A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: Fairly run-of-the-mill ‘fated mates’ romance between two alpha males set in a series about the Norse gods in modern times.
For a love that will last through the ages, they must fight an evil older than time.
Jeffrey Grimm’s grandfather, Odin, tortured and nearly killed his twin sister. He’s on a mission to return the favor. To get the job done, he needs the world’s oldest living laser hair removal candidate: Fenrisùlfr, the werewolf prophesy has decreed will kill Odin at Ragnarrok.
When he gets to Norway, though, he discovers the wolf can change into a man…a man so sexy that Jeff is blindsided with lust. And, despite his blood ties to Odin, Fen wants him with equal ferocity.
An attraction to the blood kin of his oldest enemy? Fenris figures he must have been caged far too long. Yet as soon as the magical phrase that frees him leaves Jeff’s lips, Fenris has no choice. He is bound to protect Jeff at all costs, even if it means giving up his hatred of the man who betrayed him—and learning to live with the horrors of toothpaste and the Internet.
Odin isn’t through with him, though. And when he gets his hands on Jeff, Fen calls upon everything within him to fulfill the prophecy… even if it means his own death.
This is the third book in Dana Marie Bell’s True Destiny series, which is based on the premise that the Norse gods—Thor, Odin and their ilk—have partially hidden their powers and have forged lives for themselves in modern times. Previously I’ve read some of the ménages written by this author and when I saw the blurb for this book, I was curious as to how she’d write an M/M and also to be honest I quite fancied reading about Norway, since it was specifically mentioned in the blurb. Unfortunately I felt let down on both counts.
First of all, this isn’t specifically an M/M romance, although (apart from one page of M/F sex that doesn’t involve either of the heroes) the M/M couple is the only one getting any on-page action. Essentially this series has been structured episodically like a TV show, and like a TV show there’s ‘issue of the week’ or in this case, ‘romance of the week’, and that happens to be the M/M relationship. Appearing alongside Jeff and Fen are a whole host of other characters, some of whom are already in relationships, and new characters are introduced who will doubtless get their own romantic time in the spotlight in later books. There are multiple plot lines, some of which get resolved, and there’s an awful lot of infodumping, some of which is necessary as a ‘previously on…’ catch-up. Plus the fact that the Norse gods have modern names that don’t always equate with their Norse names (seriously, a chart would be useful), and there’s a *lot* of gods wandering around, it adds up to a rather chaotic whole.
Since there’s so many different relationships crammed into this book, most of which are beyond the remit of this site, I’m just going to review the M/M part. As the blurb tells us, Jeff is the grandson of Odin, the all-powerful head of the Norse pantheon who wants to destroy the other gods. Odin—or Oliver Grimm as he is known in this story—is a real piece of work who kidnapped and tortured his human granddaughter, Jamie (who is Jeff’s twin sister). Jamie was rescued and she’s now with Travis (the god Tyr), and her connection with Travis/Tyr makes her a goddess. Jeff’s older sister Jordan is in a ménage relationship with Logan (Loki) and Kir (Baldur). Jeff’s father is Fred/Thor and his mother is a human woman, Jeanne.
The story opens with Logan/Loki teaching Jeff a Norwegian phrase that he needs to recite to Fenrir, the original werewolf and Loki’s son. According to the Eddas (ancient Norse epic poems), during the great apocalyptic battle of Ragnarokk, Odin will be killed by Fenrir. The gods trapped Fenrir in a cave and bound him with a magical chain. The chain shouldn’t be able to be removed until Ragnarokk, but because Jeff is Fenris’ mate, he’s able to free the werewolf.
Jeff isn’t too pleased to be stuck with a huge wolf as his true love, but things look up when Fenris transforms into a hot guy. But Fenris has been stuck in a cave for a couple of millennia and his table manners are appalling, so on their return to the US, Fenrir gets to learn about things like purple sparkly buttplugs and other *ahem* delights courtesy of the internet. He also discovers YouTube and the Powerpuff Girls
Both Jeff and Fen are alpha males. Fen is convinced of their true mate bond straight away and can’t wait to claim Jeff for his own, but Jeff—as the grandson of Fen’s enemy and as a human—is understandably much more cautious. But neither of them can keep their hands off one another and Fen decides to mark Jeff. This should seal their union and make Jeff a werewolf (and divine), but things don’t quite go to plan. It takes intervention from other friendly gods to put things right, by which time Odin is on the warpath. He knows Fen will end him if he gets the chance, so Odin is determined to kill Fen first. But Jeff is equally as determined to stop his evil grandfather from carrying out his plan…
It’s a fairly formulaic romance between the two men, with the plot twists reserved for the main external arc of the younger members of the Grimm family and their godly lovers trying to defeat Odin’s schemes. Bell is an enthusiastic writer whose prose is simple and straightforward—X happens, therefore Y results, and so on. The style doesn’t allow for much description or sense of place, so while (thanks to the blurb) I was expecting most of the book to be set in Norway and was looking forward to reading about the fjords the Norwegian parts of the book were very brief and it could have been set anywhere because there wasn’t any attempt to describe or set the scene. I just prefer a few more visuals when I’m reading. Overall this style is ideal for the type of episodic story the author is telling, but I found it unsatisfying because, with so many characters and so many plotlines going on, I missed the intimacy and a true sense of connection between Jeff and Fen.
There were aspects of the book I enjoyed, such as the sense of humour and the running gag about ‘Vincente’. I found myself liking a couple of the supporting cast, too, especially Skye (Skuld) and Jeff’s mum Jeanne, who is a really tough, no-nonsense woman.
While the Jeff/Fen relationship is a focus, it’s not the only focus of the book—as I said, it reads much like a TV show, so the M/M romance aspect is perhaps 60% of the story and the rest is about other characters—some of whom I found much more interesting than Jeff and Fen! That might be a good way to hook readers into the next book but it means that the relationship I actually *wanted* to read was bland and forgettable. Fans of the author will enjoy this book but it was a bit more miss than hit with me.