Title: Prickly By Nature (Portland Pack Chronicles: Book Two)
Authors: Piper Vaughn, Kenzie Cade
Narrator: Iggy Toma
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 9 hours and 38 minutes
Category: Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal
At a Glance: A great narrator and an enjoyable story make a very satisfying finale to this series.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: In the four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started investigating the disappearance of a young female werewolf from the Portland Pack, he’s discovered his life’s passion. Now he’s apprenticing under established PI Corbin Reid. Avery hopes his training with Reid will help him finally bring Lacey home, but detective work isn’t without its perils, and the potential dangers strain his relationship with his new mate, Dylan.
Dylan Green would be perfectly content with his mating and his motorcycle shop if it wasn’t for his constant worry about Avery’s safety and the fact that Avery’s never home. Proud as he might be of Avery’s determination to prove his worth and fulfill his promise to Lacey’s father, Dylan can’t stand the thought of Avery being hurt. Yet what right does he have to demand Avery give up his job when it’s clear Avery’s found his true purpose? Still, Dylan wishes he could, and the appearance of a new police detective who sets his sights on Avery only adds to the tension.
Something has to give, but stubbornness runs in both their veins, and it might take a catastrophe for them to find a compromise they can live with.
Review: I thought I had already read this book. It’s in my ebook library. I’ve read the first book in the series. I assumed I had consumed the second one as soon as I purchased it. And yet, somehow I managed not to. I didn’t catch on until about two hours into the audio, when I was trying to figure out WHY DON’T I REMEMBER ANY OF THIS?! And you know what? I’m thrilled that I got to experience this book for the first time in audio. Thanks, past me, for being a ball dropper because this audiobook is a treat.
It’s extremely gratifying to see Avery’s development in Prickly By Nature. We saw a bit of his personal growth trajectory in book one, but this is where we really see him start to come into his own as a person who actually spends his emotional resources on other people outside of himself and his immediate circle. He struggles a bit with balance, but it’s nice to see him pour himself out for the greater good. Avery is desperate to bring Lacey home; he’s working to exhaustion, dedicating himself to long hours of searching on top of his training, and committing himself to a new career just to find her. For someone who starts the series as shallow, self-centered, and thoughtless, Avery’s come a long way.
Dylan is learning to let Avery have his own life and semi-dangerous career, and he’s…mostly…successful at it. I would have liked him to succeed a little more at the whole Avery’s-his-own-person thing, but I was happy with their relationship by the end of the book, and I really, really like them together. So, that’s pretty much a win.
And can we also talk about how much I LOVE that Avery’s a hedgehog shifter? BECAUSE I LOVE THAT. I love hedgehogs, and clearly these authors do too, because the descriptions of hedgehog Avery are so adorable I can hardly stand it. I had to watch about a hundred hedgehog videos on YouTube when I finished this book just to continue the squee. So much squee.
The only thing I felt was a bit lacking was the sense of how dire Lacey’s situation is as a victim of human trafficking. She’s described as missing, lost, abducted, held against her will, etc., but I’m not sure the word rape was used a single time in the entire book. And let’s be clear, she is a victim of horrible rape. I felt like the sheer awfulness of her entire captivity was downplayed just by the simple fact that no one ever laid that fact out. Which made Lacey less of a character and more a plot point that was about advancing Avery’s character through his feelings and investment in her case and the furthering of his relationship with Dylan. It’s kind of a tough corner to write from, since Avery’s never actually met her, and to this point, she hasn’t appeared on the page. And I’m definitely not saying I wanted more details on her captivity, because I did NOT; the level of vagueness on that front was just fine with me. I really just needed someone to acknowledge that this girl was trapped in hell, not stuck at some sucky sleep away camp; and as tired as Avery was, Lacey was likely living with daily rape and terror if she wasn’t dead already. And while I agree that Avery needed to be better at pacing himself, when it came to arguing about staying on vacation when he finally had a potential lead, I got a bit frustrated. Four days may not have made a difference to Avery, but they would absolutely have made a difference to Lacey. The fact that no one seemed to realize this (including Avery) was kind of crazy-making and a little unbelievable. There was a bit of a recovery on this front toward the end, when the physical and emotional consequences of the whole situation got some page time, but it takes most of the book to get there.
NOW! Let’s talk about Iggy Toma. IGGY. TOMA. He’s one of my top five narrators. I wish he had more books to his credit, because I could listen to him read all the things. ALL. THE. THINGS. He’s great at character voices; he’s got spot on intonation and delivery; and for Avery, he does an extremely passable aristocratic southern accent (as far as this non-southerner is concerned). He struggles a bit with a brief foray into a creole accent, but honestly, EVERYONE who doesn’t naturally come by the creole has a rough time with it. He does well enough, and there’s not much of it on the page, so I had no problem. This book is great on it own, but even if we were discussing some kind of dry as dust technical manual, Iggy Toma’d be worth the price of admission.
Prickly By Nature takes the time to tie off nearly all of the loose ends for the series. I wanted a bit more detail on secondary character Lucas and the bow his arc gets wrapped in, but overall, the book ends satisfactorily. As far as I know this is the last book in the series, and if that’s the case, I’m sad because I love these characters, but I don’t feel like I was left hanging. If you read and liked Prickly Business, Prickly By Nature on audio is a wonderful way to finish the series. And if you’ve already read the series, the audiobooks are a fantastic way to experience it fresh. The narration is fantastic and the characters are worth revisiting.
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