As the friendly neighborhood kissy book expert, this one got sent my way. I don’t dislike shifter romances, but some of them can make my eyes roll real hard. I get my silliness guards up pretty early on. So, silliness shields up! And here we go.
Things can’t get any worse than being snatched by a dragon, until Anna is dropped into a bloodthirsty battle for the Draconic crown.
On what’s supposed to be a fun trip to New Zealand to recover from a painful breakup, Anna is kidnapped and flown away by a mythical beast bent on making her his queen. Anna’s rare blood type makes her the only viable mate in the islands, and with scores of dragons looking for her, escape isn’t likely.
Joe is the youngest and smallest dragon in the competition to become king. Now that he’s found Anna, all he needs to overthrow their tyrannical monarch is to bring her back to Dragon Mount before anyone can challenge his claim. But Joe is injured and unable to fly, and each passing second increases the risk of discovery.
Challenging the king means certain death, but Anna is Joe’s to lose. If the king finds her, he will bathe Dragon Mount in her blood, condemning Joe’s people to seventeen more years of brutal subjugation. The fate of the Draconi rests in the talons of their smallest dragon, and the clock is ticking.
No one is born a hero. They become heroes, either by courage or necessity.
This is the story of Anna, a college student from the US who has just broken up with her fiance after she found out he cheated on her. And so, she brings her sister on the honeymoon trip that was already booked, to New Zealand. While she is there, she meets a very interesting guy named Joe and his very interesting friend Connor. Joe and Connor are actually dragons, and it just so happens that Anna and her sister are visiting during the once-every-seventeen-years-mating-season, where the dragons choose a mate, and then choose a king, a position that Joe, while smaller than most of the others, would be perfect for because his clan of dragons are really quite kind and levelheaded, compared to the current rulers which are… well, giant raging assholes, really.
Dragon females are fairly rare, and fertile ones usually only have male children. And so, once every seventeen years, the most virile male dragons go flying off into pretty much urban New Zealand to try and find a compatible human female, and whoever does is the new dragon king, more or less. Compatible human females are very, very rare though.
So of course Anna is one. Duh. It’s a romance novel guys, what did you think was going to happen here? >.>
So Joe and Anna meet each other in a bar that her sister has dragged her to hoping to meet some local guys. Joe realizes that Anna is special when she cuts her finger in a bit of a kerfuffle. . And so, when other, bigger, assholier dragons come down and also figure out that Anna is totally mommy material, shenanigans ensue. Anna gets kidnapped by a dragon, dropped, then caught, then dropped, and then caught by Joe, who gets himself quite hurt flying her to the safety of a family of Maori who happens to sort of worship his particular clan. They’ll protect him and Anna until he can heal up a bit. This turns into a week or so of hiding from the asshole dragons until Joe is healed up enough to take his place as king. Meanwhile, Anna is falling for him, but also definitely not down with randomly staying in New Zealand as the dragon queen, so is flip flopping between accepting her feelings for Joe, and leaving him and going home.
This one got quite a bit tropey at times, but I did root for Joe and Anna to live happily ever after, though I found that I never really ended up liking Anna as much as I was probably meant to. Joe is pretty endearing as a character though, so I at least wanted him to live happily ever after. Some events did make my eyes roll from time to time, because Joe and Anna both make some colossally stupid decisions, and like many (but certainly not all) romance novels, it can get rather silly at times, but it also reads rather easily, has a few interesting characters, and does bring some interesting ideas to the table, so it wasn’t too hard to make time to read it.
The setting for one, was interesting for a para-romance. You don’t see many of them set in New Zealand, in my experience, and it does include a pretty diverse cast of characters. The beautiful mountains were the perfect place for a Dragon Mount to exist, so it worked as a setting. I mean, if Smaug can live there, why not all the dragons?
