Change of Heart

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Title and Link:  Change of Heart
Author:  Mary Calmes
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Change of Heart
Genre:  M/M Paranormal, Shapeshifter
Length:  Novel (260 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cole

**This review contains what could be considered spoilers**

Review Summary: An engrossing world, which has at its center, one man who has no reason to trust, but every hope that he could.

BLURB

As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them.

But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.

REVIEW

Change of Heart takes off immediately from the very first page, with our narrator Jin and his friend Crane watching as a young girl is being followed by a group of men into a dark alleyway in the middle of the night. Cursing her for her stupidity at being alone so late and resolving themselves to intervene, they set about to scare the men away by doing what they do best, becoming panthers. However, they’re the ones trapped when neither the prey or the young girl is surprised by their change. Only then, with their backs against the wall, do we start to realize that Jin is no ordinary panther and that he will have to rely on his mysterious hold over the others to navigate the minefield of were-panther politics in which he and Crane have landed.

Jin has been running for eight years after coming out to his tribe, not only as gay, but as a reah — the most rare of all were-panthers and the mate all semel (the all-male tribe leader) search for in order for their tribes to reach maat, the state of perfect equilibrium within a tribe. A semel who has found his mate in a reah is seen by all to be blessed above and beyond any other. The only problem is that as far as Jin knows, he is the first male to have been born a reah in the history of their race. Now, with his loyal friend Crane beside him, Jin has found himself in the middle of three rival tribes on the eve of a new treaty. But, if the three semel of these tribes find out what he is, Jin knows there will be an amazing play for power, with all eyes trained on him as their prize. Can he allow himself the possibility that one of these men is his mate? And if he can, will the tribe stand behind a different kind of mating, one that flies in the face of tradition?

Enter Logan Church, semel of tribe Mafdet, about to take a mate from a rival tribe in a political move to secure a peace treaty and sire an heir. He is a conscientious leader, kind but resolute, and a ferocious fighter with a will of stone and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Before Jin can grab Crane and run to another town, the political machinations sweep them up and deposit them at his feet, and damn Jin if he thinks he can get away now. Logan has found his mate and he is going to do everything in his power to get Jin to admit he feels it too.

The world built by Mary Calmes in this novel is amazing and refreshing. She has put together a social system that we usually only see with werewolves in shapeshifter stories, but which is totally fitted to the behaviors of big cats. There is a feral quality to the politics of their society, so that at any moment I felt like the instability of the structure could be influenced one way or another by any of the characters. Big cats are such proud creatures, that were-panther social norms were extremely rigid. Everyone has a role. Everyone has a place. To go outside of your role was unthinkable and could prove disastrous. Such strict structure gave the story an antiquated feel while at the same time the setting was extremely modern, almost gritty at times. It almost seemed like some strange juxtaposition between the Eighteenth Century British Monarchy and West Side Story.

We learn early on that Jin was exiled from his tribe after a horrendous betrayal. Suffering the loss of not only his tribe but his whole family as well, the only reason he really made it was by the loyalty of his best friend Crane, who seemed to know Jin better than Jin knew himself. In fact, I think that most of the characters Jin becomes close to as the story progresses understand him better than himself, even if they don’t know of the pain in his past. He holds everything close to the vest. He knows what can happen if you let yourself hope. He has been able to retain his steely core by denying he is special, that he has anything to offer. Besides being born in a submissive role, biologically created to support a semel, his experiences have forced him to become an alpha male or crumble. I really admired Jin, as he kept being beaten back further and further, one minute after the next, he became more determined to remain self-sufficient, even to his detriment.

