A Caryn Review: Cutie and the Beast (Fae Out of Water #1) by EJ Russell

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I LOVE fairly tale retellings!  And of course, Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites because I am such a sucker for that hurt/comfort trope.  I also think that a fairy tale retelling is a good way to showcase an author’s creativity – being original while still following the basic skeleton of curse and redemption and attraction to the inner beauty is hard to do when it’s been done so often! 

This retelling brings in a lot of Celtic folklore, combining the Irish, Welsh, Scots, and British fae in the Unified Seelie Court, as well as adding the more modern paranormal elements of vampires and shifters, and then throwing in some Druids just for fun, to create the world of the “Supes”.  Dr. Alun Kendrick is the “shrink to the supes” – an exiled Sidhe warrior who is now a psychologist  in Portland, catering to the mental maladies of the supernatural, as well as treating humans who have been accidentally exposed to (and traumatized by) supes.  His is a very specialized, and private, practice and he intends to keep it that way.

David Evans is an earnest and enthusiastic young man who works at a temp agency.  He’s been intermittently going to nursing school which is his passion, but in the meantime is working to support his terminally ill Aunt Cassie.  David tries, he really does, but every job he lands ends up in disaster as things just seem to happen around him – that riot in the dentist’s office?  Totally not his fault.  Besides, he’s done some transcription for Dr. Kendrick, and his voice is so swoon-worthy, he just has to meet the man.  So when the office manager position came open, it only took a little prevaricating to get it, and David just knew that he would do a fabulous job.  It was fate, it was right, and damn it, he was going to make it work.

The first day, however, didn’t go as planned.  Dr. Kendrick’s voice is just as smooth and dulcet as David remembered, but that face? 

He looked like the victim of a failed experiment on the island of Dr. Moreau who’d tried to get the results fixed at a cut-rate back-alley plastic surgeon.

But David is nothing if not determined, and even in that initial hostile meeting he noticed something more, something worth putting up with all of Dr. Kendrick’s glares and attempts to get rid of him in order to break through to the man beneath the ugly.  David’s irrepressible cheerfulness, his sublime coffee, the color he brought into the sad grey office, and his uncanny insight into client’s problems did catch Alun’s attention, but his dancing clinched it.

Stubborn, impudent, maddening, human David, with his wildly colorful office accessories, constant challenges, and the worst dancing Alun had seen in over two millennia.  Goddess strike him blind, but the man was bloody wonderful.

Thus the two men become a unlikely partners drawn into a conspiracy that could destroy the Unified Seelie Court and endanger all supes, in both fae and human worlds.  In the process, they finally solve the mystery of a centuries old murder that led to Alun’s curse, and both men find out there is more to them than they believed.

I loved the entire wild ride, from the dull, lifeless office to the magical, glittering world of Faerie.  I loved the secondary characters, the clients, the druid aunties, and especially Alun’s brothers Mal and Gareth (who will be getting their own books in the future, yay!).  We have an exciting plot, character growth, great dialogue, beautifully described settings, and it was also freakin’ hilarious.  What more can you ask from a book?

I didn’t really have a place to put it in this review, but must include this last quote:

“What about that poser guy?  Jackson.  What’s he?  Demon?  Troll?  Were-jackal?”  “Worse.”  Alun’s voice dropped to a husky whisper.  “Lawyer.”  David gulped…

Regarding the cover art by Lou Harper:  before I read the book, I have to admit I thought it was a little annoying, and I didn’t like the model’s smirk.  Now that I’ve read it, well, that is David!

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 283 pages
Published July 24th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleCutie and the Beast
ISBN 1626495998 (ISBN13: 9781626495999)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/cutie-and-the-beast
SeriesFae Out of Water #1

A Caryn Review: Boots by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

bootsOK, I have to admit it.  I love retold fairy tales!  I love how an author can take a recognizable skeleton plot and add, change, twist, and fold it into something entirely new.  I discovered them when my kids were in elementary school (East by Edith Pattou is one of my all time favorites), and have been reading them ever since.  And I was so happy to find that they are a fairly popular sub-genre of M/M romance (Brute by Kim Fielding is my favorite here!)

The other fun thing about retold fairy tales is when an author will weave in elements of other myths, other folklore from other cultures, and combine them with a fantasy world, or, like in this one, with the contemporary world.  Ms. Martinez combined the European “Puss in Boots” with the Japanese Kasha, or cat demon, but then she created her own background for why he was in present-day small town Pennsylvania.  And when a book sends me to Wikipedia to look up the references and find out where and how the author departed from canon mythology, I call that successful!

The book starts when the unfavored third son, Willem, inherits only $300 and the family cat when his father dies.  Although he thinks this was just his father’s last jab at him, he’s going to make the best of what he has, and after all, he’s always liked Puss.  He’s been laid off from his job, lost his apartment when his boyfriend cheated, and is essentially homeless but doesn’t want to impose upon either of his brothers, even though winter is setting in (this was the only part of the story that bothered me – if Willem is such a good and reasonable guy, why does he let something like pride drive him to the streets?)  He is shocked when Puss starts talking to him, but is so low that he’s willing to believe in magic if it finds him a warm place to sleep.  The cat informs him that “Puss” is a terrible name, insists that Willem call him Kasha, and sets out to help him get back on his feet.  Kasha is a demon who has been exiled to the human world, and is moved from one master to another in order to help them find what they want and need.  When one mission is accomplished he moves on to the next in an endless circle of servitude, so he’s learned to take what joy he can from that life, but he’s been burned enough times by cruel masters to be guarded about his purpose and abilities.

Willem is different, though.  Despite his past mistakes, he is a good and generous man who doesn’t accept or want Kasha as a servant/slave and still feels that it is his responsibility to take care of Kasha.  Kasha can also manifest as a man (with some cat parts that makes the sex both funny and kinda kinky) who is conveniently gay and Willem is just his type.

The rest of the story is the classic sacrifice and redemption that makes any good fairy tale work.  I enjoyed it, but was never able to really get behind either who these characters were before they met, or what it was about their connection that made them worthier of blessing in the end.  There was a little punishment kink introduced that was both gratuitous and unconvincing.  Kasha’s personality was a little more fleshed out in terms of what made him into a somewhat jaded and suspicious man in the beginning, but I just wasn’t convinced of the love between the men, and certainly not that it was responsible for either of them making the grand gestures that a fairy tale requires.

I really like this author though, and I’m going to be reviewing another of her fairy tales in this blog here soon, and I’ll be hoping for a little more!

Cover art by Posh Gosh is perfect for the book (except that Kasha had green eyes, not yellow!)

Sales Links

Pride Publishing

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 8th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published April 16th 2011)
ISBN139781786514967
Edition LanguageEnglish