So, thanks to Jen/Sarai I am now a newly inducted member of the I *heart* J.L. Langley fan club. If you read the last post you will know that I read her cowboy series and loved . SO with it being payday this week I went out and glommed the rest of her back-cat.
Now I don’t normally do reviews because I have a tendency to gush (no, you say) and because I am rubbish at it. But I feel the need to speak. After reading ‘Tin Star’ and ‘The Broken H’ I went and read J.L. Langley’s ‘With/Without’ series. In simple terms it’s about gay werewolves. Not a new phenomenon in m/m romance by any means.
There are three titles so far. A novella which kicks us off called ‘With Love.’
It’s about Dev and Laine who are both gay, meet and realise that they are ‘mates’ and after some bumps with the local pack’s alpha, live happily ever after. Short, sweet and simple. We are introduced to the mechanics of the Wolf hierarchy and what it means to be an ‘Alpha’ and an ‘Omega’ wolf. Dev is all Alpha. Big, dominant but lovable. Laine is all Omega, small, feminine and submissive. It set the scene, gives us some rules for the universe and had some hot sex. It wasn’t my favourite of the series by far, but it is a novella so I understand the constraints and forgive the niggles I have.
The second ‘Without Reservations’ was my favourite of the series so far.
It’s about Chay and Keaton. Chay is straight, Keaton is not. Chay recognises Keaton as his mate straight away and while is a little surprised at first has no reservations (geddit?) about starting a relationship with Keaton. Keaton on the other hand has. He’s tangled with straight men and been burned in the past so he fights the attraction and Chay’s advances for a while. Not for very long though. They move in together, go through the trails and tribulations of telling everyone and settle down. Only to discover someone is trying to kill Keaton. They solve the mystery and live happily ever after.
I loved this book for many reasons. Chay calls Keaton by all these cute nicknames that Keaton outwardly objects to but secretly loves. In fact, most of the time Keaton is referred to a ‘Bit’ as in ‘Little Bit’ because he is smaller than Chay. However, although he is smaller and White (Chay is Apache) he is the much stronger wolf. This makes up for some interesting issues within the pack and within their relationship. Keaton has a stubborn personality and a hot temper. Chay is even keeled and understanding. I liked watching them struggle with their relationship dynamics. Why is the stronger wolf the sub and the easy-going, even tempered wolf the dom?
They were also both men. Although Keaton was younger and had a slight build there was no mistaking him for a girl. This irritates me in m/m as I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out. If I’m reading m/m I want them both ripped with stubble otherwise what’s the point? Call me sexist if you will…. I know it’s maybe not realistic but if I want realistic I’ll go to the reference section.
Although there is a slight mystery sub-plot running through this book, it’s mainly a study in relationships. How to start one, how to keep one and how new relationships affect those ones around it. Plus teh smexin is hot!
On to the third book and the one that inspired this post. There were so many things swirling about my head days after I read this, I felt the need to put them down.
‘With Caution’ is the story of Remi and Jake. Remi was turned in ‘Without Reservation’. We meet him there and he is a asshole of the biggest order. Jealous of Chay and Keatons new friendship he is a complete bastard to Keaton and then when he finds out the true nature of their relationship he cuts them off. Later on he comes round and goes to Chay’s to apologise when he is attacked by the werewolf trying to kill Keaton and left for dead. Jake, Keaton’s bodyguard, turns him in order to save him, while recognising Remi as his mate.
We meet up with Remi at the beginning of ‘With Caution’ trying to come to terms with his new werewolf status and looking after his baby brother Sterling. You see, Remi has an abusive dad who is a dirty Reservation cop. He used to beat on Remi and now holds the threat of beating on Sterling over Remi so that Remi will toe the line even though he has moved out.
Jake is a P.I. and out. His business partner and best friend Rhys is also gay and out. Jake has a whole gay werewolf community around him in his closest friends. I think the only one not gay is Gadget who is married and has nine kids (one of whom is gay).
Remi is fighting his attraction to Jake. He doesn’t know about the ‘mates’ thing to begin with. Trying to hide his ongoing friendship with Chay. See Remi isn’t really an asshole, that’s just a front. Really he disowned Chay and Keaton because he was afraid of what his father would say. Right enough when his father found out he forbids Remi to see Chay and Keaton again.
And this is the problem I had with this book. Remi and Jake get together, bring down his abusive father (who had killed a childhood friend and tried to kill Remi when he was younger) and keep his family together, along with starting a new pack with Jake (it’s a new gay pack, I think I’ll called them the Pink Ladies.) Jake is an Alpha, Remi is an Omega. But Remi somehow transformed into this submissive martyr who sacrificed everything in his life, his hopes and dreams etc to save his little brother from the abuse he got at the hands of his druken father.
He had a complete personality change. The Remi we met in ‘With Reservations’ was a smart-ass prick of the highest magnitude. And even though you got glimpses and hints as to his domestic situation and how that affected his behaviour, I got the impression he was always like that with everyone. Almost from the first page he is different with Jake and his brother Sterling. A totally different man. Kind, considerate, smiling, loves kids, gregarious and out-going and tolerant. The set-up for his conflict about his relationship with Jake was really strong but the fear of his father etc was brushed away after a few stray thoughts which annoyed me.
Plus Jake was this big-ass Dom who was worried about his bedroom proclivities and wondered how Remi was going to cope with being a Sub after the abusive childhood he had, when it turns out he LOVES it. To the point where has no qualms about being ‘claimed’ by Jake in pubic?!?!?! And calls him SIR!!???! And because Remi is also a rare Omega wolf, he has healing powers to boot!
It was just too much of a turn around. I would have much rather seen Remi struggle with shedding his smart-ass persona and the conflict that brought to him and Jake than what we got. Which was a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘I’m gay’ lightbulb moment. Poor. Plus teh smexin’ was lukewarm. It might be cause I have no use for the whole dom/sub thing but it didn’t do it for me. As it was in the first book which had a sub/dom feel to it too.
However, the storyline away from the romance was great and I really enjoyed it. Much more than in ‘Without Reservation’. Remi’s dad was a real bastard, the mystery behind what he was hiding and how Remi was involved was great. It kept me turning pages when I would have maybe stopped. The set-up of Sterling’s character was fun and with them starting ‘teh gay pack’ you can see new books with tertiary characters coming soon. There were a couple of world-building snafu’s but that’s to be expected and I never judge an author to harshly for that. I don’t think this was ever meant to be a series so there is bound to be some conflicting items while she works out the kinks.
My main gripe is that ‘With Caution’ should have been my favourite. It had the stronger plot line, better drawn secondary characters and world-building. But for that one flaw. The main character had a personality transplant. I almost with we hadn’t met Remi or Jake in the previous book.
I hate being ambivalent towards books. I loved it but was annoyed by it at the same time. I don’t want to put people off reading it because I really enjoyed it, but it also annoyed me to the point where I had to spew this up. I still love J.L. Langley’s stuff and can’t wait to read ‘My Fair Captain’. I’m still a fangirl and can’t wait until it’s her time on DIK. Oh Yes, there will be squeeing aplenty! SO read them and let me know if I’m crazy or if it bugged you to.