Tooth & Nail
Heart in Hand
- Books Book Review: Warders: Vol 1, by Mary Calmes
Book Review: Warders: Vol 1, by Mary Calmes
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EW Elaine White
About the Author
Mary Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor's degree in English literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work. She can even tell you what her characters smell like. She loves buying books and going to conventions to meet her fans.
December 28, 2016
epub, mobi, pdf
Book 1 – cheating
Book 2 – violence
Book 3 – violence involving a gun, dub/con (if not outright rape)
Most humans live in blissful ignorance, never dreaming of the frightening surprises and paranormal danger that lurks in the night. Most… but not all. These few who stand against the darkness are the Warders, men who fight demons and square off against all kinds of creatures from the pit with only their brothers-in-arms and their lovers—their Hearths—to strengthen them in the unending battle of good versus evil.
Hit and Miss
POV – 1st person, one character per story
Would I read it again – Book 1 and 2, yes. Not book 3.
Genre – LGBT, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Anthology
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
For me, Mary Calmes is one of those hit and miss authors. Sometimes I love her work, sometimes not so much.
So let's start with warnings:
Book 1 – cheating
Book 2 – violence
Book 3 – violence involving a gun, dub/con (if not outright rape)
Book 1: His Hearth
This was a good start to a new-to-me series. I'm also pretty new to Mary Calmes (having only read Romulus before).
I enjoyed the plot of a regular guy finally finding his fit, only to discover that Mr Wonderful is actually a ninja sword-wielding demon hunter. The dynamics of the storyline were good and the writing was well done. Though there were a few pet peeves – slang words, shortened words (Ohmygod, hafta, g'head, willya, Yessir, helluva, Whaddya etc) and a few lazy styled sentences, such as “Heavy sigh.” - the overall quality was good. There were some editing issues, of missing or extra words (“he still sometimes he ran into prejudice.”) and the flashbacks were often disorientating.
When it comes to characters, that's where I had some issues. Although I enjoyed the story, I found the relationship to be lacking a certain something. It didn't feel organic. I mean, we had Julian as our MC and our sole POV. He began as this shy, retiring, always-in-the-background guy, who didn't believe in jumping into bed with anyone, but taking his time even if that meant no sex for six months.
In fact, that's how the story starts – his current non-boyfriend that he's dating was caught on his knees with another man, all because Julian wouldn't have sex with him. Then we got to hear all about how he had a certain way he functioned, that he could never deviate from it. Until, enter Ryan. Suddenly, though they've known each other for ages, oblivious Julian doesn't realise that Ryan is jonesing for him until he makes it obvious. They have one date-like night, then go back to Ryan's and end up all over each other. I get that there's a paranormal, mate element to the story, but it didn't really justify this rush to get into bed with each other or the way that Julian took it all in his stride.
And can we talk for a minute about the complete 180 Julian took personality wise? He went from meek, in the background Julian to raging hormones, Alpha male in bed. Then, suddenly, he stayed that way and it made NO sense. Ryan went from the suave, sophisticated celebrity with a nervous habit when around Julian, to some lap-dog puppy, begging Julian for more attention. Julian also had a bit of an ego (“One thing I knew: I was a world-class kisser.”) and though that his kisses were good enough to get a guy off, without any need for more, somehow justifying his lack of sexual promiscuity. As an asexual person, it kind of bothered me that this was never addressed – that there were sexualities that defined a person who wanted an emotional or meaningful connection before committing to sex, but also the claim from the cheating ex that there just weren't people who didn't have sex. I felt that there was a key chance to add in how clueless this guy was and how wrong he was, especially in relation to what Julian needed from a relationship, by not addressing these points. From everything I've read of Julian so far, he seems to be of a romantic attraction orientation (not demi, though, since he's clearly sexually attracted to the guys he's been with)
I was also a little confused by the interaction between Julian and Winters at the restaurant. Winters seemed very focused on Julian and gloated about having his mobile number, as though it was some personal prize. It suggested a history between the two – perhaps of a fling nature, which wouldn't fit with Julian's personality – that was never addressed.
It took 25% of a 33% story to reach anything paranormal, but in hindsight I didn't mind that. I got a decent chunk of that side of the story and it needed that extra time spent on Julian and Ryan getting together. I just would have liked more insight into how much they liked each other, them becoming friends and getting to know each other, even a flashback of their first meeting or their last, before the events of the story, when Ryan insisted that he'd asked Julian to call him. Both events would have been interesting to see as well as important in allowing us to see how they blend together.
Overall, it was an interesting story, with a good plot but some flaws. Not enough that I'd seriously mark it down and never read it again, but enough that I'm going into the next story with more questions than answers.
““Do you have people in your life you trust?”
“For some things,” he answered vaguely, “not all.”
“I'm sorry, baby.”
He caught his breath. “That's okay,” he got out, “and you just called me baby.”
I'd gotten familiar way too fast. It always happened when I liked someone. “Crap. I'm sor–”
“Don't be,” he cut me off, tightening his fingers that were entwined with mine so I couldn't pull my hand away. “You wanna talk like I belong to you...it's fine with me.”
Which was a dangerous statement to make.”
Book 2: Tooth & Nail
I loved this one!
First off, I'll admit to being a little disgruntled and frustrated when I began reading the 1st person POV only to discover half a page later that it wasn't Julian's, like I'd expected. It was, in fact, Malic's POV. However, once I settled into the story I was happy about that. I'm still a little confused and frustrated that there was no ending or explanation for the overly familiar Winters episode and the pissed off Peyton, from book 1, however.
