20 September 2014

Mate's Series by Cardeno C

 Zev Hassick is surprised and confused when he finds himself attracted to his best friend. His very human, very male best friend. Zev is the son of the pack Alpha, regarded as the strongest wolf in generations, born to lead. And everyone knows a male shifter has to mate with a female of his own kind to keep his humanity. So shifters can't be gay, right?

Jonah Marvel wants a relationship with Zev, his best friend, the man he has loved since childhood. It wasn't easy to maintain that relationship over years spent living apart while Jonah studied to become a doctor. And then things grow more difficult when Jonah becomes his own patient. Before he can make a life with Zev, he has to understand his past and cure the unexplained ailments that plague him.

Zev and Jonah know they're destined for each other, but they're facing traditions ingrained over generations and long-buried secrets that may threaten any future together.

My introduction to Cardeno C’s writing came after reading Perfect Imperfections, so I was quite excited by the opportunity to read the Mates series. I find m/m paranormal romances to be more of a miss than a hit for me as opposed to their contemporary romances counterparts, but I was hopeful that this one would be a hit. Fortunately CC’s talent for crafting a beautiful m/m romance transcends genres and Wake Me Up Inside was even better than I expected.

Zev is his pack’s Alpha. He’s strong. He’s intelligent. He’s dominant. He’s gay. And his true mate is human. Yep, those last two are where Zev’s problems lie. Not because he’s fighting his nature and refuses to acknowledge his homosexuality, but rather because he knows some of his pack members are not going to be accepting of his sexuality or of Jonah. Being human, Jonah has no understanding of why Zev professes his love yet refuses to consummate their relationship. Although frustrating for Jonah, Zev’s refusal leads to years of foreplay that was so freaking hot to read. Even though they were friends during middle school and high school, Zev’s refusal to have sex also meant that their relationship deepened emotionally. This is where the beauty of CC’s writing comes in. Rather than relying upon the mating instinct of shifters as the driving force for their relationship development, Wake Me Up Inside focuses on the building of the emotional relationship between Zev and Jonah. With Zev actively ignoring his mating instinct to insure that Jonah is able to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor, Zev’s sacrifice is just one example of the love the men share and just one of many reasons why I absolutely adored Zev and Jonah.

As much as I loved this book, I do have one teeny, tiny little complaint about it. In the beginning third or so of the book, the past experiences of and between Zev and Jonah are relayed via recalling of memories. While I liked reading about their experiences and how they got to where they are in their relationship, it wasn’t always immediately clear that the passage I was reading was a memory and not in the present. While ultimately it didn’t affect my enjoyment of Wake Me Up Inside, I fear that there are readers who are going to find the writing confusing and give up on the book, thus missing out on a truly entertaining read; the addition of time line headers (e.g., 2 years ago) would benefit the book greatly. Other than that, I loved it and was engaged from beginning to end. I found the twist about Jonah fascinating and am looking forward to starting book 2, Until Forever Comes, next.

This is the first book I’ve read by Cardeno C. A fan of paranormal M/M, I loved the premise and happily hopped right into reading the book. As you notice from my review, I gave the book 3 stars. But that didn’t really happen until the end. Starting from chapter 3 through probably 75% of the book, my mind was considering 2-stars.
First, let me explain why I was considering a 2-star review, and then I’ll tell you why I gave it 3.
The first third of the book is confusing at best. Time jumps back and to present time, not to mention that half the time I did not know what was going on with the point-of-view. Mostly it seems to be from Zev, but then one line in a paragraph would be from Jonah’s POV. I do believe it would have been far more enjoyable if the author would have clearly delineated Jonah’s POV and Zev’s, rather than head-hopping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who was ‘thinking’. And those time jumps…For me, the reader, they caused far more angst than was needed. The story was great, it just didn’t need the kind of angst created through back-forth, back-forth, back-forth storytelling. In my opinion, if the story would have been told in a linear fashion, it still would have had great drama and it wouldn’t have given me a headache trying to figure out which timeframe we were in now.
Now, with that written, you are probably wondering why I gave it 3-stars. For one simple reason. The story concept was so utterly intriguing and the secondary characters introduced captivating enough that I want to read the next in the series. If it created that much interest in me, it couldn’t have been a bad book. Even with the time jumps and the mussed up head-hopping, the story grabbed me enough to make me want more. So, Wake Me Up Inside gets 3 stars for its ability to grab my interest enough to want to continue to read the Mates series.

Ethan Abbatt is a wolf shifter who can't shift. Plagued by pain and weakness all his life, he hopes to find an honorable death by joining his pack mates in a vampire attack. Instead, Ethan learns two things: draining his blood releases his pain and his wolf, and he has a true mate - a vampire named Miguel.

Miguel Rodriguez is more than four centuries old. Strong, powerful, and vicious, he walks through life as a shadow, without happiness or affection. When a young shifter tells Miguel they're true mates, destined to be together, Miguel sends him away. But Ethan is persistent, and Miguel can't resist for long. Once Miguel gives in, being together comes naturally. The challenge is keeping themselves alive so they can stay by each other's side until forever comes.

Another beautiful story from Cardeno C. Having met Miguel and Ethan in Wake Me Up Inside, I was excited to read their story and learn how they became mates, especially considering the animosity that shifters have for vampires in this series. Until Forever Comes did not disappoint as the author weaves a romance that is distinctly different than any I've ever read before.

