Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Book one, Cutie and the Beast, in this series was a romantic comedy (which I adored!), and so I admit I was expecting the same here. These characters, however, are more serious, the tone darker, the danger greater, in this enemies-to-lovers novel. And this book is absolutely not stand-alone – all of the world building happened in book one, and this book just expands on the Fae world and it’s denizens.
Mal – Lord Maldwyn Kendrick – was cursed at the end of book one. He saved his brother Alun’s life by cutting off the villain’s hand, and in punishment, he was cast out of Faerie and his own right hand became useless. The Seelie queen, who cast the curse, told him the curse could be lifted if he could “make whole what you cost us this night”, and Mal has no idea what that even means. Give Rodric his hand back? Even if he wanted to after all the evil Rodric committed, how could he possibly do that? His entire existence was being a warrior, protecting the Seelie Court, and in one moment he lost that purpose, and even the ability to be a warrior. He was fairly lighthearted in book one, but he’s now angry, bitter, and completely directionless.
Because Mal was homeless, his brother-in-law David bought him a very nice little house with zero carbon footprint in a wetland conservation area. Mal couldn’t have cared less. Worse, when he found Unseelie creatures in the swamp and drove them off, he came to the attention of his neighbor Bryce MacLeod, professor and deeply devoted environmentalist who was shocked and appalled at Mal’s lack of care for the wetlands. Mal recognized him as a druid – a fact Bryce himself was completely unaware of – and Mal had never trusted druids as far as he could throw them. Things went from bad to worse when the local arch druid bound the two men together in order to foster Bryce’s training, without consent from either of them.
Mal just wants to get his hand and his old life back, while Bryce wants to find out what is causing the poisoning of the wetlands and fix it. But since the men are literally tied together, they have to find a way to work with each other to reach these goals. But there are manipulative supernatural forces in play, pushing them into the middle of a conflict that endangers not only their lives, but (once again) the fate of the world.
The set-up seems awkward and ridiculous when I try to condense it, but I didn’t feel that while I was reading. Every character acted in accordance with their nature and personality (as introduced in book one) and in accordance with the rules of the outer world and world of faerie. The progression from irritation, to grudging respect, to true appreciation of each other from Mal and Bryce was extremely fluid. The supernatural powers of druids and the hereditary interaction between druid and sidhe kept Mal and Bryce continually wondering what parts of their attraction was real, and what was biology, or spell. The inner conflict of trying to untangle that played out in the conflict they had with each other, but I felt both men learned to look past their initial rigid beliefs about the world, themselves, and each other, and they grew into better men as they became more flexible and accepted new truths about themselves. The eventual defeat of evil was typical of a fantasy novel, but the happy ever after was more like the typical contemporary romance. I thought it fit together extremely well!
Gareth, the youngest of the Kendrick brothers, shows up only briefly in this book, but a painful history of betrayal and loss were introduced to set the foundation of the final book. Which I expect will be darker than this one, and I’m eagerly looking forward to it!
Cover art by Lou Harper has a great model for Bryce’s sexy professor look, and the interdimensional doorway fits with the story.
ebook, 328 pages
Published August 21st 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published August 19th 2017)
Original TitleThe Druid Next Door
SeriesFae Out of Water #2