The antagonists were easy to hate. The protagonists were mostly easy to like, barring that same poor decision making I was talking about. The romance, at least the falling-in-love part of it, was rather speedy (because these romance dragons, much like many romance werewolves, seem to pick their mates mostly by instinct). There were some serious feels felt at each other within the span of a week, but it was still well past the halfway point of the book before anything really romancey happened. Joe was sort of stuck in his dragon form for most of the first half, and he had limited communication, so while he was certainly feeling the feels for Anna, he couldn’t really say so without some help from a friend (and without the use of some powerful dragon eye-smoulder – and, oh yes, the smoulder is very strong with this book, and not only because dragoooooons lololokay I’ll stop >.>). I found that the pacing of the romance didn’t bother me overmuch, but I suppose this one does fall under instalove so probably avoid it if that’s a dealbreaker for you. I’ve seen people proclaim relationships I considered rather slow-burning instalove and damn a book for it, so this is entirely subjective to begin with, but there it is. I personally don’t necessarily hate a fast moving relationship if I like the characters involved and find the book engaging.
There was also a rather unexpected (in my opinion) POV character in this book, named Nikau. He is the grandson of the Maori couple who sort of lead this whole clan. He lost his parents in an accident when he was young, and so his grandparents raised him, and he thought they were crazy for believing in dragons right up until he was letting a dragon bite him so that its venom would give him a mental bond, making it possible for him and the dragon to communicate telepathically.
I’ll be honest, in paranormal romance novels, the telepathic bond thing usually happens between the lovers. This was an interesting spin on that idea by adding this random, snarky AF dude who can sometimes feel what the dragon he’s bonded to is feeling (though I will admit that this toed pretty close to the creepy line a couple of times regarding Anna). But, Nik and Joe become friends, and come to trust each other, even despite their relationship’s somewhat rocky beginning, and while Nik can get a little ridiculous at times (especially when there are pretty lady dragons around), and his POV has a few flashback sequences that seemed largely unnecessary in the larger plot, I thought his presence really gave the story a bit of something different.
This one is also different than many romance novels in that Joe isn’t the biggest or the strongest guy around, nor is he typically handsome. He’s the smallest, and the youngest, and while he is beautiful, it is more of a fair-featured elfin beauty than a romance novel cover model handsomeness with rippling muscles and so on and so forth. Joe is the underdog in this overall competition to choose a new king. Anna considers him rather scrawny the first time she meets him… though, she does later retract that statement… but not for the reason you might assume… ^_^
I say that because this is a romance novel with no sex in it. Yep, I’m going there. The inclusion or exclusion of sex in a romance novel can attract readers or repel them, depending on the reader, so if you’re looking for a romance novel for the sexy times, you can safely skip this one. I pretty obviously tend to prefer romance novels that do have at least an implied physical relationship between the main characters, but I’ll definitely put forth that some don’t need sex to still remain a satisfying love story. So, for me it’s not a dealbreaker that characters don’t rub their bits together in the end, but how disappointed I am with it missing depends on the book. In this case, I’m still (nearly a month later still) trying to decide if I would have been less disappointed in this book if there was one, or if there having been one would have made the biggest problem I had with it even more infuriating. Which brings me to my next, and last point.
The biggest issue I had with this book was the ending. Now, I can’t explain what exactly about it was so maddening without spoiling a good chunk of the plot, but to sort of vaguely sum it up, the way the last 3 chapters or so unfolded pretty much made much of the first 30 chapters and most of the romantic elements of this entire novel completely irrelevant. It felt like a bizarre attempt to pump the brakes on a relationship that developed really quickly, but then bafflingly made the relationship even more instantaneous than it had been, based on events that were irrelevant at the time. 🤔
So, I’ll be honest, I was enjoying it pretty well right up until the last few chapters. This one ended on a really nose crinklingly sour note for me, and while it wouldn’t exactly be fair to say that the ending ruined the whole book for me, it certainly didn’t win my heart. There were interesting ideas presented here, and I enjoyed most of the adventure that our characters went on, but it just… flopped right at the end. I didn’t love it and didn’t hate it… the ending prevented me from loving it, and a whole chunk of the middle prevented me from hating it, so I’ll call this one a 50/50. 5/10 stars.
This review is also on The Weatherwax Report. 🙂