Marc reviews ‘In Your Eyes’ (Mates 3) by Cardeno C. (Published by Dreamspinner Press on July 13th 2014)
This book was given to RGR free of charge for the purpose of an honest review. Having listened to the audiobooks of Mates 1 and 2 the previous week, I jumped on the chance to review this book 😉
A Book in the Mates Series
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.
Cover: I love the sephia-colored covers of this series. This book shows the intimate embrace between two hot guys and shows their wolves being affectionate towards each other, too. With the coloring it looks like it is an epic love story apart from time and for me that very much fits with the ‘fated true mates’ storylines of the three books in this series.
Title: The eyes are the windows to the soul, thus I think this title works well with a story about soul-mates. 🙂
Story: To be honest, I expected the typical Romeo and Juliette story line, just with two guys and shifters. This book turned out very different and I loved it.
We meet the two main protagonists when they are very young. Both will become Alphas of their respective packs when they are older, but at the time Samuel Goodwin, who’s POV guides us through this story, is only 8 years old to Korban Keller’s 11 years. Even being so young, Samuel is caught in his own head. He is smart and strong and works hard to become the best alpha, so he will be able to take over for his father and keep the pack save. His intelligence and knowledge about pack law and rules makes his world view very narrow, though. He can’t channel his own intuition and feeling, however hard his father tries to teach him. So when he feels that this older boy Korban is different, when he sees him smile and realizes how the other boy affects him, he does not recognize the feelings for what they are, because they do not fit with the information he knows in his head and thus finds a new way to attribute the feelings as something negative that confuses him.
Actually, parts of the story reminded me of ‘The Lion King’. Samuel’s father tries to teach him how to be the best leader. He is a great teacher, but his son does not realize there is more to a good leader than being strong and knowledgeable. He soaks up his father’s teachings, but does not understand them in his heart. Until it might be too late…
In the entire series, penetrative sex plays a very important role for the wolves, not just culturally, but because it is needed to balance the wolf and human part of the soul. Of course in our real world, while such sexual activities are common, they are not necessary to a fullfilled sex live. Thus I have read reviews where this aspect of the Mates series has been harshly critzised. I just wanted to say that in the well-developed mythology of the series it makes sense. Whether male or female or two males, for me, as a gay man in a monogamous three year relationship without penetrative sex, I don’t mind the importance it plays in the story. (Especially book one).
Once one accepts the premise and mythology, it is a logical continuation and the consequences that will occur if a mating does not take place differenciate this mythology from many others and make the pack behavior more logical than it usually is. They are different from human. They are wolf shifters. So often that notion is just romanticised and it was interesting to see how far Cardeno C. went to create a ‘realistic’ take on shifters with her own lore. I must admit, giving the sex with a shifter characteristics of the tying process between actual wolves felt a bit … unusual for me and I never became fully comfortable with it – but it does make a lot of sense in connection with the importance of tying, the mythology and two spirits the shifters have. The only thing I’m still struggling with is a very short scene with a female shifter, who is revealed to be a lesbian, who wants to take a female mate. I love the inclusiveness of having a lesbian character and hope that she will play a bigger role in another book. However I wonder how it fits with the established mythology and I spent the rest of the book wondering how tying with two females would work, sad that it was never explained. It felt like the scene was just added to make sure readers knew wolves couldn’t just be gay, but also lesbian. I felt bad, like the pack members clinging to their belief of a male wolf needing to tie with a female wolf, because I didn’t understand how and couldn’t let go of it, thus I hope this aspect of the lore will be further explained in a way that fits with the mythology. (and I would totally read a book with two female shifters *g*).
I really liked Samuel’s journey to find his heart and his true mate. As indicated above, closing himself off from his mate has dire consequences, even if he never even realized who Korban really was to him the few times he saw him. Cardeno’s true mates are so beautifully made for each other and fit together so nicely, that I hurt for his inability to realize the truth earlier.
Actually, there is a moment with a dubious consent aspect to it, as Samuel is for the first time lead by his instincts only. His wolf always recognized his true mate, even when his human couldn’t see the truth. So Samuel never knew that Korban consented, even when he couldn’t stop his wolf from taking what he knew was his. The way it was handled, with the true mate mythology in my mind, and the reader knowing that Korban would have consented and could have stopped Samuel otherwise – I was okay with the scene and it was important for the plot. However, I feel that it is important for people who trigger easily to know that a scene like that is in the book.
The thing I enjoy most with this series is how perfect the true mates are for each other. They are truely made for each other. Their temperament, their talents, everything about them is ment to compliment their mate to form a strong unit. I find this idea hugely romantic. There is no obstacle that can pry them apart. And I always love the moment when they are finally together in the way they are supposed to be, which in this book is very fun and sexy 😉
While the epilogue always ends in a nice way, we don’t get to see how the new developments are taken by the respective packs and what consequences the actions of the main protagonists have in their community. There is so much story left to be told, but the books end as soon as the true mates have found each other and are comfortable in their place. Cardeno C. has created an amazing mythology, but it is mainly used as a setting for the love story. There is a lot of potential for new intriguing storylines that are teased at, but never fully explored. Given these are primarily love stories, the focus is on the romance aspect and there is always closure for that. Also, while each new book has a new couple, it expands the mythology that is already there and ties in what we know about the other characters. For this third book, the previous main protagonists of the series are very important for the way things play out. I love how they are tied into the story and how the mythology is built upon 😉 Still, three books in we only see the reactions of individual members of the packs and I would find it interesting to see how a community reacts when their entire way of thinking is thrown to the wind.
I really loved the story and the way this series continuous to bring soul-mate stories that touch me and make me happy, without repeating the same things over and over. This might be a true love romance, but it is no cliche 😉 Highly recommended!!! (9/10 Pots of Gold)
About the Author:
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.
Heartwarming Stories. Strong Relationships. Forever Love.