Book – The Druid Next Door (Fae Out of Water #2)
Author – E.J. Russell
Star rating - ★★★★☆ (3.5)
No. of Pages – 360
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 3rd person, dual POV
Would I read it again – Probably
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Fae, Contemporary, Romance
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
I fell in love with this series the minute I read Cutie and the Beast. The characters have real warmth and realism, even for supernatural creatures, and it made me eager to read the rest of the series. For me, however, this one is a little lacking in certain aspects that worked so well in book 1.
First off, I felt that the book dragged in the middle. It felt like 300+ pages, which is a problem I find with long books. Either 300 pages will whiz by before you know it, because it's so great and flows brilliantly throughout, or it drags and really feels like 300 pages, because it takes so long to read. This one, unfortunately, was the latter. There was a little too much plot here, though it all came together in the end. Bit it felt more like three shorts linked together by the overall plot, because there was so much going on that each sub-plot felt like it lasted a really, really long time.
I have to admit, I felt that way about the blurb, too. I read it again before reading the book and it felt like I was about to dive into something really complicated. It talked of the relationship, which made sense, then about Bryce being a druid, which I thought was complication enough for the relationship, but then there was the addition of being tied together, then a mysterious stranger. It all felt a little much, but I thought that it would link together the same way the plot of book 1 did, with everything weaving together. Not so much, in this book. It was a bit more choppy with the druid revelation starting the story off, then the relationship beginning because of insta-lust, then the mysterious stranger entering the picture, and then even more loop holes and trials to face, after that fact. It really felt the same choppy, divided way that the blurb was told in. It was a little too plot-by-numbers, in terms of matching the blurb, than I expected, because it all happened in individual chunks, not a flow of interlinking sub-plots. Where book 1 had the clinic and Alun's work to centre the story and link the supernatural world to the human, there wasn't anything in this book that offered that much needed connection.
The relationship worked. That's brilliant, because I really liked Mal in the previous book. He was so mysterious and interesting and I loved that he changed in this book, not instantly but organically, because of the events that happened in book 1. I really liked Bryce, too. He was this stiff-upper-lip guy who had the fire and the attitude to fight for what he believed in, but was also a bit of a geek. I loved that mix and, together, they had some great chemistry.
My problem with the relationship was two-fold. First, that there was just So. Much. Sex! I mean, a huge amount of sex. Maybe there wasn't that much overall, but it felt like a lot. I felt like the entire middle of the book was just these two having sex all the time. Secondly, I took exception to Mal calling it a D/s relationship – what they had was more of a Master/slave thing, without that conscious submission/domination. There wasn't 100% free will involved, they didn't enter into it willingly, with knowledge of what it meant or of how to behave with each other, so I felt that it misrepresented the relationship a little.
I loved seeing David and Alun again, seeing how their relationship had progressed and grown since the end of book 1. I also loved seeing more of Gareth and learning more about his background, in preparation for the next book.
Seeing Mal struggle with his new life was great. I was worried it would all be ignored or that he would try to pretend it hadn't happened. But it did and he really acted like someone who had suffered a traumatic loss, a disability that changed the way he lived and functioned. The way the injury affected his mental health was realistic, but I loved how it affected his view of his previous life, how it stopped him from being who he had once been, and how that had a knock on effect in his mental health and behaviour. I loved Bryce, and how he adapted to his druid heritage, and his ability to share that growth with Mal. The push and pull between them really worked, but most of all, I loved that they took time to get to know each other, through the lust and the sex.
Overall, while I really enjoyed the story, I found that it was a little too complicated, a little too long, and too physically focused. There were some minor editing/grammar errors (spelling, missing words etc) but not too many. There was a nice quick rundown of the events from the previous book, so that if anyone picked it up out of sequence, they could follow the majority of the story without a hiccup, though I'd still recommend reading it in order. I just couldn't stop comparing it to the perfection that was book 1. In light of that, it failed to keep my attention as easily, it didn't feel as natural or as well balanced, between plot and characterisation, nor within the flow of the plot. I wouldn't say I was unhappy or let down, just a little disappointed because my expectations had clearly been biased because of book 1. I still look forward to reading book 3.
“I’ll go now and call Aunt Cassie. I can’t guarantee she won’t show up here later anyway, to check on Bryce’s homework, but—”
“If she can fix this fecking bond, she can move in for all I care.”
He grinned. “I’ll tell her.”
“Don’t you dare.”
David stood on tiptoe and kissed Mal’s cheek. “Serve you right if I did. I know you’re hiding something from me, but I’ll bide my time. I’ll get it out of you eventually. I always do.””