There were a few things here and there that bothered me a bit, though most didn’t take away from the story. At times I felt like the dialogue was rushed. If Jin and Logan had only talked a little more before making rash decisions, they might have actually gotten to know each other before the climax, but of course, when one started to talk about something important, they ultimately fell straight into bed before anything was revealed. This meant that by the time their relationship was seriously threatened, they really only had their mating bond to keep the two of them connected. I didn’t hold this against the author because this is the first book of a series, so it is possible this really is the beginning of them getting to know each other, with their relationship continuing to grow later. All of the characters were well rounded with maybe the exception of Jin’s father. We never learn exactly why he hates his son, other that the fact that he seems to hate gays. Otherwise, the sex is extremely primal and animalistic. A couple of times its even a bit bloody.

The further into the story we go, Jin starts to capitulate to Logan and sometimes it bothered me that he did so, no matter if it is his biological makeup or not. He really can take care of himself. Logan doesn’t think he should have to, but I wanted him to let him try. I think this goes for all couples, and though there was a bit of a rebalance of power in the relationship at the end, I didn’t feel like it was enough. Maybe that will continue in the sequel, Trusted Bond. I hope so. I’m very much looking forward to where Jin and Logan go in their relationship. One thing I’m sure of is that they’ll continue to butt heads. Definitely Recommended.

I will be reviewing the sequel to this novel, Trusted Bond, on Saturday, December 18.

22 thoughts on “Change of Heart

  1. GR

    Thanks for the thoughtful review; I think some of the points that bother you a bit might also bother me. I’ll probably wait to see what you have to say about sequel before I decide whether I want to buy this one.

    1. Cole

      Thanks GR, that’s probably a really good idea. I feel like the jury is still out for me too, but I always feel a bit like that when the story is ongoing.

  2. Lilli

    I’m so pleased this book has finally been reviewed on the site. It’s one of my favorite paranormals.

    Cole, thanks for this thorough review – I think it’s pretty much spot on! :)

    I’ve always had trouble putting my finger on what it is exactly that made this story so great for me.
    In addition to what you mentioned, including the uniqueness and freshness of the werepanther ‘verse, I also found the “strange” dynamics in it very intriguing. With that I especially mean the reactions to Jin as a reah. It was kinda weird to read about at first, and I’m sure that it could have come across as rather ridiculous within another context. But here it was fitting and sometimes amusing, too, if not for Jin. *g* In general, the dynamics between the characters gave a cozy feeling to it all. *lol*

    Jin’s character is great, contradictory, strong yet vulnerable, and I loved his in parts quite amusing narration.

    It’s fun seeing him butt heads with Logan. My favorite quote is on page 106 and says it all (conversation between Yuri and Jin):

    “[...] you just frustrate him to no end.”
    I couldn’t help that.
    ;)

    I’m looking forward to your review of Trusted Bond. :)

    1. Cole

      Thanks Lilli!

      “I also found the “strange” dynamics in it very intriguing.”

      I thought that was one of the funniest things about the story. At first I had no clue what was going on, I kept thinking, what the hell is up with these guys? I was waiting for some kind of Strong Man competition to break out just to impress Jin. Maybe thats why his old tribe had problems with him, they were embarrassed that they had those biological feelings toward him, and it made them feel very insecure.

      One of my favorite parts was with Yuri too, when he and Jin first meet at the restaurant. Jin didn’t just win the standoff, he knocked Yuri’s ego flat, which is why Yuri loved him so much.

      I really hope that Trusted Bond is on the same level as this one!

  3. LadyM

    I must admit I had trouble with author’s previous stories (with some too perfect, over-the-top characters, some TSTL, punctuation that made me want gauge my eyes out). This one does seem interesting (tribe politics and intrigues especially) and I trust reviewers on this site, but I think I’ll wait to hear from more readers, before I commit to it. Thank you for the review. ^^

  4. Wave

    Cole
    You know how I feel about this author’s writing, ad nauseum. :) I trust your judgment but I’ll wait for the sequel and if you like it as much as Change of Heart I’ll give it a try. However, I’m just as skeptical as Lady M. Hell I’ve read enough books by this author so what’s another two. lol

    1. Cole

      LadyM: I talked with Wave previously to reviewing these about her and other’s reactions of Mary Calmes’ other work. Since this is the first book of hers that I’ve read, I didn’t want to read any other reviews before I wrote mine, so I wouldn’t be influenced either way. Since I wrote this, I have read some that Wave wrote and I find it fascinating that they’re by the same author. I would wait as well. At least see what the review for the sequel is like. I think the sequel will say a lot about just how inconsistent her books seem to be.

