Review 42: Only Human

After I binged the Rolling Thunder series, I started following Candace Blevins on social media. My timing was excellent, as she was looking for people who were interested in a copy of Only Human in exchange for posting reviews. I’ve decided to avoid ARCs, since there is some conflict of interest, but this book was released in 2015 so I’m comfortable with it.

This book is the first release in the Kirsten O’Shea universe; it introduces us to the eponymous character and starts the world building. Since I’ve read the other series, some of it was familiar to me already, but coming to it from the perspective of a human and learning some more background was great. Candace’s world-building skills are fabulous, which is one of my favourite things about reading sci fi and fantasy. She has the ability to take the world we know and blend in a whole other level of species and rules that are outside of our experience, but also consistent and rational.

I also continue to be impressed by how complex the characters are, even though the books feature a huge cast. Kirsten is a psychologist, an adoptive mother, a sexual submissive, a monster fighter, and a strong, independent woman. It’s clear though, that she’s worked hard to develop the skills and characteristics that she values, she’s not just a magically perfect person. The supernatural individuals all have differing viewpoints about how they live and interact with the world, they aren’t homogeneous within their species.

In many ways, this book is like a very long prologue. Although there is definitely action, it also has a lot of world-building, character introduction, and set up for what we know, at this point, is going to be a very long main plot arc. It doesn’t drag or lose interest though; this was a book that I’d look at the counter and think “I’m only 45% in? So much has happened, I was sure I was farther along!” I doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it is more of a pause in the action than a definitive ending. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to read more.

Review 38: Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club

I got book #12 (Bubbles) in this series through a Bookbub offer a year or more ago. And yes, I have to admit that I picked it up primarily because “Bubbles” and “MC” made me laugh. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, put Candace Blevins on my TBR, and hoped that Bookbub would favour me with more from that universe. They never have, so at Christmas this year I treated myself to the rest of the books in the series.

I ripped through 13 books in 6 days and I’m not really interested in reviewing them each individually, so here are my comments on the series as a whole. First of all, I have never interacted with any kind of motorcycle club or gang, so I can’t get sidelined by whether or not things are accurate. The same goes for supernatural creatures (that I’m aware of.) She presents them with internal consistency and logic, so I’m happy.

It’s no surprise to anyone who reads my reviews that I’m a fan of well-down BDSM stories. And by well-done, I mean relationships where the power-exchange is discussed, agreed upon, flexible, and bonus points if it’s actually used to promote individual growth. Most of the guys in the MC aren’t into formal BDSM trappings, but they pretty much adhere to SSC/RACK in the essentials (with some modifications, since health and safety requirements are different for supernaturals) so I’m good. Their interactions with the sweetbutts and club working girls will probably upset some people, so if explicit “meaningless sex” upsets you, I’m going to suggest that you skip these ones. With all of that in mind, the sex scenes are nicely varied, well described, and smokin’, smokin’ hot.

The heroes are all members of the motorcycle club, but they all got there through very different paths and bring different skillsets – although they share the common denominator of being shapeshifters. The women who end up as their mates mostly come from outside the MC lifestyle and have to come to terms with the realities of a 1% club, as well as the knowledge of supernatural existence. I like how they do that to varying degrees and the couples find different levels of interaction with club life.

I’m a fan of her writing style. She does a really good job of creating different voices for her characters, depending on their background, level of education, accent, etc., and even has characters who can swap their speech patterns around at will. Overall, the writing is descriptive and sucks you in, but stays clean and easy to follow. Her world building is impressive and her imagination is diabolical.

The RMTC is actually only one series in her overarching Kirsten O’Shea universe and it’s obvious that this series plays a role in advancing the plotline for the story arc. These aren’t throw-away stories, written just to make money from a successful central series, they provide background and knowledge about the universe as a whole. I will definitely be looking forward to adding more of these books to my collection.