The book opens with Ethan facing death via suicide by vampire as he can no longer bear his painful existence, both physically and emotionally. Much to his disappointment, he wakes the next morning still alive, but having finally shifted – about a decade later than he should have. His relief at the situation is short-lived and he soon seeks out Miguel, the vampire who spared his life, and who seems to be the star of some rather erotic dreams. It turns out that Ethan isn't the only one feeling the pull and when Miguel finally responds to the draw between them it is hot.

But as with other books I have read by Cardeno C., it is the romance and building of the relationship between Ethan and Miguel that makes this such an enjoyable read. As someone who grew up in a small rural town, I have to say that the author writes redneck well. There were so many phrases used that I grew up hearing. Even more impressive is that Miguel's voice was distinctly different than Ethan's and his pack members and I never noticed a slip in the characters' language. I find that with each of the author's books I read, I become more and more of a fan and Until Forever Comes is no exception. I'm looking forward to starting the next book in the series momentarily.

Wow! This book could not have been any different from the first in the series. So different, in fact, that I had to keep reminding myself they were the same author. This is the love story of Ethan and Miguel, a shifter and a vampire. Just like in many vamp/shifter stories, they are deadly enemies and neither side can understand the attraction for the other. What made this story so unbelievably charming and kept me turning the page was the first person point-of-view from Ethan.
Ethan was from the backwoods, well in his pack, but by his language there was no doubt he lived in the backwoods of the US South. Sometimes when an author uses an accent in conversation, it can get annoying. Not here. With everything told from Ethan, the flavor was in his language, whether he was speaking or thinking. There was so much that was innocent about the 20-year-old shifter, a man considered a ‘runt’ by his pack because he was small and had never shifted before. He saw the world in a very open way. True, he still held some of the prejudices of his pack, but he always tried to make the best of it.
I loved the way he grasped onto his true mate and wouldn’t let go, not even when Miguel tried to send him away. Stalwartly true, Ethan just kept coming back. I don’t want to give anything away, but their relationship is incredibly equal. They need each other completely and utterly.
Whereas the first story in the series was filled with angst and difficult to get through, this one was filled with humor and fun and I enjoyed it immensely. I adored Ethan and Miguel, their choice to stick together, and also those who chose to stick with them. The ending was a nice tie-in with the first book as technically book 2 takes place before book 1. Probably the only drab side of the story were the sex scenes. I do find Cardeno’s sex scenes lackluster. So definitely 4 stars. 

Raised to become Alpha of the Yafenack pack, Samuel Goodwin dedicates his life to studying shifter laws, strengthening his body, and learning from his father. Taking control comes easily to Samuel, but relating to people, including those he's supposed to lead, is a constant challenge.

When Samuel meets Korban Keller, the son of a neighboring pack’s Alpha, he reacts with emotion instead of intellect for the first time in his life. Resenting the other shifter for putting him off-balance, Samuel first tries to intimidate Korban and then tries to avoid him. What he can’t do is forget Korban’s warm eyes, easy smile, and happy personality.

When a battle between their fathers results in tragedy, Samuel and Korban are thrown together. With his world crashing down around him, Samuel must save his pack and show them he can lead. But first, Korban needs to save Samuel by inspiring him to feel. Two very different men with a tumultuous history must overcome challenges from all sides and see past the rules they’ve been taught to realize they are destined to fit together.
I do believe that In Your Eyes may be my favorite of the Mates series. As much as I enjoyed the previous books in the series, I think that Samuel's story is my favorite because he undergoes so much personal growth and flourishes in the face of all the challenges he meets. That his social awkwardness reminded me of myself at the same age helped me to connect with him more than the characters in the rest of the series and likely contributes to his being my favorite character thus far.

Samuel is a book learner. He has been groomed for the position of Alpha since childhood and has immersed himself in studying all that he could regarding shifters in general and his pack specifically. While his intelligence and learning is well known and respected by others, his aloofness and inability to connect with his pack emotionally concerns both him and his parents. When circumstances force him to take over as Alpha long before he is ready, he does the best he can in an unbelievably difficult situation. When things yet again do not go according to plan, Samuel finds himself face to face with his true mate ... his MALE true mate. To say that Samuel was shocked to learn who his true mate was would be an understatement, but he was absolutely devastated by the way in which he learned the truth. But as is the case with true mates, tying with Korban completed Samuel in such a way that he was finally able to understand the lessons his father tried to teach him about connecting with his pack. It is the strength of Korban’s love and humanity that gives him the frame of reference he was sorely lacking.

The character development that Samuel undergoes is astounding. It should have felt rushed because so much happened in such a short time, yet the author wrote the scenes in such a way that they felt perfectly paced. As expected, the sex scenes were hot and I swear I could feel Samuel's enthusiasm pouring off the pages once he embraced his sexuality and his mate. In Your Eyes has such a great balance of romance, sexual heat, action and intrigue that I was engrossed from beginning to end. Cardeno C. has written yet another great installment in the Mates series and I can only hope there are more to come.
Cardeno C. - CC to friends - is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few "awwws" into a reader's day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno's stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever-after sunset.


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