      Wave: Yeah, well it could be another two you have to slog through :) Reading some of the reviews of her work you did, I saw a lot in common with this one, the beautiful people, one sided characters. The difference seemed to me the amount of those things. In this setting, they were low enough or had a reason to be that way. There were only a couple of characters who hadn’t been fleshed out. And the characters were beautiful, but they didn’t lack flaws. And beautiful, flawed men make up about 99% of this genre. Maybe she knew exactly where she wanted to go in this story, because the plot never foundered, like I’ve read about some of her others.

      The real test, I think, will be how the sequel turns out. Can she hold the level of prose and keep the characters on track? I hope so.

    1. Cole

      Sure Val,

      After everything I’ve heard about the author too, I’d probably take a little more time than I usually do before deciding whether to buy.

    1. Cole

      Thanks Lily,

      I figured that people would either totally agree with my assessment or completely disagree, just as the opinions about the author differ so much. But, I’m glad you liked it :)

  5. Lilli

    Cole, the scene where Yuri and Jin meet for the first time is one of my favorites, too! So cool. *g*

    Regarding Jin and his old tribe: I think the reason was simply plain ol’ hatred due to the culture, structure and rigidness of the panther society as you described it in your review. Archaic, patriarchic. No place for anything outside the norm. And then some people hate more than others…
    Well, that’s just my 2 cents, but to me it was a believable and satisfying explanation.

    I’m almost finished with Trusted Bond and I’m really curious what you’ll think about it now.

  6. rdafan7

    Great review, I read this story a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. The setting and plotline are certainly different from the “A Matter of Time” books. If you are not familiar with that series (4 books) I urge you to get them.
    “A Matter of Time” is on my all time favorite list.

    1. Cole

      Thanks rdafan7,

      I’ve heard quite a bit about the Matter of Time series, and I think I’ll give it a try in the future. I’ve heard of lots of people who loved it and lots who hated it. But a lot of books are like that – love or hate. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Eden Winters

    Great review, Cole! This one’s going on my TBR list. I finally broke down and bought a Nook, so can get more reading done.

    1. Cole

      Thanks Eden!

      I’ve had a lot of trouble with all the different ebook formats and readers. I finally figured that anything I couldn’t read on my iphone I’d just read in on the computer or find a way to format it, which has ended up working out pretty well.

      Beware though! I found it WAY too easy to buy a book here or there, then another, and another, just because they make it sooo easy for people like me who think, aww its just another one, all I have to do is click one button! You wouldn’t believe the size of my TBR pile (about 80) and my TBB pile (which as of right now, stands at 504 books)!! I need to stop, take a deep breath, and step away from the enter key.

  8. Alina

    I never managed to finish reading the Matter of Time series. I must confess that I don’t even remember the plot or the characters. But I do remember her writing style that made me give up in the middle of the book (first volume I think).

    Last week though, I gave a chance to Tooth & Nail but only because it was (an it is) high-rated in selling and rating at AllRomance site. Better but not five stars.

    Your review could change my opinion about Mary Calmes but I’ll wait to see what you have to say about Trusted Bond.

    1. Cole Post author

      Hi Alina,

      I think that’s probably a pretty wise decision. I’m planning on starting Trusted Bond today and I’m really looking forward to it because I have absolutely no idea what to expect. It could go either way. At the very least it should be interesting!

      The blurb for Tooth & Nail didn’t sound very good to me at all. It really didn’t entice me to read the book.

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