For me, Malic's story had a better balance between romance and action, equally exploring his search for a hearth as well as his mission as a warder. There wasn't an equal footing of that sort in the first story. Book 1 felt much too much like the only focus was on getting Julian and Ryan together, the end. Malic's story is a much more indepth explanation o the life a warder leads, though I'm still confused as to what a warder actually is. The implication is that they're human, but it's never really been explained how they become the way they are – fast, skilled, trained and inhuman in the sense that they can be healed from wounds that would kill a regular human. Both their origin story – being chosen and discovered – and the healing aspect lie at Jael's door, but are never explained.
There were a few personality traits that were a little too close to Julian and Ryan's relationship status for comfort, at first. The rehash of Graham not being a one-night-stand kind of guy and being more into relationships and the non existent gag reflex, to name two in particular.
However, this story had exactly the kind of chemistry and building romance that I'd wanted to see in book 1. Exploring how Malic and Dylan meet, how they revolve around each other, their dogged persistence, Dylan's feistiness and more, all made for a great relationship story that was pleasantly mixed in well with a real action story of Malic and little Sophie.
I don't, however, know what a 'clutch' is despite it being used in a similar essence as a hearth. I don't know if or how the kyrie Raph fits into Malic's future or if he'll abuse the bond they've created or not. I still have unanswered questions, but I'm not sure if later stories will answer them or not. I'll take care to find out, though, as I'm intrigued who will pop up next, if Malic was the last warder searching for his hearth.
““Will you buy me a drink?”
I gave him a look. “Sure. Whaddya want? Milk?”
He scowled up at me. “Hah, funny. I'm twenty-four, ya know.”
“Really.” I nodded because that was interesting. He had aged five years from the bathroom to the floor.
He cleared his throat. “Yeah.”
“That's funny, because you already told me you were nineteen in the bathroom.”
Book 3: Heart in Hand
It's really nice to see an established couple getting some page time, since they go through trials and difficulties just as much as new couples. Leith and Simon are cute together, both big strong men who are vulnerable with each other. However, their relationship felt wrong in so many ways. It was the main reason that I gave this story a lower rating than the others. It didn't feel good. It felt forced and more sexual, physical or lust-filled – however you want to describe it – than based on something real and deeper, like the other relationships.
First off, my pet peeve is the whole pouncing-on-a-stranger thing that happens in the first flashback to how Leith and Simon met – which isn't separated or italicised like the other flashbacks in the previous books.
Secondly, I had a real issue with their relationship. It was the unhealthiest relationship I've read in a while – including some Master/slave stuff this past week. To start with, I'm all for spontaneous sex, especially for an established couple, but this right here has two strangers tangling tongues after two minutes, then one giving the other a 'deep rimming' a minute after that. Now, there's no request for consent, there's not even a whisper of hygiene care (except a vague admission of having recently having had a shower) and Leith actually says “What're you...no, wait, you – God!” and is told to shut up when he follows that with “You shouldn't do–”
Now, I'm sorry, but that's dubious consent in the very least and practically rape. I don't care if the first part ended with God! or if he moaned; that's no excuse or reasoning for what follows. The fact that this story presents this situation as somehow sexy or exciting really, REALLY, doesn't work for me. A simple rephrasing of the description, a question asking for consent or, you know, actually BACKING OFF when the guy says no is definitely needed.
It doesn't help that their relationship – especially the excessive sex (four big, detailed scenes when only two – when Simon first bottoms and the first sex scene in Hell – are needed) – is littered with words like 'invasion', 'stalked' and 'assaulted'. I'm sorry to say that everything about this relationship is unhealthy, borderline frantic and definitely fuelled by lust, no matter what lessons Simon claims to have learned later on. I wasn't surprised by the following quote, as it seems natural for Leith to persistently instigate sex if that's the only time he feels true affection and truly feels needed by Simon. “He liked to start his day with me bending him over the bed. I never argued.”
Furthermore, it felt like two stories crammed into one. The first being Simon dealing with his ex, the second being the façade in Hell. They didn't seamlessly merge into one story, even at the end when it had all blown over, though I get that both incidences were supposed to teach Simon to open up more within his relationship with Leith. However, it just came across as disjointed and two split stories.
For me, this story lets the other two down. It just has too many issues.
““Why wouldn't Jackson just come himself, or Leith? I asked, my voice cracking on my boyfriend's name. I had been missing the man before my world took a turn into the creature-feature nightmare, but now I felt like my skin hurt because he wasn't there to hold me.”
This was a tangle of good, great and then not-so-good stories all about the one universe.
The problem with 1st person POV, in a series like this, is that you can't clump them together into a volume or anthology without creating confusion. Unless you include the blurb for each 'story' of the volume, explaining who the POV is for (which doesn't happen here) or the reader checks the individual blurb of each story (and who has time or patience to do that?) then it takes far too long to find out who the POV is referring to.
When I transitioned from story 1 to story 2, I believed it was still in Julian's POV until halfway down the first page, when I'd already begun to get confused and form a narrative based on Julian being the POV. In story 3, I had no clue who the POV was for. It took until page 2 to find out it was Leith's boyfriend (and heck if I could remember who that was) thus taking until halfway down page 2 to discover it was someone called 'Simon'. Who I didn't remember from the previous stories.
I'm growing ever more intrigued by Raphael, who I'd like to see getting his own story at some point. I could definitely see him complicating Jackson's life and relationship with Frank, if he wanted to. But it was definitely be interesting to read.
I also noticed a theme here – boyfriends who can't let go. First it was Julian dealing with his ex Mitch, now Simon has a clingy ex trying to get back with him, too. However, these issues are never really dealt with, especially not in a healthy manner. Coincidentally, both ex boyfriends are those that were in the closet and willing to date/marry women to stay in the closet, while hoping their ex-boyfriend would be strung along on the side.
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