters' lives meet and mingle, and seeing the relationships of favorite couples as time progresses beyond their Happily Ever After. I love that, I really do. But not when it detracts from the development of the main characters and their relationship with each other. And it does in this book even more than it did in the previous one.
You know what, though? I still love this series with a rabid fanaticism not unlike Crush's love of hockey or Bo's dedication to his lists. And I liked this book very much. Yeah, I would have liked it better if... But even without that "if," I'll take what I got and be damned happy with it. And when the next is available for pre-order, I'll be there, snatching it up, and doing my warm ups for the subsequent jiggle-butt booty dance. I'm just that big a fan.
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