Series: Flesh and Bone: Book Two
Author: Joel Abernathy
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 236 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy, Horror
At a Glance: Once again, Abernathy’s talent for telling an emotionally fraught story and methodically engaging me in the lives of his characters is absolute.
Reviewed By: Lisa
My purpose, carved deeper into my soul than the names carved into my flesh.
The man who took everything from me, my own personal devil in shifting flesh.
My pack. The high-born family of wolves I’ve sworn my life to protect, even if my dying breath is pledged to another.
My everything. Friend, confidant, enemy, lover. Most dangerous of all, he would become the reason I lived if I let him. He is the one thing I won’t allow Dominic to take from me. Love is not a luxury I can afford, but the sweetness of revenge has nothing on the taste of him…
*This is the second book in the Flesh and Bone series, and the books are meant to be read in order. Bleed is an MM shifter romance with no MPREG. Readers 18+ only.
*This is a dark romance with themes that may be triggering to some readers. Please see the inside cover for content warnings that contain vague spoilers.
Review: Author Joel Abernathy impressed me so much with Exhale, book one in his Flesh and Bone series. Bleed, book two in the series, just blew me away. It also did things to my heart that defines my love of reading—I was so emotionally involved in the story that the characters’ pain transcended the words on a page.
Where Exhale played with the enemies-to-lovers trope, Bleed is a solid best friends-to-lovers story. Mason is the son of pack Alpha Nicolae Ursache, and to understand Mason as the man and Alpha wolf and fierce soldier he is, is impossible to do without understanding his relationship with his father and how Nicolae’s harsh words became Mason’s inner voice, and how Nicolae’s cold and detached parenting has always made Mason feel an outsider in his own family. Knowing these details goes a long way in investing the reader in why Mason is himself cold and detached, and regarding his and Vasil’s relationship, absorbing how and why it has remained solid since their childhood and yet is so strained at the same time. They love each other but neither knows of the other’s true feelings. Wanting to be the mate of another Alpha male goes against pack rules—not to mention Mason’s belief that Vasil isn’t interested—but first and foremost, Mason can’t let anyone know he’s gay, and Vasil has only one thing that stands in the way of his feelings for Mason, something that consumes him heart and soul. Revenge. Once the opportunity to exact that vengeance presents itself, Vasil will go rogue and give up his place in the Ursache pack. Not that he expects to survive anyway.
Once again, Abernathy’s talent for telling an emotionally fraught story and methodically engaging me in the lives of his characters is absolute. Where this book elevated my enjoyment of it is in the cat-and-mouse chase between Vasil and his sworn enemy, and that we get to see glimpses into the sick and twisted mind of a madman and his unexpected accomplice. Those scenes are brutal and chilling, and the author doesn’t hold back, so fair warning that if scenes of graphic torture are off-putting to you, this book either isn’t for you or you’ll want to skip over those parts. Where I wasn’t convinced that Exhale had earned its Horror category, I believe Bleed makes up for it. The author hits all of this novel’s most chilling notes beautifully, and in doing so keeps tempo with the conflict and ultimate resolution to Mason and Vasil’s relationship. The shift in the Ursache family dynamic, the thwarted sacrifice of a brother for his sister, and the healing between a father and his son is woven into the romantic evolution of what once seemed an impossible desire.
I’d said in my review of Exhale that I hoped Jack and Nicolae’s daughter, Ellie, who, in this matrilineal wolf society was in line to inherit the job of the Ursache Pack Alpha upon Nicolae stepping down, would be getting her own book with her mate, Leonie, but it appears that isn’t going to be the case. Not only is the Pack beginning to unbend from some of its strict and rather archaic rules, but their romantic arc appears to be playing out alongside the primary arcs of these books, especially so with Mason and Vasil; Ellie and Leonie play a role which added an almost incongruous sweetness to the ending of what had been, up to that point, an anxiety inducing story. Not that I didn’t love it, but it was a big shift in tone to say the least. Nicolae also makes a decision that will be sending this series arc on a new course as the possibility of a pack war looms large, one I’m anxious to see how the author will develop as things progress through the next book.
As Exhale did for Jack and Nicolae, Bleed gives Mason and Vasil a solid beginning to a long-term future. The five-year time jump between Exhale and Bleed gives way to what will be another leap ahead in time, as the protagonist of the third book in the series, Shift, is Jack and Nicolae’s adopted son Andrei, who is still a somewhat feral child at the end of this novel. The teaser that Abernathy shares at the end of Bleed does exactly what it was meant to do—has me anticipating the next book and feeling grateful that I found this series.
You can buy Bleed here:
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