Title: Wolf and the Holly
Series: The Rowan Harbor Cycle: Book Two
Author: Sam Burns
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 199 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
At a Glance: A great addition to what is shaping up to be an excellent series. Highly recommended for paranormal urban fantasy lovers.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Five years ago, Jesse dropped out of college and came home to Rowan Harbor to find safety with his pack. A broken man, he’s been living as though the world is ending—allergic to responsibility and spending most of his nights at the local bar.
But he can’t avoid growing up forever. On the night of his thirtieth birthday party, he finds his childhood friend Isla unconscious, attacked in the middle of their peaceful hometown. The wolf inside him wants to protect its people from the slick-haired, smooth-talking vampire who’s brought trouble to town, and Jesse can’t run from his instincts any longer.
Now that his inner wolf is out of its cage, it’s picked the most inconvenient moment to find its mate. Sean Anderson—recently back from college and much changed from the skinny preteen Jesse once knew—is just what he never knew he needed.
Trigger Warning: discussion of past abuse.
This novel is intended for adult audiences and contains swearing and sex.
This is the second of nine books in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. It continues where the first book left off. Jesse and Sean will return in book five to continue their story, so this book contains a HFN, not their HEA.
Review: The Rowan Harbor Cycle is set up to be a trilogy of trilogies, totaling nine books when it is all over. What does that mean for these first three books in the first trilogy? Well, these first three seem to be setting up the main players and getting them in their roles for whatever is about to come.
The first book, Blackbird in the Reeds, was really the set-up and a foundation book in the world building of the paranormal aspect, the different types of supernatural creatures in the world, the town and the roles of the council. There is also a little bit of a romance, but it wasn’t front and center. Just as the author promises in the blurb, there is an HFN ending. But it essentially is Devon’s book, his return signaling the change to come, and his journey to being where he needs to be for whatever is headed Rowan Harbor’s way.
This is the second book, which picks up pretty closely to where the first leaves off. Not as much focus is on the world building, as the first book covered that, so this one created more dimension. It seemed to flow better, and the focus could be more on the main protagonist, Jesse, Devon’s BFF and Wade’s big brother. In the first book it’s clear Jesse has a role in the change coming. He is “the one” but rejects the title, refusing to take the mantle of Alpha from his mother, and his seat on the council. It was obvious something from his past was creating self-doubt and depression. The Wolf and the Holly is Jesse’s journey to finally facing his past demons and becoming what his fate needs him to be.
Though there is a romantic element to these stories, it’s not at the forefront. Rather, the romances appear to be just another piece of the puzzle that will be revealed as each book goes forward. Jesse finds his romantic interest in Sean Anderson, but don’t expect that to be the focus. Sean wasn’t quite as fleshed out as everyone else when it was all said and done. It was like an introduction to him and Jesse. Sean doesn’t even enter the picture until a third of the way through the book, then quickly is MIA until close to the halfway mark. He continues to remain more on the outskirts, only to appear briefly before something else occurs, taking Jesse’s attention elsewhere. There is potential, there is a beginning for Jesse and Sean, but their relationship is definitely not the focus. It was a little insta for my tastes when they meet, and I had a hard time immediately connecting to the two as a couple since their time together was so brief, but it also didn’t ruin the experience in the rest of the book for me.
Jesse’s journey to self-discovery revolves around his and Devon’s other best friend, Isla’s unexpected return to town and her attack. Though eventually the mystery is solved, it definitely expands on some of the questions raised in Blackbird in the Reeds, and it’s strengthening a plot ARC for the future books. I have my theories, but they are still just that, because everything could go in so many directions at this point.
What I really enjoyed was learning the Blackbird and the Wolf roles in more detail, as their purposes and strengths are expanded upon here. There all around just seemed to be more fleshing out of the main players for what is coming, this one particularly focusing on Jesse taking up his rightful place, meeting his mate and forming a bond, and then throwing out some possible future foes.
Each trilogy cycles through, so Jesse and Sean’s story—or at least the book from their POV—will be revisited in book five, in the second trilogy. The next book will be about Deputy Fletcher, and I honestly cannot wait to find out what is going on there and what his role is going to be.
I am someone who loves a good series, one that keeps me guessing and wondering what is going to happen. I don’t mind that the romance isn’t the center of attention if the rest of the story flows and keeps me invested in the outcome. Honestly, I’m finding Sam Burns’ style of writing just clicks with me. and I am absolutely hooked. A great addition to what is shaping up to be an excellent series. I highly recommend it for paranormal urban fantasy lovers. Just make sure to start at book one. This can definitely not be read as a standalone.
You can buy Wolf and the Holly here:
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